Two Sundays ago, I preached a sermon that included the story of Jenny and me saying, “no,” to a adopting a child who was far more developmentally delayed than we previously thought. This experience was crushing, but I believe our heartbreak helped us more fully understand the heart of the God who suffers with us and this child. In this time we felt closer to the God who is the father of the fatherless and the mother of us all.
The exciting news is that we have been pre-approved by the Chinese government to adopt a little boy who will turn three in September. We’re not ready to say more than that online, but we’d love to talk to you about it in person!
Knowing that we will be traveling this summer to pick up our son has changed the way we experience everyday events.
On Friday we went to the Rodeo. As we watched the little boys run through the stock barn all we could see was our little boy in the cowboy boots we’d already picked out for him. I could hear us saying, “This is a cow. This is pig. This is a chicken.” I thought about how the familiar sights and sounds and smells would move him forward in enchantment. How I long to see the world through his eyes of wonder and discovery! We laughed at the parents buying the ridiculous light-up toys sold at the arena, but I knew deep down that he would be drawn to them and that our principled refusals would likely melt as quickly as asked. When the arena lights went down, I imagined helping him stand up and take off his hat. I thought about how when he got a little older he might ask why Mom and Dad stand up and put their hands over their hearts but also make little wry jokes about the way others worship his adopted country’s flag. I thought about the conversation I would have with him when he got a little bit older about why it was inappropriate for the rodeo announcer to introduce the Episcopal Priest with a Ph.D in Hebrew Bible giving the prayer as, “a beautiful lady.” At the same time, I would also tell him how remarkable it was that an African American woman was even giving the prayer at this event so shaped by white American Christianity. But mostly I just smiled thinking of the way his eyes would light up as the cowboys rode by swinging their lassos.
Thirteen hours later, we slipped into the crowd down Main Street. The repeated chant of “Love, not hate, makes America great!” ringing in my ears, I thought about my son again. I saw him walking beside me, an immigrant holding a sign he decorated just like the little girls in front of us. I would make sure he saw the other signs, especially the one that said, “Boys will be…(boys crossed out) good human beings,” and the one that said “Men of quality don’t fear equality.” No doubt he will already know the strength and goodness of women. He’ll know it through the nannies that raised him until now. He’ll know it through the story we tell him about his mother who risked being arrested and shunned by her culture and endured the pain of letting go of her own flesh and blood that he might get the medical treatment and nutrition he needed to survive. And he’ll know it through the mother who chose not to have her own child because of her calling to open her life to a little boy like him. He’ll already know how strong and good and indispensable women are, but I will remind him year after year, because somehow as boys and men we forget. When he gets older, I’ll help him see the ways that more than forgetting, we make subtle and obvious choices to maintain our power and comfort at the expense of girls and women. Or maybe he will help me understand?
As I walked forward, I thought about how I would lift him up to see a crowd of people that look like his parents, and others who look like him, and others whose skin tones display an array of darker shades. I thought about how I would tell him that he should be proud to be Chinese and American, because in God’s eyes it is the love that can bring so many different people together that can make America and all nations great. But as child after child approached to ask if they could pet Lily, I knew he wouldn’t want to be on my shoulders for long. I knew he’d beg to get down and reach out his hand, for that is what this same love looks like at three years old.