Lynn was four years old, living in a foster home. She asked her foster mother whether she could keep living there forever. “You’re not going to give me back, are you?”
“Yes, you can stay. We’re going to adopt you.” And they did.
Even at that young age, Lynn understood what that meant, a forever family—not a foster child any longer, but a daughter.
Things were a struggle. Her new mommy and daddy did not know how to treat Lynn the same as Tammy, their biological daughter. Lynn knew Tammy got treated specially compared to her. Tammy got new clothes and new toys. Lynn never did. Tammy had her own room and bed. Lynn had to share her room, clothes, bed and toys with a foster daughter who lived with them.
It didn’t seem fair in Lynn’s young mind, so, hungry for love she acted out, got very angry, often, testing her parent’s patience. Sometimes her father called her names and hurt her physically. Until the day he gave up and called social services in Lynn’s presence and said, “Come and get her and bring a big car goes she going lock, stock and barrel.” She was eight years old and had lived with them for six years. Her forever family was gone. No more mommy and daddy, just a new foster home. Terrified she wondered what would happen. What did I do wrong? What’s wrong with me? Who will want me? I’ve been bad.
On the platform of a railroad station there was a large crate with a big dog inside. He was the saddest dog you can imagine. A lady asked about him. “You would be sad, too,” she was told, “if you were in his plight. He’s chewed the tag off the crate, and doesn’t know where he’s going.” Lynn felt like that. If the truth be told, many of us have felt that. We or circumstances in our world have chewed the tags off our life’s traveling crates, so our journey in life halts and we are in a sad state. We don’t know where we are going and sit trapped in our crates and wonder, “What’s wrong with me?”
Our lesson from Ephesians give all us crate sitters hope. God has a plan. The writer made a powerful statement to the effect that none of us are natural-born children. We are all adopted. He stated that God, as an act of love, decided before time began to adopt everyone on earth through Jesus Christ and freely give us adopted children God’s entire estate. This means that we inherit everything God owns; life and heaven and purpose and a loving, forgiving nature and power to help transform the lives of others. It’s the best inheritance because it is more than money. It is the richness of God’s very self.
The first Christians were acutely aware of the benefits of being adopted. Under Roman law, adoption was a serious step. Copper money and scales were used. The biological father would put the son to be adopted on the scales and the adopting father would balance the scales with the child’s weight in copper coins. Once the judges agreed the adoption was completed and the adopted child had all the rights of inheritance in the new family. All the child’s debts and obligations connected with the previous family were abolished, stricken from the records, as if they had never existed. You were, obviously, quite lucky if someone adopted you. You were doubly rich — your past was forgiven and your future held the promise of a powerful inheritance.
Eight-year-old Lynn’s foster mother one day told her that over 100 people had, through the state’s social services, expressed interest in adopting her. She was amazed that so many people wanted her. Could she dare hope? The day came when she was told they had picked new parents for her who were coming to meet her. They took her out for a milkshake and Lynn, feeling the need to point out her flaws, pointed to her crooked teeth and said, “I’m going to need braces!”
They smiled and said, “That’s okay, we don’t mind. We can afford to get them fixed.” Lynn relaxed a bit.
A few weeks later when Lynn moved in with her new parents, this girl with the hand me down clothes that were all so awful her parents threw them out, saw a pile of things in the family room: clothes, books, toys and more, all given to her new mom in a shower at their church. “Are these all for me?” She could not believe it. Her own things for the first time in her life. Her own bed, her own room. But then the question, “Will you keep me?”
“Yes, we are your forever family,” they said. She’d heard that before. Could she trust them? Her head said yes, but her heart said no. So she tested them over and over and over. “How bad do I have to be before they give me back?” After several long, sometimes trying months, when she had done her worst, and they still kept her, she calmed a bit and life got better for the family.
Are we like that with God? Do we test and test with angry outbursts, questionable behavior or outright sin? How bad to I have to be before God gives up on me? Or do we find ourselves straying gradually away until it seems we are so far that we cannot return to God?
We forget our heritage as beloved adopted children. Forget our destiny. We forget God’s purpose and plan which is to free all people trapped in their traveling creates, freeing them from the power of brokenness. Part of that plan is to use us, believers in Christ, to free those who do not know God’s love.
Year’s later, in Lynn’s adolescence and teen years she was in a dark and nasty, mean spirited place for a long, long time. She lashed out at her parents and little sister like a wounded animal, pushing away the very people who loved her and wanted to help her. Most of all she lashed out at herself in self destructive behavior. During this time her desperate mom turned to her equally desperate husband and said, “What are we going to do?” His response: “We’ll just have to be like God and let her do these things, but keep offering her grace and love so she always has a place to call home.”
My was that difficult to do! But truly it was an insight into the heart of God who willing takes the hit from us when we are in our dark places, giving us grace, mercy and love. All we need do is look to the cross to see God’s promise of a forever family, for it is there that Jesus said, “Father forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.”
Lynn is 27 now. She admits that her wounds from the loss of her first family will always haunt her. Like a whisper she can still hear the voice that says “You’re bad. You’re not worth much. Who would want you?” But she is doing well and works hard to be a good mother to her own two children so they know the unconditional love she often did not. She talked to me about these things the other day. You see, she is my daughter.