This week’s post originally appeared as a Facebook “Note” on November 23, 2011. It has been edited and slightly expanded for use here.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3-12)
Brody Donald Haddon Everett turned three yesterday (or “free,” as he says it). It was a joyous occasion for our family, as every day since April 9, 2010, has been. For those that are not aware, Brody is not our biological child; we adopted him when he was nearly five months old. Jen and I still very clearly remember April 8, 2010. I had left my office at the University of Louisiana at Monroe for a couple of hours to pick up lunch and eat with Jen in the break room of the hair salon where she worked—it wasn’t a glamorous date, but the company was nice! As we were eating, Jen remarked “We just don’t have any excitement in our lives anymore.” She was right, I suppose, but I said something about being thankful that our lives were boring, rather than “exciting” in a negative sense. She agreed, though neither of us knew at the time what the next few hours would hold.
There is a certain sadness in the lives of a couple that strongly desires to have a child, and yet has been providentially hindered from doing so. Having failed to have a child of our own after nearly nine years of marriage and even experiencing a failed adoption, we had more or less accepted that our home would be a quiet and empty one. As Christians, we were aware that God “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11), including the giving and withholding of children (Psalms 127:3ff.). Furthermore, we believed God’s promise that He works all things together for the good of His people (Romans 8:28), and if that included childlessness for us, then we had learned—or at least were trying to learn—to be content with that. Still, within the present cultural milieu of conservative and Reformed churches that rightly praise the virtues of family life while wrongly ignoring the Apostle Paul’s commendations of other circumstances (cf. 1 Corinthians 7), we had a peculiar and painful sense of not being entirely “in the club.” After all, even in the best and most understanding of situations, family life—with children—is considered normative within our social and religious circles, and so the sense of being “left out” was keenly felt by us.
April 8, 2010, was the last day that we would feel this way.
Later that afternoon, after I had returned to work in order to teach a few more lessons, I received a phone call from the local adoption agency stating that they had a baby whose family, with whom we are good friends on his biological mother’s side, wanted to put him up for adoption, and had specifically asked for us to be the adoptive parents. The next 21 hours were a flurry of activity preparing our home for an unexpected blessing, and the next day—almost exactly one day after that conversation in Jen’s break room–we brought home a very large (he’s always been a big boy!) and, at that time, very ill four-month-old. We were, to say the least, overwhelmed, both with joy that we now had a child in our home and with a keen sense of the great responsibility our Lord had placed upon us. As I think back over the past 31 months, two themes are central in my mind: the responsibility that God gives to parents, and the picture adoption provides of what God has done for us.
Brody came to us from a Christian family, one that asked us to adopt him with the tacit assumption that we would raise him in a Christian manner. More importantly, Scripture demands that the children of Christian parents be brought up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), and promises that if we “train up a child in the way he should go” then “when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Jen and I are Presbyterians; we believe God’s covenant promises to be a God “unto you and to your children” (Acts 2:39), that God is most often pleased to work within families to build a people for His Name. And yet, we take nothing for granted. Even as God normally works through families, Scripture is replete with examples of children of godly parents that abandoned the God of their fathers. We read of Ishmael and of Esau, of the sons of Eli and the sons of Samuel, of Amnon and of Absalom, and of numerous other men that did not follow the godly example set for them but instead turned away. Thus, even as we are careful to raise Brody according to the precepts of God’s Word, we are just as careful if not more so to cry out to God in prayer for Brody’s soul. After all, Scripture is clear that saving faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), and that no one comes unto Christ unless he is drawn by the Father (John 6:44). Thus it is both appropriate and necessary that we plead with God for Brody’s salvation, since God alone has the ability to save.
Secondly, we view Brody’s adoption as a picture of what God has done for His people in Christ. In Ephesians 1:5 we read of how God “predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ,” and in John 1:12 “But as many as received [Christ], to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” Scripture says that we “were by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), and yet, in Christ, God is pleased to call us His children! “I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God” (Romans 9:25-26). What a great privilege to be regarded by God as His very own children, and what a great honor it is for us to model, in a very small way, that same love toward Brody. He was not born into our family, and yet Jen and I were not only pleased to take him in but paid a great sum of money to do so. Brody had done nothing to deserve our love, and still we chose to love him, and I cannot imagine that we would or could love him any more if he were our biological child. How much greater, then, to realize that even though we were not by nature part of His “family,” God “[chose] us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) as His own people, and purchased us, not with money, but with the blood of His only-begotten Son, even when we had not only done nothing to deserve His love and favor, but had actually merited His hatred and disfavor. “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). Illustrations of the great acts of God by means of comparison to human institutions are necessarily weak, and the illustration that adoption provides is no different. Still, what adoptive parents do for their children provides at least a small glimpse into what God does in calling out a people for His Name.
And so, I leave off writing these scattered reflections still very joyful that our once quiet home is now filled with toys and the frenetic activity of a little boy that has too quickly moved past “toddler” to “runner” and “jumper” and “climber.” At the same time, I write very sober-mindedly. Raising a child is an enormous responsibility, and the happy presentation provided by pictures and videos on Facebook does not show the tears, the temper-tantrums, the defiance, and the discipline that are as much a part of child-rearing as are laughter, giggles, playfulness, and affection. The Bible says that all of us have an inherent bent toward sin (Romans 3:9-18, 3:23, 5:12ff.), and Brody is no different. Even at his tender age Brody is capable of displaying a willful defiance that demonstrates just how true this doctrine of “original sin” is. The best our teaching and discipline can accomplish is to show Brody what God requires, and that he (already, at three years old!) falls far short of that. After that we can only pray that he will, by God’s grace, one day flee to Christ for pardon, and happily receive the adoption of a Father that will love him more than we ever could.
Happy Birthday, Brody. Your mom and I love you so very much.