Saturday, December 31, 2011

God-Truths I Have Learned Through Adoption

We returned last night from our seventeen day journey through China to adopt Rae Michelle Dear (formerly Yang Rui).  It was a memorable trip, no major issues.  We are thankful to be home and we are so very thankful for Rae.  I know the journey has really only just begun, and there is much for me to learn, but I wanted to share a few thoughts that came to me as I was pondering the events of the last week or so while flying home yesterday.  Already, through being Rae’s earthly father for about ten days, I have learned some important truths about my heavenly Father.

#1:  God loves me more than I know!  We have had some difficult days with Rae, especially in the beginning.  Everything we did to try to help her, whether it was getting her to take a bath, brush her teeth, or stop jumping on the bed was because we loved her and wanted what was best for her.  But she didn't understand that.  Our actions didn't seem like love from her perspective.  She often stubbornly rejected our warnings and instructions.  If only she could understand how much we love her and how everything we say or do is an expression of that love.  That makes me think… How often does the same situation happen between the heavenly Father and me, his adopted son?  How often do I reject His warnings and instructions because on some level I foolishly question His love?

#2:  There is a better way to live!  Rae doesn't understand how much better life will be.  She has been living in poverty.  She has been living without the benefit of a family.  She hasn't had proper medical care.  Her future as a special needs child in the orphan system in China was very bleak.  I know there is no guarantee her life will now be a bed of roses, but she will at least have her basic needs met, she will have a loving family, she will have good medical care, and she will have the hope of a great future.  But she just doesn't understand.  The institutional life of the orphanage is all she knows.  She cannot comprehend what 'better' even is.  She has no idea what she has missed out on.  That makes me think…  Is the same thing true when I push against the life my heavenly Father wants me to live?  I am afraid that too often I wrongly think my life of selfishness and sin is the best life for me.  I wonder what I am missing out on.

#3:  I can never comprehend the depth of God’s love and the cost of the cross!  Rae doesn't understand the sacrifice her family made to adopt her and bring her to America.  She has no idea.  She has no comprehension of what a thousand dollars is, much less many thousands of dollars.  And not only was there a financial sacrifice but the major lifestyle change that comes with adding a new six-year-old to a family that is just beginning to enjoy the fruits of maturing children.  She understands none of this, nor could she understand if we tried to explain it.  That makes me think… How much do I really comprehend about the price the Lord paid to make my adoption as His son possible?  I claim to have some understanding of the cross, the agony, and the shame that Jesus faced, but do I really?  Or is it beyond my ability to understand just as our family’s sacrifice is beyond Rae’s ability to understand?

#4:  My salvation does not correlate with my merit!  Rae doesn't understand the significance and the value of her being chosen out of so many orphans in China and around the world.  There is a better biblical word for this, but it could be said that she is pretty LUCKY.  She was not chosen because of any merit of her own.  She was not chosen because she had something to offer.  She wasn't chosen because of her parents, her intelligence, her goodness, her beauty, or any other human measurement of worthwhileness.  She was simply chosen by the providence of God.  Only a handful of orphans get the chance that she has been given.  That makes me think… The most valuable thing I have is my relationship with God.  I am reminded of Ephesians 1:4-5 which says, “He chose [me] in Him before the foundation of the world, that [I] should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined [me] to adoption as [a] son … according to the good pleasure of His will.”  Not because of any merit, but simply because of his grace, I am blessed beyond measure with salvation!  The Lord convicted me; I responded to His working; He saved me by His grace.

#5:  I need to better accept the Lord’s help!  Maybe it is due to her institutional life for the last several years, but Rae is fiercely independent.  She doesn't want me to help her with anything.  There have been so many times in the last few days that I could have been such a blessing to her if she would have just let me help.  I have watched her carry around a banana for an hour while being terribly hungry but refusing to let me help her peel it.  As I am writing this we are in an airplane somewhere over Canada.  She is trying to play a video game but can't get it to work because she is starting at the wrong spot.  She refuses to let me help.  She is angry because she can't get it to work.  The solution is sitting next to her and it would take less than five seconds, but she wants to be independent.  That makes me think…  I wonder how frustrating it must be for the Lord when I insist on doing things my own way instead of leaning on His word and wisdom.  I wonder how sad He must be when he sees me struggle in life when help is only a prayer away.

#6:  The God of the universe takes pleasure in me when I honor Him!  Rae has no idea about the pleasure and joy she brings to her new parents.  Even on the most difficult days, we have rejoiced over her.  The simple times when she has looked at me and said, "Xie xie babba" (thank you daddy) when I have done the smallest favors for her have set my heart ablaze with joy.  That makes me think… I often forget (and I am sure I have never really understood) how the heavenly Father takes pleasure in me and my praise and worship of Him.

I could go on, and I probably will in the days to come.  But for now I am enjoying my new daughter for the joy she brings and the lessons she teaches!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

It All Begins Tomorrow

As I write this it is 3:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.  Looking out my hotel window, it appears that Beijing is asleep.  Me and my friend, Jetlag, are answering a few emails and pondering what is going to happen tomorrow.  There have been some big events in my life, and I have even been privileged enough to check-off a few bucket list items through the years, but somehow tomorrow seems like a bigger deal than anything I have ever done before.

Twenty-six years ago, I accepted Christ as my Savior.  Of course, that has to be the most significant thing that has ever happened to me.  I remember people telling me way back then that it wouldn’t last, and I feared they were correct.  However, as it turns out, that was real, and the Lord is real, and by his grace, he has stuck with me for a very long time.  I was married sixteen years ago.  That was a big change, and a good one, and a lasting one.  Donna and I have been blessed with two children (the biological way), and of course those were life-changers.  And there have been some other big events through the years that have stretched me and my family.  I think of leaving engineering school to go into the ministry.  I think of leaving the familiarity of the South and moving to Ohio.  But somehow, what is going to happen tomorrow seems bigger than all of that.

I suppose it has something to do with pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone, or maybe it is the factor of the unknown, or maybe it is the fact that once done, this cannot be undone, but tomorrow feels like the biggest step in my life.

This isn’t the biggest step because I am fearful.  I believe the Lord has been preparing my family for this for a long time.  I am blessed with a very strong marriage and two godly daughters who I know are willing to make the sacrifices this adoption may require.  I have exceptionally good friends and a wonderful church family standing behind me.  I know there could be some hard days ahead, but I am ready for the challenge.

This isn’t the biggest step because of any hesitation or doubt.  I think I have always known I would adopt.  Years ago the motivation was for reasons too personal to write in this blog, but for the last twenty years it has been something I just felt like would happen.  Through this eighteen-month adoption-paperwork-pregnancy there have been many questions.  There have been questions about special needs, domestic versus international, and questions about finances.  But never have we questioned the fact that we should adopt.

This isn’t the biggest step because of the words of the critics.  I have learned that if you are going to do anything important in life, there will be critics.  People have told us that we are squandering our money.  People have told us that we are being unfair to our first two daughters.  People have told us that we are ruining the American economy by bringing foreigners to the land.  None of those kinds of comments have done anything but cause us to loose respect for some really selfish people.

I believe this feels like the biggest step in my life because I am convinced that somehow my life is intersecting with the Kingdom of God.  As I write that, I am not even sure what it means, but I believe it just the same.
James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote that real religion consists of three things.  One of those three is taking care of orphans.  I know there is much more to the Christian life than orphan-care and there are many other significant ways to serve the Lord, but James’ list does give real insight to the heart of the Father.  James isn’t the only Bible writer that speaks of adoption.  Paul talks about believers eagerly waiting for the day when they will receive their full inheritance as adopted sons of God.  He writes of how the Father adopted us out of sin and suffering and has given us new hope and new life.  So, the first one to choose to adopt was none other than God himself.  (I wonder if he had to fill out the stacks of paperwork we had to complete.)

I don’t know today if my adopted daughter, Rui, is ‘eagerly waiting,’ as the apostle Paul describes or not.  I have no idea if she has any idea of how her life is about to change.  (I wonder if she is lying wide-awake in the middle of the night right now, like her new dad, wondering what tomorrow holds.)  But I do know this:  God, in His wisdom and sovereignty, has chosen a little girl, living in the squalor of poverty and hopelessness in a pagan country, and he has seen fit to put her in a family where she will hear the gospel and among friends and in a church that will show her the love of Christ.  And I know that whatever God is up to in her life and around the world, He has chosen to let me be a part of that… and it begins tomorrow.

Noel Dear