It was just before the service began one Sunday night when she approached me. A very kind woman with whom we went to church wanted to express her happiness at the news of our unexpected pregnancy. Supposedly biological children were not an option for us and God had already begun building our family through the domestic adoption of our daughter facilitated through Buckner. I know she didn’t mean harm, but she said “I know you’ll be glad to have one that is …” her voice trailed off, she paused and walked away.
Though not spoken, I know the word she was going to use. It was the word “yours.” Based on this line of thinking, a DNA link would somehow place this child into a higher class of belonging. It was as if I were to be overjoyed at my genetic signature passing on to the next generation. I can tell you with certainty this is a flawed approach. In reality, I’ve passed on lots of imperfect qualities including: male pattern baldness, an inability to outrun your garden variety turtle, and a propensity for Oreos and milk.
All of that aside, it causes me to reflect on what it means to call a child “yours.” I can remember our child falling asleep during landing after screaming the entire flight from Orlando to Dallas. Given a chance I might have denied she was mine as weary fellow travellers exited the plane. On the other hand, there have been those times when the mixture of pride and joy have welled up inside to the point that my body could no longer contain it only to find release through cheers or the tears that rolled down my face. In those moments I wanted everyone to know that these were my children. These experiences have nothing to do with a biological sameness, or a shared ancestry – but they have everything to do with them being mine.
Shannon and I consider the two younger individuals who live in our home our children based on our relationship with them. Our love is not dependent on their gene pool, but instead on our unconditional acceptance of them. They should never be made to feel as if they must earn this acceptance or that our love for them is conditional or temporary.
In this way, a parent-child relationship is a microcosm of the relationship we have with our Heavenly Father. We have done nothing to deserve His love, the truth be told we spend lots of time doing things that drive us further away from Him. The Psalmist expresses our ambition when he writes: “let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you O Lord” (Ps 19:14 NIV) but Paul addresses the too often reality of “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15 NLT) Yet in all of this we experience the grace and mercy of God in that He continually seeks us out and desires a relationship with us.
I did not correct the well meaning parishioner that night, but neither did I discard the conversation. I want it to serve as a reminder of what it means for these children to be mine. They are not mine in the same way one would own property, but in the way that I am responsible for them. I want to have a deeper relationship with them and to try to show them the same grace and mercy that I need to be shown. This means that whether I’m teaching them how to ride a bike, discovering the hidden stash of dirty socks under the sofa, drying tears, or explaining how to accept God’s gift of salvation through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, through all the ups and all the downs – they’re mine.
David Ummel is administrator for Buckner Children and Family Services in Longview, Texas.
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