I’d like to tell three stories about family.
- When my first daughter, Lian, was growing up, I would often whisper to her, “you are not alone.” Speaking to the disciples in John 14:18, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, saying, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” That verse is very real to me as an adoptive father. So are verses about being a child of God and an heir to the King and being fearfully and wonderfully made. But this is my heart’s cry for my kids – that they will know they are not alone.
- A counselor and friend of ours from Boston Post Adoption Resources, who has spent a lot of time with our family, shared some of her own story with us. She was 13 when she learned that she had been adopted. All her life prior to that, she had felt nauseous to the point of throwing up for days on either side of her birthday and she never knew why. She was adopted at birth and had a self-described great childhood, but she had still experienced spiritual, emotional and physical trauma by being separated from her birth mom. She knew it at a cellular level, although she had never been told she was adopted.
- In 2008, our family traveled to East Africa with an orphan-care organization that my wife, Jennifer, was on the board of. As part of that trip, we visited orphanages and child-headed households in Uganda. At one of the places we stopped, a young boy, only 13 years old, was parenting his five siblings. They lived in squalor and ate the same scraps of food that the goats outside were eating. On the bus back from that site, everyone sat in silence and Lian drew a picture of this family of children. In her picture, the children were crying and she wrote the words “poor kids.” I asked her why they were crying and she said it was, “because they were poor – they have no mommy and daddy.” She didn’t label them poor because of a lack food or money, but she knew in her spirit their deepest poverty was in their lack of family.
God made us to be in families. We need each other. We need fathers and mothers in our lives, and we need brothers and sisters. I have never known God not to answer my prayer to bring me into community. There have been seasons with years of feeling alone, but those seasons have always come to an end. God made us to be in families and He will fight to bring us into families, if we will let Him.
I love an image that our very own Karen O’Keefe shared once with me about our church being a family and Sunday worship service being like a family meal. We invite people into our family when we invite them to join for a family meal. Scenes like that one in Uganda used to be a stumbling block for my faith because I couldn’t understand why such injustice existed in God’s economy. But now that scene is a testimony to me for how God is good, all the time. We are his hands and feet to be family to those without a family, to be fathers to the fatherless. And we can do that because He has come to us – He has not left us alone.