Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thoughts about God and Matthew

I think I might have a little more insight into what God feels when he brings those who become His own into His family.

Yesterday, after showing his personality a lot more in the morning, Matthew made it clear to us for the rest of the afternoon and late into the evening that he was not ready yet to completely accept us as his parents. This is a normal process that Sarah and I find difficult to experience but realize that it is necessary for a new bond to occur. Matthew must sever emotional ties with his foster family and cling to us as his new one.

Romans 11:17-18 uses a metaphor of grafting a branch into a tree to depict becoming a disciple of Jesus. Grafting takes cutting – you cut a branch off a tree, you cut the new tree to expose a viable area and you fix the two together. Cutting (not so much for trees, I suppose) is painful. The branch has to be removed forcibly from its old location. Matthew cried tears of pain and anger yesterday as he felt his tie to his old family being cut. He pushed on me with his hand, trying to push me away, desperately trying to escape.

Being in a new family means doing things differently. No longer are you to do things in the old way you've been accustomed to. Yet we often yearn for the old ways in how we live our lives and often find ourselves falling into old habits. Paul talks about this passionately in Romans 7:15-23 – he calls himself “wretched” for following his old habits. Matthew can't tell us everything he's thinking, due to both the language barrier (he did speak some straight-up Chinese to us at one point, and we have no idea what he was saying) as well as his age, but if he could speak plainly he would probably be saying “You're not bundling me up in multiple layers of clothes like I'm used to, these aren't the foods my old mom gave me, you look funny and are making me crazy with your bizarre words!” He did speak the clear Chinese words for mother, father, and his big sister (a 20 year old biological daughter apparently still living with his foster family) in earnest through his tears.

Even though the transition to a new family can be hard, though, Jesus promises that in His family we'll be safe. “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” God says in Deuteronomy 31:6. Yesterday as Matthew pushed against me and cried, I held him close and whispered in his ear, “We love you. We're not letting you go.” His little body, tense from the strain of fighting, eventually relaxed, and as he continued to cry I could feel his little heart easing in its anguish just a little. I know he'll get there eventually, where he accepts us as his own. I know I often have a tougher time myself accepting the same promise Jesus makes to me.

Any big change, if it is has meaning and substance, requires pain. Anything new, if it is for the better, requires pain – not so much a new car or house (though I suppose the financial pain is pain enough) but a new family, a new life, a new existence. Matthew 24:4-8 describes the harsh realities leading to the end times as “birth pains”. We will all acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord over the heavens and the earth (Phillippians 2:10-11). We can either embrace that reality now, just as Matthew is struggling now to embrace us as his parents, or we can wait if we choose – but choosing to wait will be that much harder, just as it would have been even harder to adopt our son if we had to wait any longer. And the reality of sin in general will make it impossible to choose any longer if we wait too long.