“I never thought I would be adopted,” David wrote yesterday in chapter 2 of his life story for his 6th grade English class.
It was the first time I had heard him articulate that he given up hope as an 8 year old, having seen too many other kids leave the orphanage to join their forever families.
He had thought he would be an orphan for the rest of his life.
My own life story was different than David's. As a biological child in a family with two adopted brothers, I never even considered that I needed to be adopted.
I had my place at the table from birth. Felt entitled. Went to church. Checked the boxes. Was “better than most” in my prideful opinion.
But one incident stands out in my childhood memory bank, filling me with deep shame. In the 6th grade I had a special needs classmate named Terri. One day in the gym, I laughingly imitated the way she walked with so much struggle. I hate that I acted like that and wish I could turn back time and tear that page out of my book. I so wish I hadn't been hurtful to someone who was already hurting and taken that path of meanness toward Terri, a potential friend to whom I had the opportunity to show kindness and compassion.
Three years ago David was on the receiving end of mockery in a similar situation. As we walked home together from Chinese school for his lunch break, one of his 2nd grade classmates walked a few steps ahead, with the exaggerated in-toeing of David's club feet. I was horrified. How could this boy be so cruel?
But I was actually just the same. Maybe even worse. My mom was a special education teacher. I should have known better.
Still, God chose me in all of my pride and cruelty. He adopted me to be one of His own children. Not because I was the cream of the crop. But because in His great mercy, He desired to show me a better way. He wanted to reveal my sin to me in a way that I would feel horrified not justified. In His grace, He chose to pour out His transforming power on someone as hard-hearted and self-righteous as me.
He humbled me so that He could lift me up. He helped me to realize that I come to Him with absolutely nothing of value apart from Him. Needy with all of my own special needs, I can only cling to the Vine.
As I gave Daniel a piggy back ride home from school last week because of his injured foot, I remembered when we brought him home from the orphanage almost four years ago, early in his post-encephalitis recovery, and he was unable to walk. Charly, Joshua, Jordan and I had taken turns piggy backing him up the nine flights of stairs in our Lanzhou apartment building.
I didn't know I needed to be adopted. I didn't know that what God really desired was from me was not a list of accomplishments to prove my worthiness, but to place my hand in His and to call Him Abba Father.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; he chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
I am so grateful that God has chosen and adopted me, and that He is continuing to teach me about His adoptive heart through the privilege He has given me of being the mother of two boys whose identities have changed from orphans to sons.