Thursday, July 26, 2012

With Everything

A few nights ago I was putting Jayla to bed – reading her stories and singing her songs like we always do. As she drifted off to sleep, snuggled up next to me in the quietness, my eyes glanced over to the bunk beds that have now invaded her bedroom. In just a few short months, those beds will hold two little girls, our daughters from Ghana. I began to think about them like I often do, and my mind began imagining little clips of what our life might look like when they are here with us. Lately, each time I do that I have been hit hard with the reality of how much my relationship with Jayla is going to change. My heart has been so heavy. I have been dwelling on the things that I will be giving up (much one-on-one time with Jayla, our close mother-daughter connection, and our sweet little moments that we have – just the two of us). In fact, it really feels like I have been grieving what is going to be lost in my relationship with Jayla. I have also felt like this adoption is going to be taking away from something that is legitimately hers – a closeness with me. I have been scared of how our relationship will change, and that Jayla is going to feel ripped off when they come.

Just two days later, I went to church on my birthday. I knew that God had something to say to me, and since it was my birthday I felt that it was going to be extra fitting and personal – although I didn’t know what that would be. But I soon found out. God was ready to challenge my heart attitude.

Our pastor’s sermon was over Mark 12:13-17 which is titled ‘Religious Leaders Question Jesus About Paying Taxes’. On the outset it doesn’t sound like it relates to my heart attitude. But, the focus of the sermon became verse 17: Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Our pastor urged us to be image bearer’s of Christ, just the way that Caesar’s image was inscripted on his coins and the people had to pay the coins back to him in the form of taxes. In the same way, our lives belong to God. And how, after everything that He has done for us, can we hold back and not go all in for Him?

The conviction for me came when our pastor started talking about a song that we like to sing at our church. The song is entitled ‘With Everything’ and he shared some of the lyrics that we sing as a congregation…I’ve bolded the lines that are our responsibility:

Open our eyes
To see the things that make Your heart cry
To be the church that You would desire
Your light to be seen

Break down our pride
And all the walls we’ve built up inside
Our earthly crowns and all our desires
We lay at Your feet


Let hope rise and darkness tremble
In Your holy light
That every eye will see Jesus our God
Great and mighty to be praised

With everything, with everything
We will shout for Your glory
With everything, with everything
We will shout forth Your praise

After he shared those lyrics that we all stand there and sing in our church, he began highlighting how we hold back from fully turning everything over to God. He jumped off the stage and became one with the congregation as he continued his sermon saying things like “Lord I’ll give you anything, but not that extra bedroom in my house. I might need that someday, like if my mother-in-law gets sick and she needs a place to stay. I need to keep that open just in case.” And “Not my car. You see I worked really hard to have a nice car…..” And “Not the food in my pantry. Invite my neighbors over? Nahhhh…that would be uncomfortable…” After he shared each scenario and excuse, he then turned back towards the stage, lifted his hands in the air and then belted out the above lyrics in worship, “WITH EVERYTHING….” Each time he did this my heart was burdened, distraught, and struck to the core by the hypocrisy that he was pointing out. This is how we live. We stand there in church and tell God with our lips that we’ll give Him everything. Then we walk out the church doors and shrink back when the opportunities come to sacrifice our own comfort and desires in order to reach out to this world that so desperately needs to hear of hope, and peace, and salvation. Jesus didn’t live like that. He. Gave. Everything. His very life even. He took upon Himself all of our sin and shame and brokenness, and gave to us what we could not achieve on our own - a relationship with God. And in those moments, I knew exactly what it was that I was holding back from giving over fully to God, despite knowing and believing in my heart that He held nothing back from me, not even His one and only Son.

Feeling the heaviness of the impending sacrifices that are to come in my relationship with Jayla has caused me to shrink back. Basically I had been telling God, “you can have a bedroom in our house for these girls we are adopting, you can take our money to pay for this adoption, BUT please don’t mess with my relationship with Jayla when they come into our family.”

But, God wants everything. Anything less is unauthentic. I cannot go into this adoption and give these girls we are adopting my leftovers, while I strive to maintain the close relationship I have with Jayla and make that my top priority.  By having that mindset I am limiting what God can do in Jayla's life by clutching her to myself and trying to cushion her from learning to live sacrificially.  I have been ruled by fear.  I have not surrendered my hold on her and allowed God full access into her life.  And for me and this situation, there are so many verses in which God urges me to release the grip on what is so-called MINE - even my children - open up my hands and say “it’s yours Lord, with everything….

Anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:37-39).

With God everything gets flipped. Although my flesh tells me that something is going to be taken away from Jayla once this adoption happens, the Spirit whispers the truth that I am going to be GIVING her so much more. Whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for His sake will find it! In this adoption we are going to be pointing Jayla to Jesus, and be demonstrating the love that He gave to us.

I have a favorite blog post from our last adoption when I was going through something similar.  I needed to hear the author’s words deep in my soul again about the effect of adoption on birth children already in the family:

You are NOT taking anything AWAY from your birth children. Instead, what you are doing is imparting to them something eternal: You are expanding their capacity to love. Think about that for a minute before you read anything else. How do you plan to teach your child to love others unconditionally and in total compassion without giving them the opportunity to do so? I'm telling you now, You CAN'T.

My biological children have a greater capacity of love in their hearts than I could ever impart to them by just giving them a safe Christianity, by maintaining their status quo, by simply modeling "godliness" as parents (as if that's the end-all be-all for a Christian family). My kids...all of them...have lived out self-sacrifice and understand (because they live it!) that laying down one's life does not steal anything from us. That is the lie of the devil, who would have us believe that sacrifice is not worth it; that there is nothing for us in return; that God doesn't really mean what He says when He said to His followers that "anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. [Because] Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:38-39).

Do you really believe that? That whoever LOSES his life for Jesus's sake, for Jesus the Orphan's sake, will actually FIND it? Ask yourself honestly. Because you might answer YES prematurely. I have no doubt that you might believe it for yourself, but do you really believe it for your children, too? That if they "lose" their "place" in the family that Jesus will instead impart to them LIFE? REAL life??? [From the author of]

Yes, Jayla and I are both going to have to learn to ‘lay down our lives’ as we know it for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:17). That is the demonstration of love that we have from Jesus, and if our family claims to follow Him, then we must walk as He did - take up our cross, and die to ourselves. There will be sacrifices. But they are so small in comparison to what Jesus has done for us, and in comparison to the gift we have of eternal LIFE.

There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops. If we hold tightly to anything given to us, unwilling to let it go when the time comes to let it go or unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used, we stunt the growth of the soul. It is easy to make a mistake here, “If God gave it to me,” we say, “its mine. I can do what I want with it.” No. The truth is that it is ours to thank Him for and ours to offer back to Him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of – if we want to find our true selves, if we want real life, if our hearts are set on glory." — Elisabeth Elliot


MKinzenbaw said...

This is exactly what I needed to read right heart goes back to the same fear whenever I think about adoption...thanks for sharing your heart on this!

Jen said...

As always, I love your heart, Janel. I love how God met you right where you needed Him to and that you are responding in obedience. I also loved the reminder "laying down one's life does not steal anything from us." Your grieving, processing and obeying God now in this will be such a gift to your two new daughters. And while there will be things you and Jayla lose, I KNOW God has blessings in store for both of you that you cannot see now and never would have imagined. Love being on this journey with you, my friend!

Lisa said...

Janel, We are struggling intensely with this right now. It has been a HARD week. Thank you for this timely post and it's reminder. This is what I needed to hear today. Thank you God for speaking through Janel!