Before I spill my morning musings, I want to direct you to a couple of friends. Robin Hagen over at Ordinary Holy has posted this rich reflection on John the Baptist’s stark remark regarding Jesus: He must increase, but I must decrease. I’ve read it and will probably re-read it a few times because there is so much to chew on. I met Robin through Seth Godin’s Creatives Workshop, where we both wrote daily together for 100 days straight, and she always has something to say. She’ll make you laugh, cry, and think deeply about simple things – or simply about deep things. Thank you, Robin!
Then, there’s our own Britton Roberts, who has just recorded a fresh rendition of the old hymn, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. Personally, I love the melancholy, brooding tone of the original melody, but I remember Britton’s mom, Debbie, wasn’t a fan. Once, when we were rehearsing for a Christmas event, she told me it sounded like a funeral dirge. Well, she would love this new rendition, full of life and child-like wonder – and so do I. And while you’re there, please consider buying the song. It’s been a rough year for all of us performing artist types – we could use the encouragement!
Today is my eldest daughter’s Adoption Day. Forty years ago today, we walked into a Broward County Courthouse to make it legal. She was 20 months old with high, poky pigtails, wearing a red knit dress, white tights with a ruffled bottom, and shiny shoes. When she came to us in August of that year, she was too weak to walk at first, but she loved her shiny shoes. She used to lie on her back and clap her tiny patent leather-clad feet together in sheer delight.
But on this day, full of life and strength, she boldly ran into the judge’s chambers and clambered onto the big leather armchair facing his desk.
Whenever she smiled joy filled the room; the judge was enthralled with this little impish beauty. I still remember his words after we signed the official documents: You can divorce each other, but you can never divorce this child. When she is older, she may choose to walk away from you, but you cannot walk away from her. She is your child for life.
I sat in the dark this morning, thinking about her. We didn’t choose our daughter because she was strong or healthy or perfect. Just a month before our daughter was scheduled to arrive from Korea, we received a telegram alerting us to a potentially serious health issue. The agency asked if we still wanted her or should they assign us a different child? There was no question, no hesitation. We could have said no, but we didn’t. She was our child.
We also didn’t choose her because she looked like us or carried any of our traits. She is a smart chemist who was heart-born into a family of artists; in that way, we couldn’t be more different. We didn’t choose her because we thought we could use her or benefit in any way from her life. We chose her and accepted her in her weakness and poverty simply because we loved her.
And this is what spiritual adoption looks like. God adopts us and accepts us as his own, in all of our weakness, poverty, and sin as we are reborn into his family. He doesn’t expect us to clean ourselves up or make ourselves well; he knows that is futile. He wraps us in unconditional love, and that love heals us, bit by bit. We may turn our backs on him, but he can never turn his back on us.
I also think of Joseph, this morning – the man entrusted with raising the son of God as his own. Imagine that. The gospels don’t tell us much about Joseph, but we do know God chose him to be Jesus’s earthly father for a reason. This is the flesh and blood dad who fled with his family in the dead of night to escape Herod’s slaughter of the innocents and became a refugee in Egypt. As a father, he must have taught the boy Jesus to walk and picked him up when he fell, taught him about his Jewish faith and traditions, and passed on a love for working with his hands, teaching him a useful trade. Not as a duty, but as an act of love for God and his son. Like Mary, he could have said no to this demanding role, one that opened him up to the gossip of neighbors, humiliation, and a damaged reputation. He could have said no, but he didn’t. But the most amazing thing of all is this: God could have said no to all of it. He could have washed his hands of fallen, rebellious humanity and started over.
But he didn’t.
The mature children of God are those who are moved by the impulses of the Holy Spirit. And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty,” leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. But you have received the “Spirit of full acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as he rises up within us, our spirits join him in saying the words of tender affection, “Beloved Father!” For the Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as he whispers into our innermost being, “You are God’s beloved child!” –
Romans 8:14-16 (Passion Translation)