Three years ago today, Amy and I were sitting in a hotel room in Lanzhou, China waiting for a knock at the door that would bring to a conclusion an 18 month journey toward having a new member of the Rainey family. I was the first one to open the door, and the first to physically set my eyes on this beautiful young lady you see to your right.
Adoptive parents call this a celebration of "Gotcha Day." As I think back on that moment, and every moment since, I am grateful to God, not only for this little girl, but for everything He has taught me through her. We were already the parents of two boys, but a daughter is different, and this one definitely owns her Daddy's heart. No one else on earth could convince this scruffy, Harley-riding redneck to cuddle up on the couch and watch a children's program involving fairies with a British accent. But I don't mind singing along if it means watching her dance, and seeing her face light up with a smile.
But our relationship hasn't always been this way. In fact, the first time she saw me, she was frightened of me. Since she had spent the first 18 months of her life in an orphanage, she had probably never seen a man. She most certainly had never seen a big, hairy white one! So in many ways, our relationship had to develop very differently.
Every experience with her since then has taught me more about my own faith. As followers of Jesus, we believe that the act of adoption is more than a mere act of mercy toward an otherwise homeless child. The reason James calls this "pure and spotless religion" (James 1:27) is because when we partake in this enterprise, we are reflecting the Kingdom values of a heavenly Father who brings alien children--you and me--into His own family. Yet every day with Abigail Grace Rainey teaches me another experiential lesson that confirms this reality of the Kingdom of God.
Four days after we met her, I posted the following journal entry online. Since that time I've added a few thoughts to what is below, but the spirit and intent are the same. Enjoy!
One of the things our agency, social worker, and other wise people warned us about was the issue of attachment. Sometimes, the child will not adapt early on to either parent, which creates a high stress situation for parents and their adoptive children that can last for several weeks. The most common scenario however, is that the child attaches to one parent (usually Mom, since many of these children have not had much exposure at all to men in the orphanage) while keeping their distance from the other.
Where our Gracie is concerned, it looks like dear ol' Dad drew the short straw. She has quickly attached herself to Mom, but continues to be highly suspicious of me. A couple of days ago, Amy jokingly said to Grace "he looks like the abominable snowman, I know." I quickly corrected my wife, reminding her that we are, in fact, on the Asian continent and therefore I cannot be the abominable snow monster. If anything, I must be a Yeti.
It stuck. I'm now "the Yeti."
Currently, Grace occasionally lets me play with her; "play" of course being tightly defined as her throwing toys on the floor and me picking them up to hand back to her. Come to think of it, maybe I'm not a Yeti after all. Maybe I'm just a golden retriever.
For the past several days its been "two steps forward--one step back" where my new relationship with this little girl is concerned. I'm totally OK with it, and thankful that I was warned in advance of this. Plus, it makes the "connective" moments with her all the more rewarding. But I sense that the best reward through this process is what I'm learning from this little one; a highly spiritual lesson she doesn't even realize she is teaching.
Think about it this way. 18 months ago along with my wife, I began planning to adopt this little one whom I had never met, and who had never met me, into my family. Enormous sums of time and money have been invested in this effort. Now that she is legally ours, she bears my name, my provision, my protection, and all the blessings that come with being part of a nuclear family. God willing, she will never again know what it means to be hungry. She will never legitimately fear for her safety or her future. She will never lack anything she needs, and all of this will be due to her father's provision.
Yet, as an adopted child, she doesn't fully understand all of this, and so her response to me is one of high suspicion and fear. To her, I'm just a strange, scary looking Yeti who simply doesn't belong in this new picture she has now become a part of.
At the same time, she doesn't mind sleeping in this lush hotel room I'm providing, nor does she object to all the wonderful new food she has at her disposal because of her new Daddy. Additionally, she also doesn't mind using the Yeti if it suits her purposes. This morning at the breakfast table Mom told her "no," to which she responded by looking up at me, hoping she could divide the house and get her way. It would seem Daddy isn't so scary after all if he can be used to accomplish her agenda.
In short, she now enjoys the full range of blessing that is available to her as an adopted child. But currently, she has no real desire to develop a relationship with the one who has provided these blessings to her.
In other words, she is very much like all the rest of us.
Scripture tells us that before the world was created, God chose those of us who belong to Jesus to be His own (Ephesians 1:4-11). Before we were even born He developed a master plan that included us belonging in His family. At the right time, He sent Jesus Christ into time and space to die as our substitute (John 3:16, Romans 3:25-26) bearing the wrath of God against sin in our place. Furthermore, He drew us to Himself (John 6:35-44) and quite literally "adopted" us into His family (Ephesians 1:5), making us co-heirs with his only begotten, blessing us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, and providing for us what Paul says is an inheritance so great that our natural eyes, ears and brains can't even fathom what is in store for us. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
How do we respond to such great news? From birth, we seek our own way. We treat the Father with disdain. We don't mind enjoying His blessings, its just the relationship with Him that we aren't that interested in. We are sometimes afraid of Him, sometimes using Him, sometimes caustic toward Him, and many times abusive of His gifts. (Romans 3:10-18)
And what does the Father do in response? He continues to love and pursue until we are truly His. He doesn't give up, and He ALWAYS succeeds!
Yep, this darling little girl is teaching me more than she knows. It is truly an honor to be her Daddy, and such a joy to emulate, as much as any fallen man is able, the actions of my heavenly Father toward my own daughter.