Sunday, July 1, 2012

Children on loan from God

I have often heard over the years about children being "on loan" from God.  Intellectually, I understood that was true and that, like all other blessings from the Lord, our job as parents was to be good stewards of those gifts.

Even after becoming a parent, I think I would have agreed with the stewardship part, knowing that I had a solemn responsibility to parent Tommy well and to instill in him values consistent with our faith as Christians.
But this phrase is about much more than being a good parent.  There is also an element where we must acknowledge that these children are not "ours" any more than our money is "ours" or our talents are "ours".  This is where it gets a little tougher.  Ok, in my case, seriously tough.

Having worked so hard to get to the point of starting a family, having prayed for years for this little blond-headed, blue eyed child, having carried Tommy for 9 months and delivering him, I guess I felt that, while I was truly blessed of God to have him, he was mine.  Mine.

Back then, I "knew" that Tommy was likely the only child I would ever have, so making mistakes with him was really not an option.  Did I mention that he was mine? 

I did what I suspect many moms do, especially with their first child.  I prayed for wisdom, I prayed for God to protect "my child", I prayed for God to work through and strengthen "my child", but I can't remember a single time in his early life ever praying for "God's child".  I did not truly recognize that Tommy was "on loan" from God the Father.  I didn't really fully understand what that meant.

In fact, I put so much pressure on myself to be the perfect parent because in my mind, God needed my help.  He did, after all, choose me to mother this boy and so I had to be perfect or Tommy would.... (fill in the blank).  Many, if not all, the decisions that were made for this little guy as he grew were made from a place of fear, albeit, not consciously.  I projected him into his 30s and thought that every possible parenting mistake I made was going to ruin him.

I am certain none of you out there reading this have ever had THOSE thoughts.  To say that this created an undercurrent of stress would be an understatement.  But, then again, Tom has always said that I have the "gift of understatement"!

As I look back, it was a Counselor that I know who bluntly put the brakes on this twisted thinking.  She recognized what many probably saw in me and said to me once something akin to, "You know, if you were hit by a bus tomorrow, Tommy would grow up to be exactly what God wants him to be.  He doesn't need you!" 

Call the paramedics.

What?  Now, I'm sure that all of you would have immediately internalized the true message of those words and would not have obsessed on the "HE DOESN"T NEED YOU" part.  'Cause you all are much more mature than me. BUT....all I heard in that brief moment was that Tommy really didn't need me. Music to a mother's ears, right?  NOT!

Now, as a quick aside for anyone who does not know me personally...I am not an overly emotional person.  I am, by nature, quite analytical.  But, when it comes to my children---whoa nellie!  What I focused on in that moment was, what do you mean my child doesn't need me?  Have I been working this hard on the parenting thing for nothing?  Huh?

Of course, it didn't take me long to realize that what the real message was about was that God chose Tom and I to parent this special little boy and He knew all along that we were not perfect parents.  He knows every step Tommy will ever take and He loves him far more than we are capable of. So, I needed to take a step away from my child and remember that GOD HAS THIS! 

I learned a valuable lesson that day.  GOD HAS THIS.  He has my child in the palm of His capable hand.  I also learned that I CAN NOT take credit for the gifts that God has chosen to give my child.  No matter who gave birth to him, it was God almighty that formed that boy and it is He who has gifted him.  HE IS ON LOAN to us. 

Little did I know that this conversation with the counselor was only part 1 of my lesson.

As most of you know, Tommy was our first-born child, but God had plans for our family to be much bigger than just him. (A HUGE SURPRISE TO ALL OF US)

 Since adopting Colin and Cameron, I have been reminded (more easily, I admit) that these precious children are given from God. They are entrusted to us by His grace.  Why is it that this is so much more easily recognized with my adopted children than with my biological child?  I guess the fact that I had nothing to do with their genetic makeup, and did not have the honor of rearing them from birth, it was easier for me to understand that God created them in His wisdom and gifted them without any "help" from me.

All this brings me to today.  July 1, 2012.

Today, with the support of a large contingent of other adoptive families, Tom and I publicly dedicated our two older sons to God.  For those who are not as familiar with this custom, let me clarify a few things. 

First, this act of public dedication is much like a infant baptism in certain denominations.  In and of itself, it does nothing to secure my children's future for eternity.  My desire for their salvation is not enough. One day, they will have to accept or reject our beliefs and cling to their own.  Just like infant baptism does not secure our children acceptance into Heaven, today was not about making decisions for our children that are not ours to make.

What it was, was a public demonstration of our commitment as their parents to teach them about God and to rear them in such a way that they can see God working in our lives.  We publicly joined together with our entire congregation to show them that the "Body of Christ" loves them and will stand beside them as they navigate this new life of theirs. We have explained this to each of the boys and have told them that it will ultimately be up to them whether or not they accept the gift that God wants them to have, and that we are there to guide them and to teach them. 

Today was so very special for us.  It was special for the boys too, to see how much they are loved by their friends and especially by the local community of adoptive families.

5 whole rows filled with adoptive and foster families! Wow!

Today, we had many families join us in support of our children and to demonstrate what "adoption" really looks like. 

There were foster families, domestic adoptive families, international adoptive was a powerful image for us all.  Seeing row after row of Godly parents and their "gifts" sitting there in support of our children.  It was a gift of love for each of them to leave their usual places of worship and celebrate with us the gifts of Colin and Cameron!

My sincere prayer is that this day becomes a precious milestone for my boys and that one day soon they are praising the name of Jesus from their own hearts.  I choose to be thankful for the privilege of seeing up close what God has planned for them.

To each person that was there for us today, we say thank you!  Thank you for showing such love and support to our boys.  You all know, better than anyone could, that just being there for them shows them a love that they have never known.  It shows them that they are important to believers and to God the Father. 

The Lewis family and thier son Nate, adopted from Uganda. 
The Morgan family and their beautiful Mary Claire, adopted domestically.

Kim Jackson and 5 of her 6 children: 
Clint and his four sisters: Jenny, Sarah, Rachel and Katie, all adopted from China.

The Gour family with 5 of their children (front row, Claire and Asher, both adopted from China)

The Vaughn family, adopted Malachi and Elizabeth from Ruwanda last year and
we were so blessed to dedicate our children together today.

Our precious friends, the Pettersen family stood in support of us as
representatives of our church body.  We love you all!
I wish I could have gotten pictures of each of the wonderful families that were there to share our day!  We love each of you very much and thank you for your thoughtfulness today.

You have made this a most special day for us all!


kimjax said...

Wouldn't have missed it for the world, friend! We love your family. Beautiful post, Angie.

Shannon Gregg said...

A blessing to be there. Thank you for including us in this special day!

Sammy said...

Nice looking family!!

Traci said...

Wonderful! Thank you for letting us peek in. You are blessed to have so many friends surrounding you. The day will come when these young ones will choose for themselves, and then you can praise God and blog again!