A while back, I was reading this article at Desiring God, “No Longer an Orphan (but tempted to live like it” by Christine Hoover, which led me to order Rose Marie Miller’s book Nothing is impossible with God and write this post, “erase the ways of our orphanhood” about our freedom in discovering what it means to be called a child of God.
If I haven’t lost you to the above links (I kind of wish I have, btw), then sit with me a minute as I reflect on what’s squeezing my heart today: the gospel of adoption. Jared Wilson writes in Gospel Deeps,
“Only in the complex depths of the triune godhead are wrath-owed enemies also love-won children.”
My pen painted marks all over this sentence on page 152, but it got real messy on the next page and I decided the next person to read this book might have a hard time being objective. I’m not sure how I can explain my thoughts without giving you a full paragraph, so here it is,
“God turns rebels into family. He does this in deep love before time began (Eph. 1:5), through meticulous sovereignty throughout the old covenant (Rom. 9:4), by abundant grace in the new covenant offering of Christ (Gal. 4:4-5), and with affectionate power in the Spirit’s ongoing mission (Gal. 4:6). He is still on the surface of the deep, calling out order from the formless void of our hearts. And in this wonder is another incomprehensible wonder, namely that the Spirit’s conversion of us godward is characterized as both adoption and rebirth.” (Jared Wilson, Gospel Deeps, p. 153)
Take a moment.
Maybe print off this paragraph so you can mark it up, too. Look up Ephesians and Romans and Galatians to test the assertions and hold on only to what is good (1 Thes. 5:21). What I am holding onto after reflecting is what is holding on to me: adoption papers.
I read it this morning and I can not shake it. I am adopted – a full-blown child with a new last name, an eternal inheritance, and a forever family – and I was at war with my Father when He signed the papers. He wanted me when I wanted nothing to do with him. While I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8), Christ chose me, loved me, and gave Himself up for me. I appreciate that Wilson uses the words “meticulous sovereignty” because I think it helps us picture just how intimately involved God is with the affairs of His people.
I often explain away my haphazard housekeeping by saying I am a “creative” person. For some reason “creative” people are off the hook when it comes to keeping things orderly. People will just say, “Oh, she’s artsy… you know, abstract” and that’s supposed to mean you shouldn’t expect that girl to have her life together. Maybe this makes God’s meticulous sovereignty even MORE amazing – creativity came from Him, but He is concerned with the littlest details of existence. From the broad strokes of orange-pink-purple sky to the number of raindrops in a storm, He is authoring all the beauty and also meticulously involved in orchestrating every atomic detail.
His powerful sovereignty runs like a thread throughout the old testament, reveals God’s love in Christ’s sacrifice, and weaves through the present to declare God’s glory. At the end of the paragraph I copied above, Wilson says that our conversion is characterized by both adoption and rebirth.
This. This is what is squeezing my heart today. God declares that we are His by what I imagine would be some divine paperwork and a holy signature dipped in Christ’s blood, but then He makes us His children as He sanctifies us every day. He is not an absent father, because even adoptive fathers can be absent. Instead, God declares us (His enemies) beloved children and then commits to making us more beautiful – to look more like the image of His perfect Son (Romans 8:29).
I see so many children in my work and they do not hide their fears. When parents have to leave (it doesn’t matter what the legal papers say), fear swims out of their eyes and clings in their hands. They get desperate and throw tantrums and ask impossible questions.
Today, I have been thinking about God declaring me His child and making me His child. My status is sealed in the work of Christ on my behalf, but my Father reminds me daily of His love efforts. He is relentless as He reminds me of His faithfulness that drives out fear. He is meticulous. And I need Him.
I need my Father to do more than sign papers that say I have access to forever with Him. I need Him to walk with me. I need Him to hold me up. I need Him to be strong for me. I need Him to be courage for me. I need Him to be hope for me. I need Him to be compassion for me. I need Him to be understanding for me. I need Him to teach me, correct me, rebuke me, love me, humble me, and chase me.
I need all these things in Him because I am empty otherwise. My need is not self-centered (though I suppose it can get twisted), but instead a declaration of my emptiness alone. The depth of my need would make me fearful if I didn’t know that his Fatherhood is more than abundant. His on-going, faithful adoption is a signature He writes on my heart every moment of today. The grace He has given will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory, so that His name would be praised and His perfect Fatherhood would be blessed!
The beautiful thing about singing, “Lord, I need You” is in knowing His response. When we say, “Lord, I need You,” God responds with, “I know. I am faithful to give Myself.” We can safely cry out our need for refuge while knowing we are safe inside the very refuge we seek.
I think my belly just smiled (is that where our souls are, in our bellies?) because I’m chasing this around in circles.
As we are praying our need of God, we believe His faithfulness in being what we need.
The horrors of 3801 Lancaster (the place where Kermit Gosnell (see The Atlantic article) destroyed the lives of so many women and babies), lead us to pray, “Lord, we need You.” And I think He is saying, “I know. I am faithful to give Myself.”
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