I’ve put this on my personal blog, Open Mike, where I am trying to keep matters of faith and personal life so I can keep the focus here on technology blogging and SQL Server consulting. But this was one I wanted to share in both spots as I sometimes do and will do.
As you may or may not know, my family just completed the process of an international adoption. We have a 4th child, an older daughter, now – a teenager even. We’ve been home for a little less than a week. It was a year long journey and worth every effort. So great to see us all home safe and sound and see her and her siblings get along. Those who know me have seen many updates during the process and offered much support along the way in terms of praying, positive thinking, encouragement and even some donations for the cost. We appreciate that so much. For this blog I am going to leave her name out of the mix. We’ll call her “S”.
While there is a long journey ahead of us in terms of adjusting to life in a family from life in an orphanage. Learning a language. Adjusting to being the oldest of four, and adjustments for her siblings with a shuffling of the age order and size of family – especially for our oldest biological child. There will be past hurts to deal with potentially, and adjustments to our routines (or lack thereof ). While we have this road ahead still and some unknowns there – there are many knowns for us. Many “known without a doubt in the world” situations.
One of them is something I wanted to share for perhaps two reasons. One reason is because I’m just so happy to have her here safe with us after this journey. The other is because for various reasons I didn’t have a great relationship with my father growing up – and that was, in some ways, a hindrance to me understanding just what God means when He calls Himself father and talks about the sonship of His believers. I bet some of my readers may be in that same spot. Maybe you’ve been hurt by a father. Maybe you’ve not known yours. Maybe you don’t know what it means to be unconditionally loved by a father and when you hear the verses in the Bible that refer to God the Father and what He thinks of His children, it doesn’t make sense.
It will be sometime before S stumbles across my SQL Server blog, and when she does I’m okay with what I have to say here. I’ve tried expressing many of these sentiments to her already just as I have all of my children. What follows is from my heart as though written to her.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. – Galatians 4:4-7
The above verse is one of a few talking about our adoption in Christ. If we are in Christ – then we have been adopted by the father through the Son. We have the full rights as heirs of God. And that doesn’t just mean forgiveness and eternal life in Heaven. It means the same thing that it means to be a child of His. Now all of what I write isn’t going to fit exactly, much of it, though, is an imperfect expression of my imperfect (I am not perfect, I cannot love perfectly like God can.) love for my daughter (and for all four – so far – of my children). If this sinner, this imperfect person feels this way about his children, imagine how much more God loves His children. It doesn’t matter what hurts you’ve had, where you fall short, or whatever – God will love you perfectly if you submit to Him, if you repent and come to Him by faith through grace and trust Him as Lord. If He is calling you towards Him, don’t wait – explore what your heart is telling you through prayer and Bible study.
I share this letter not to invade our privacy or someday embarrass my daughter or any of my children. I share it not to brag for simply having love for my children. I share it as a reminder of the kind of things God has said to us through scripture that are imperfectly reflected in a father’s love for his children. And to share of the reflection that earthly adoption is of our relationship with Christ.
He isn’t just King of Kings. He isn’t just Lord of Lords. He isn’t just the Alpha and the Omega. He isn’t just the creator and sustainer of everything that exists. He is my dad. My father. Stop running from Him. Come towards Him and see what that relationship is like.
I love you. I don’t fully know what you’ve been through in your life yet. I may never know(1). But I know this – I know that you are my daughter. I know that I love you no differently than your siblings who are also mine, but by blood. I look forward to knowing you more and more each day, week, month and year. I look forward to you knowing me more each day, week, month and year. Today our language keeps us apart a bit in words – but there is no separation of love. When you hurt, I want to hug and comfort you. When you are scared I want you to be there for you and guide you through whatever it is. You have lived a life where you have had no real concept of unconditional love. You’ve had to earn attention or affection through obedience, following guidelines or performing various acts. It wasn’t love – it was learned responses. It was obedience to a system for survival. Today you have love. You are loved with no strings attached. You could not earn this love of mine. No one ever has earned it – that wouldn’t be love. It would be some selfish reaction to some external stimulus. I love you because I do. Your mom loves you because she does. We’re going to have some rough patches – your a teenager, you’ve lived by orphanage rules and survival tactics for the past 6+ years where you were supposed to be growing and maturing. Your memories before that are no better. Those rough patches will come – and no matter how rough they get. No matter how frustrating it may feel or seem to you – I will love you through that time. I’m your dad and that’s what dads do – it’s what we’re supposed to do anyway. I bet you’ll even test me over time to see just how unconditional this love is. I don’t care what test you put before me. I don’t love you because you did something to deserve it. I don’t love you because you fulfilled something in my life. I love you because I do and because you are my daughter. Whatever test may come – that love is there forever. Like it’s been there since the day you were born.
I may not have been your father when you were born. I may not have been your father when you took your first step or lost your first tooth. But I was your father when you learned to ride a bike. I was your father when you were cut loose from the slavery of the orphanage. I was your father in that court room when I petitioned the judge to let your mother and siblings and I claim you as a Walsh.
For sure – I expect some things out of you. I expect you to grow. I expect you to learn that you can totally lean and depend on us. I expect your guard to go down and you to feel safe in our lives. I expect you to trust me completely and to mature and change day over day and year over year. But we aren’t going to just leave you alone and hope these things happen. If you let us. If you let me. If you trust us and lean on us – we’ll guide you on this journey. We’ll help you figure this out. Through trusting our guidance and our love – you will grow. And someday you’ll look back at the journey you had to go through to get here into this family and the first year or years of growing and figuring this all out as distant memories that make you laugh in retrospect.
I will not promise you that you will never face hurt again. I cannot promise you that you will never have disappointment ever again. I cannot guarantee you that pain and sorrow will never touch your life. I can promise, though, that as long as I am alive. As long as your mother is alive – that we will weep with you when you weep. We will be a shoulder to cry on. We will be a hug when you need a hug. We’ll be a solid rock to lean on in times of stress and adversity. I won’t have the right answers for you always – but I can point to my Heavenly father who adopted me 13 years ago and His book of advice.
S – I love you. And you can’t do a single thing about it. You’ve been abandoned before. I will never do that to you. You’ve been let down by people who were supposed to love you for whatever reasons they chose to or felt they had to – I will not do that. God says He will never leave or forsake me, as His adopted child. As long as I am alive on this sphere and have the health to – I will never leave you or forsake you. I will provide for you and make sure you don’t go without. I will protect and provide for you. The love I have for you is no different than the love I have for R, W or S. It is as deep. It is as real. It is as permanent and as unconditional as it is for each of them. I may have cut their cords in a Hospital – but I chose you. I sought you and I prayed hard and performed a lot of steps to bring you here. It’s no different. Nothing is going to change that love. Ever.
1. – God knows exactly what you’ve been through. He knows exactly what you are going through. He even knows your heart right at this moment.
Also – all of the expressions above are still imperfect. The love God has for His children is even greater than any love any earthly father or mother could have for their children. I could have written this same letter with different circumstances about any of my children. I wrote it here to S because through adopting her, I see more clearly just what it means when the Bible proclaims that those who are in Christ are also adopted children of God’s. Perhaps those verses have now more fully sunk in.
But. If you become a child of God’s – He will love you unconditionally. He will never leave you or forsake you. His Word expresses that for you.