Arriving at Des Moines International Airport two years ago today. This was the first glimpse our friends and family got of Justice! :)
As I prepared in my mind to write this post, my plan was to show you a bunch of pictures from Justice’s last two years that display how much his soul has lifted…how his face has brightened…how he’s growing into a Spirit-filled, well-rounded young man….how the opportunities here in the U.S. have enabled him to come alive….how simply having a father has given him confidence and direction….how the ability to just be a kid has literally wrapped him up in peace and released him from the oppression and daily struggles of his former life. I could tell you how almost nightly he prays that God would ‘get more people to adopt’….and how he prays for the children in Ghana who have been adopted that God would ‘grow them up so that they will want to adopt too one day’….and how it is regular dinnertime discussion for him to say ‘I wish we had A LOT of money so that we could adopt as many orphans as we wanted’. Yes, I could write story after story and find picture after picture that evidence these very things. But today, it is instead on my heart to write about this truth: Justice has changed and blessed our lives more than we ever have his.
For me personally, adding Justice to our family by way of adoption was part of God’s design for my sanctification process. Specifically, I believe one of the many reasons the Lord asked us to adopt was to protect my heart from making idols out of our biological children. Yes, I’ve written about this before…a few times actually. But for whatever reason, I feel like the Lord is urging me to share about it again today because He’s given me a new spin on it….so here we go….
Have you ever read the story of Abraham and his son Isaac in Genesis chapter 22? If not, I’ll include this excerpt to get you a bit acquainted or to refresh your memory:
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then…
I’ll tell you the rest of the story in a minute. I’ve read this story many times in my Bible before. And each time I have always thought that this was a test of Abraham’s faith. Would He believe that God’s plan was greater than His? Would he obey, even when it seemed that what God was asking Him to do didn’t at all make sense? A test of faith right?
Well, some time ago I gleaned a different perspective on those verses when I read the following in my daily devotional:
Entrust your loved ones to Me; release them into My protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands. If you let a loved one become an idol in your heart, you endanger that one – as well as yourself. Remember the extreme measures I used with Abraham and Isaac. I took Isaac to the very point of death to free Abraham from son-worship. Both Abraham and Isaac suffered terribly because of the father’s undisciplined emotions. I detest idolatry, even in the form of parental love… (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young page 246)
Abraham and his wife Sarah had struggled with infertility (Genesis 15:2-3, 16:1). As the years went by, they began to lose confidence that they would ever have a child together (even though God had promised it would happen). Then God ordained a miracle to fulfill His promise – Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son (Genesis 21:2). His only son. Imagine how easy it was for Abraham’s heart to fall into idolatry of this long-awaited son. (An idol is anything that you put first before God - it can be money, time, a job, a person, or a way of life. God strictly forbids idolatry ~ Exodus 20:4.) This was the son Abraham had hoped and yearned years and years for. And when Isaac finally came, I am sure Abraham wanted to clutch onto him with a tight grip…..and never let go.
Obviously, moms and dads are wired to love their children. But we must heed caution that we do not allow our world and life to become centered on our children instead of on Jesus, His Kingdom, and His purposes. Jesus explains the weight of this in Matthew 10:37-39 ~
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.
This tendency toward making idols of my own children has been very exposed in our adoption processes. In fact, it wasn’t until we adopted that I was able to see it. When God leads you to adoption, and you already have children, you fear for them. You are tempted to become paralyzed because of what adoption might to do them. You forget that God teaches and matures faith through trials. Your instinct is to pad your children from experiencing any sort of preventable heartache or strain, but you may actually be padding them from how God desires to work in their lives to develop their faith. When you don’t entrust your children to God, it will become extremely difficult to obey Him with the little things or the big things because you are worried that they will be negatively affected. And if they become your excuse to not move forward in obedience, then what you are really doing is offering your children a world-view that is self-centered and far from the heart of the gospel. It’s a dangerous place to be.
Well, Abraham passed the test. The test of obedience. The test of faith. And what I now also see as the child-idolatry test...
he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son (Genesis 22:10-13).
It wasn’t fully revealed to me until I wrote this post. But adoption has been my child-idolatry test (and a faith test and an obedience test and probably many other tests that I haven’t processed yet). I’ve eluded to it previously in some of my past posts that I wrote during and right after Justice’s adoption. However, it didn’t really sink in until I saw the Abraham-Isaac replay in this new perspective. The notes in my Bible seem to solidify it all: God did not want Isaac to die, but he wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in his heart so it would be clear that Abraham loved God more than he loved his son. Both times with our adoptions, God has asked me to do this same thing in my heart. His Kingdom and His purposes must be of more importance to me than even my own children. And the unexpected bonus: We’ve found that obeying God by adopting orphans into our family has not hurt our own children - at all. Just the opposite - it’s blessed them (beyond measure) and shown them a living-acting faith. For that, I am thankful, and I look forward to the spiritual growth of our family continuing on by way of adoption.
So often I think we go into adoption thinking that the main point is to help change the life of an orphan. And that does happen. But what you find out by the end is that God desires to use them to change you just as much….maybe even more.