I’m writing this post with a playlist in the background I haven’t heard in over 6 years. Newborn baby squeaks, sighs, hiccups, and sneezes.
This little darling, Eloise Sunshine, joined our family a week ago today, when her birth parents signed their termination of parental rights and Bethany Christian Services placed her into our temporary custody. We are in the midst of a 90-day legal risk period before the adoption is finalized legally in court.
I’ve been through labor three times and although I didn’t physically labor this time, the emotional labor of walking alongside her birthparents the day of her birth and the 48-hours that followed, was similarly exhausting.
We were amazed at the capacity of the human heart, stably bookended by God’s faithful grace, to experience the full spectrum of human emotion. We grieved for the birth parents. We have a relationship with them and hated to see our friends hurting. We hugged them, cried for them, told them of our love for them, and walked them out of the hospital at discharge reminding them that though their hands might be empty, their hearts could be full of assurance of our love for them and for the baby they gave birth to.
And in some ways we are glad for them. Glad for them to have a fresh chance to focus on the priorities in their life they’ve said need attention. I think of them when I’m up in the night with Eloise, sleep deprived myself, energy quickly depleting during the day, knowing I’m pouring out my life and time not just for her, but for themtoo, praying they will have the energy, time, wisdom, and discipline to do what they need to do.
In our adoption experience, you can trace with your hand a string of love that connects our hearts to theirs. We acknowledge not everything is perfect. We acknowledge our relationship with them is rather complicated as far as human relationships go. But God has equipped Christians to face situations like this; to incarnate sacrificially, like Jesus himself.
Paul Miller in his book, A Loving Life, quotes B.B. Warfield on the self-giving of Christ:
“Self-sacrifice brought Christ into the world. And self-sacrifice will lead us, His followers, not away from, but into the midst of men [and women]. Wherever [they] suffer, there will we be to comfort. Wherever [they] strive, there will we be to help. Wherever [they] fail, there will we be to uplift. Wherever they succeed, there will we be to rejoice. Self-sacrifice means not indifference to our times and our fellows: it means absorption in them. It means forgetfulness of self in others. It means entering into every man and woman’s hopes and fears, longings and despairs: it means many-sidedness of spirit, multiform activity, multiplicity of sympathies. It means richness of development. It means not that we should live one life, but a thousand lives – binding ourselves to a thousand souls by the filaments of so loving a sympathy that their lives become ours.”
And that, my friends, as you know, isn’t just adoption, but the Christian life in general. It is joyfully hard. It is a chance to die to self a thousand times every hour of every day. It is pressing the limits of superficial love knowing the love you need can only be supernaturally derived. It’s glorying in each weakness you see manifested emotionally, spiritually, and physically, so that the power of Christ might rest on you. It’s pleading with your heavenly Father, who gives generously, for the wisdom and grace you lack, and so desperately need. It’s asking God to keep creating faith in you, when your heart is overcome with doubt and fear.
And we could not do it without you. Thank you, to our friends and family who started this journey almost 4 years ago with us, and to those friends who have joined us during the journey. We’ve needed you each step and will continue to. While we are incarnating for Eloise and her birthparents and for you, you have incarnated for us. It is a beautiful circle of grace. Grace heaped upon grace.
There is only one hero in the Christian life and it’s Jesus whose incarnation for us we will celebrate next month. Because he left the glories of heaven and took on flesh to live, die, and rise again, we cling to his flawless incarnation on our behalf. He is the only one who has succeeded at living thousands upon thousands of lives perfectly. Will you exalt in Jesus with us?
Thank you to Robyn Moore for capturing this special family memory so beautifully.