A long time ago I heard a story that broke my heart. I'm not sure where I heard it and am a little fuzzy on the details (I was pretty young at the time) but 20 some years later its still with me. It was a story about babies who were born HIV positive and no one would adopt them. A family came and decided to take them home and sometime later found out that the babies were no longer positive for the virus.
Now, I don't know if I am even remembering this story correctly and new studies have shown that most babies "grow out of", so to speak, the HIV virus by 18 months of age. But I remember it got me to thinking. Does unconditional love have the power to change lives? Does that act of simply choosing to love the unlovable change the course of their destiny?
This stirred a fire in me. I wanted to be a momma so bad from that point on because I wanted a chance to love that way. I was so more than willing to adopt a child, no matter what their age, race or medical situation. I just wanted to love children. And in His own way, the Lord totally gave me that chance.
I had met his sister who was attending another daycare at the time. A bunch of the different day cares in the area went to the same community pool. I saw her. She was dressed head to toe in black, in the dead of August. Her hair was uncombed. Her face filled with anger and loneliness. I watched her for awhile. She barely spoke to anyone. When she did it was rude and angry. Something deeper was going on. Over the next few weeks, I found out some more back story. Their adoptive mom was from the Ukraine, where all of their 4 or 5 adopted children were from. She had some issues. So did their adoptive dad. The biggest reason Nick had so many issues was that frequently they would forget to give him his medication and it would be hours before they would bring it. Usually by that time, it was pretty much useless because he was already a mess.
My heart began to soften to Nick a bit. The rest of the summer I began to dig a little deeper. I wanted to no more about the boy within. One day, I was sitting next to Nick, coloring with him. He stopped, looked at me and said " My father in the Ukraine used to burn me when he was mad. But then He killed himself. My mom says sometimes that if we aren't good, she's gonna send us back to the Ukraine."
My jaw nearly hit the floor. Well no wonder he was so angry. He wasn't a baby when he was adopted. He recounted the whole story for me in full detail. It was a memory. That poor child had literally been through hell. And instead of being adopted into the safety of a loving home, he had a daily reminder that it all could just go away if he didn't measure up. My whole opinion of him changed right then and there. I started praying for Nick all the time. I watched him. Studied him. I was determined. My tiger-mother instincts were roaring.
After the summer term ended and we went back to our normal after-school classes, Nick went into the class for the older kids and I went on back to my First-Grade class. Nick was struggling so hard. I hated it. His teacher had no idea what to do with him. He couldn't get along with the other kids. One day, I went to the school director and told her my concerns.
"I think Nick needs to be with younger kids. There is too much pressure in his class for him to perform at a level that he just can't perform at right now. I think he needs a smaller class and more one on one attention. I would like you to move him into my class."
I was shocked at thew words coming out of my mouth. What in the crap was I going to do with a 13-year old in the midst of a bunch of First-Graders? But, she agreed and so I was stuck with my plan. So Nick joined our class and he was so happy. I was amazed at what God did almost immediately. Nick helped me with the other kids. He was so loving to them. When He got overwhelmed, I let him go off in the room and work independently. When He didn't want to join, I didn't force him. I just let Nick be Nick. And in return, I got a happy, respectful helpful little boy who showered me and his class with love. When one little boy couldn't get along with him, my director moved the little boy because she didn't want to disturb the good thing we had going.
I always say the Holy Spirit taught me how to teach Nick. He taught me how to love him too. Nick transformed before my eyes. He was a whole new boy. He also taught me how much love really does change us. I realized I was becoming a better person too because of that love. For the first time in my life, all the anger and bitterness was replaced with hope and purpose. Its because I finally realized how much I was loved too.
I had to move away later that year and I was terrified to leave Nick.About a year and a half later, I went back to visit him, uncertain of what I would find. To my relief, He was the same loving, gentle and kind little boy I remembered and greeted me with a big smile and a "Hi, Miss Mandy!" I felt so much joy and pride in that moment. I guess that's a testament to the power of love. Its sticks.
In Romans 8, Paul talks about the Spirit of Adoption.
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God..."
When we become part of God's family, that's it... adopted.We're in. He loves us unconditionally. His Spirit becomes part of us and affirms that we are his kids. I love the way the Message Bible puts it:
"This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children."
Our lives are forever changed by the realization of His love for us. Knowing who we are and what we mean to Him creates a confidence and sense of belonging in us. That knowing makes us feel wanted and safe. In that place, we become a well-watered garden planted in the richest soil. We flourish and bloom into the most beautiful things. Nick flourished because he felt loved and accepted just as he was. An environment was created for him to thrive in, not just survive in. That's what the Lord has created for us. He gave us a home in Him. He has given us an inheritance. We are part of His family. We are related to the King of Kings. We aren't meant for the gutter. We are meant for the palace. Love changed everything.
You are adopted. He's not going to send you back. You are accepted. You are loved. Forever.
Never forget that.