Adoption, Suffering and Birthday Grace
- 2006 2 Aug
About this time five years ago, my sons Benjamin and Timothy were born. I missed both births. I didn't send out any "It's a Boy" notices. I didn't deliver flowers to my wife. I don't even know what I was doing on those days in May and June of 2001, except probably writing away on my doctoral dissertation. It's not that I was a deadbeat dad five years ago. I wasn't a dad at all. I missed my sons' births because I didn't know they were born.
Five years ago, two babies were born but their names weren't Benjamin and Timothy. They were Maxim and Sergei. The two of them languished in a Russian orphanage for over a year until the Lord directed our steps to their nursery door and on to the Russian courthouse where we adopted them, and changed their names.
Because their birthdays are three weeks apart, the entire month is a jumble of frenetic energy. On his birthday, Benjamin came bounding down the stairs, jumping up and down with excitement that he is now five. He and Timothy couldn't go to sleep easily last night. We could hear them chattering upstairs in their bunkbeds about a birthday cake, presents, Steak 'n Shake, and Chuck E. Cheese's. But all I could think about was that first birthday, the one I missed. I don't know what Benjamin and Timothy looked like when they were born. I don't know whether anyone held them, or whether they were just washed and placed in a filthy crib. I don't know what their newborn cries sounded like.
But I do know that five years ago I was feeling sorry for myself. After years of infertility and miscarriages, it was only my faith, not my sight, that told me that God was for me and not against me. I probably prayed that day for the gift of children, maybe while I was ordering coffee and writing another rough draft of a dissertation chapter. Little did I know that my prayers were being answered, despite my lack of trust in my Father.
I have written and preached elsewhere about what becoming a father to Benjamin and Timothy taught me about the doctrine of adoption. But, on these fifth birthdays, I'm also keenly aware of what the Scripture tells us about the relationship between adoption and suffering. Even as Paul instructs the Roman congregation that they have inherited the spirit of adoption, he reminds them that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).
Five years ago I didn't know that the greatest joys of my life were already here, and yet not quite here. I didn't know that the Lord was using the suffering of an empty cradle to teach me what it means to love two sons more than I ever would have known possible. Perhaps I need to be reminded of that when I allow the worries of the present age to overshadow the glory that is to come. Perhaps I need to be reminded that while I bemoaned my situation five years ago, my children were waiting all the while. And, right now, as I consider the worries of the present age, there's an empty tomb in Jerusalem, the first installment of the glorious kingdom of Christ.
I love Benjamin Jacob Moore and I love Timothy Russell Moore. I don't love them any more than I love Samuel Kenneth Moore, who came along just last year in the "usual" way. But in my love for these two, I sense something more of the Father's love for me. They once were lost, but now they're found.
On these birthday nights, you won't find me in my library or behind a pulpit. You can find me at Steak 'n Shake, and at Chuck E. Cheese's. You can find me watching one thrilled little boy open up his presents (don't tell him but it's a bow and arrow set), while another little boy wonders aloud how many more days until he opens his. And if you notice that plastic birthday hat on my head, just know: That's my theologian's cap. It has taught me more about my God than the tasseled, formal hat on my shelf ever has.
Happy birthday Benjamin and Timothy. I missed the first one. But I'll never miss another.
Moore is dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
© 2006 Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.