July 6, 2014

What if . . .?

We sit on the floor of the sunny, colorful little room, each of us holding a specially-formed child in our laps, introducing them, some for the very first time, to the beautiful sound of music.   Because these precious children are blind, they are especially enjoying the rhythms of the songs, the tactile sensations of the drums and shakers, and the physical movements of the motions.  Some spontaneously try dancing to the tempo – awkwardly and yet completely uninhibited.  Some, like my foster child sitting on my own lap, are hesitant and fearful, reluctant to participate in this unfamiliar environment.  And one little girl across the circle from us just smiles and rocks back and forth the entire time, her ears savoring every delicious beat.

I can’t help but notice the little girl sitting next to me, the one with the disfigured face, whose deformed hands can barely grasp the musical instruments, and whose head is wrapped in unsightly bandages – either from a recent surgery or from a misshapen head.  It’s hard not to stare.

Suddenly, my 15-year old daughter, who is attending the musical event with me, interrupts my thoughts.  Leaning over, she whispers into my ear, “Do you see that girl over there?”  She discreetly glances over to the same one I had just been noticing.  Uh oh, I hope she doesn’t say anything too loud or embarrassing, I think to myself.  To my utter astonishment, she continues with pure sincerity, “She is so adorable!”

What?!  Adorable?!  Is that what my daughter really thinks?  That certainly isn’t the adjective I would use to describe this little one who has obviously had a difficult start in life, and will most likely have an even longer road ahead.  My first reaction had been shock, followed closely by pity.  Maybe even a brief, private introspective question, wondering, “What if she was my child?”

But my daughter is not shocked at all.  She is demonstrating, as she has done so many times before, that her heart is filled with compassion.  That she knows how to look beyond the surface, and to truly see the beauty in each child that God has masterfully created.  In her eyes, every child – white, brown or black; adorable or homely; whole or severely broken - is beautiful and treasured.  Cherished.

I sometimes wonder, What would her heart have been like, had she been raised in her family of origin?  If she had stayed with her birthparents instead of coming to live with us?  What if I had never become a foster parent?  What if I had never met her?  What if . . ., what if . . ., what if . . .?

I wonder if Daniel’s mother pondered the same questions when her son was taken away from her and sent to Babylon, knowing that she would never see him again.  Or Samuel’s mother when she voluntarily “placed her son for adoption,” hoping and praying that his upbringing in a faraway temple would cultivate in him the desire and ability to serve the God she loved.  Did these mothers ever wonder, “What if . . .?”  I find it interesting that there are striking examples in the Bible of children who were not raised by their birthparents, whom God used in extraordinary ways to accomplish His purposes . . .

Moses.  He was raised, not by his birthmother, but by Pharoah’s daughter – a heathen, idol-worshipping, yet compassionate “foster mother.”  God knew that Moses would need an excellent education - most likely he was tutored by the finest minds in all of Egypt - in order to write the first five books of the Bible.  He knew that Moses would need that unique childhood in order to prepare him for the monumental task of rescuing His people from bondage in Egypt.

Esther.  She was raised, not by her birthparents, but by her cousin - a “kinship adoption” - in a country full of oppression and ruled by a tyrant.  God used the circumstances of her life to put her in exactly the right place at precisely the right time, enabling her to save an entire nation!

And Joseph.  He was raised, not by his birthfather, but as a slave in a foreign country.  He had been abused by his siblings, the very family members who were supposed to love and protect him.  The ones whom he should have been able to trust.  Because of their selfish, greedy hearts, however, he tragically became a victim of one of the worst, most unthinkable crimes possible - human trafficking.  They actually sold their own brother!  Through an amazing series of events in his young life, God providentially used Joseph to protect the lives of countless people who otherwise would have starved.  Many years later, he was able to look his brothers in the eye and forgive them for their heinous acts against him.  He was able to honestly say, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20)

I think about these heroes, these orphans who experienced deep, heartbreaking loss.  Who triumphed over desperate, impossible circumstances.  Who became the heroes that God used to change the course of history.  And I think, What if . . . ?  What if God has something unique and marvelous planned for my own daughter’s life?

Fifteen years ago, the social workers meant it for good when they removed her from her birth parents, placing her into protective custody.  She was an orphan.  The state was her only parent.

My husband and I meant it for good when we agreed to temporarily provide a safe, loving foster home for her, and again a year and half later when we enthusiastically committed to always be her mother and father.

The judge meant it for good when she declared from her podium that “the parent/child relationship is hereby established.  From henceforth and forevermore, this child is your legally adopted child, with all rights and privileges as if she was your biological child, including the right to an inheritance.”  And with the bang of a gavel, that case in Orphan Court was forever closed. Her name was henceforth changed to ours.  She became a permanent part of our family.

If Joseph can say to his siblings, You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, how much MORE should I be able to say, “many people meant good for you; may the Lord mean it for something even BETTER.”1

Like orphaned children throughout the world and throughout history, my daughter had no choice about her circumstances as a baby.  About her childhood experiences.  About the people who raised her.  But she is a teenager now, a time in a young woman’s life when she is trying to decide what she will do, who she will become.  With each passing day, with each new demonstration of love and acceptance of these precious children that others may scorn and reject, my heart overflows with gratitude to the Lord for guiding her down the path of tenderheartedness and empathy, mercy and tenderness. 

What if her circumstances had been different?  What if she had never been an orphan, or placed in foster care, or adopted into our family, or had been raised in a home that continues to care for little ones?

It’s pointless to ask those questions, because those were the circumstances of her childhood.  That was God’s plan for her.  He has used loss and heartache, laws and court rulings, decisions and circumstances to fulfill His purposes in her life.  He promises to work all things – even tragic, uncontrollable things - together for her good.2  With great care and precision, He is creating within her a heart of compassion. 

His ways are always good.  Right.  Worthy of our complete trust and confidence.  Because of His total sovereignty and amazing love, there will never be a reason to ask, “What if . . .?”

1.    Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory . . . throughout all generations.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

2.    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Related posts:  A Love That Multiplies

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