My parents celebrate their 50th anniversary later this week, but we celebrated the golden event with a party for extended family this past weekend. We had fun, and most of us ate too much barbecue and banana pudding.
Despite my parents' request for "no gifts," we all chipped in for one very special art piece to give them -- a family tree with paper leaves signed by as many family members as we could track down:
The anniversary celebration -- and the family tree gift -- reminded me how blessed I am. You see, I'm adopted. So my family tree could have looked completely different.
The dizzying possibilities of how that might have gone are too vast for me to consider for very long. All I know is this: God intended for me to be part of this particular family, even though I was born to a different set of parents. Parents too young to form a good family but willing to give me a chance at a better life than they thought they could provide.
My brother and I were both adopted as infants, and though we don't look anything like each other or our parents, we get tickled when someone tells us we look like Mom or Dad. My brother actually does favor some of Mom's blue-eyed, blond side of the family, and he's tall like Dad. I have red hair, as do many relatives on Dad's side, and I've had plenty of people tell me I look like Mom. Whether we look like family or not, though, is not the point. We are family.
One of the greatest gifts our parents ever gave us was to make us always feel a real part of the family. They never made us feel "adopted." And neither did anyone else in our family.
I've heard heartbreaking stories of other adoptees who have not been so blessed. Adoptees who were made to feel like second-rate children in their own families. Adoptees who suffered at the hands of adoptive parents.
I was listening to a sermon online last night, one about forgiveness that a friend posted in a comment to one of my recent blog entries, and the preacher mentioned an adoptee -- now fully grown -- who is struggling to forgive his adoptive father for years of physical and emotional abuse, including telling him as a child that he was "sorry he had ever bought him." Sorry he had bought him. Can you even imagine the damage of that?
I can't. And it was yet another in a week of reminders of how blessed I am that God hand-picked a loving family for me.
A more golden family tree
There's another even better family tree -- one more golden and far older than the tree that turns 50 later this week. God hand-picked me for this tree, too. And it's one He wants us all to join. It's His family tree. In Romans, Paul describes us as God's adopted sons and daughters:
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you
have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received
a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit
Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children,
heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with
Him so that we may also be glorified in Him. ... And not only this, but also
we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan
within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of
our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope;
for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not
see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
-- Romans 8:14-17, 23-25 (NASB)
Isn't that a wonderful message? I'm the adopted daughter of a wonderful earthly father. But I'm also an adopted daughter of God, the only perfect Father. The Father who has enough love to share with all of His children. The Father eager to shower his children with gifts and blessings.
Paul goes on later in Romans (chapter 11) to talk about Christians as ingrafted branches on a tree, supported and strengthened by the root (God) of the tree. I like to think of this tree as God's golden family tree, where the branches and leaves represent all of God's adopted children. I want my name on one of the leaves. Because this tree isn't just painted onto paper, with paper leaves glued on. It's a real, living tree. And it doesn't matter that all the leaves don't look the same. We're all part of the same family.
-- Your sister in Christ