but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
I think about how my kids work through their understandings of who they are and whose they are, how they wrestle with their identities within our family and within the family of God.
How, when questions are asked and the curiosity of strangers stings and feels threatening, they look to me for clues as to how they should respond.
How they often mimic the behaviors of friends, both positive and negative, when looking for acceptance. Even mannerisms and speech patterns will change in an effort to identify with someone whose approval they seek. If it happens in my presence, their motive is very telling because they will look at me quickly out of the corner of their eye as if to see if I notice and what reaction, if any, I will have.
That is so like us as children of God, is it not?
But all it takes is an eye-to-eye encounter and words of truth spoken clearly...
"You are a (insert last name here). That is not who you are. Our family does (this) not (that)."
Oh, the power in those words. Sometimes I can almost see them, like an arrow straight to their hearts, break apart the tension and reset their behavior. Who we are dictates our behavior, but our behavior does NOT dictate who we are.
Is that not the most reassuring thing you have ever heard?
We are the part longing for the whole. We groan under the weight of the world, fighting the pressures to be something they will accept, to be just enough "Christian" to fit in the church scene yet not so "Christian" that we are ridiculed or rejected for being different or (gasp!) judgemental. But our Father, who has redeemed us, who has called us by name...he takes our face in His hands and he says,
"My darling, that is not who you are. You are part of my family. You are set apart. Don't try to win the approval of a world who rejects me. My approval is the only one you need to seek, and you already have it. Live the life I have given you. Only then will others see the truth of who I am, for if they follow the version of me that you are creating they are not following me at all."
I look at the beautiful brown faces around my table and I sigh. Adoption is so beautiful, yet often so hard whether it is earthly adoption or our adoption as sons and daughters of the King. As parents we focus so much on building character in our kids, but when I look at these verses I see that character is the result of perseverance! Perseverance is the result of enduring difficulties and trials, from which I so often want to shield my kids. As much as I would love to keep them from struggling with their stories or walking through the normal stages of grief I am reminded that God, though He protects us, does not shelter us. He walks with us every step of the way, which is exactly what I strive to do for my children. They are mine, sharing my name and under my protection. My goal is to raise them up to be confident in where God has placed them in this world, to pursue Jesus and serve Him all of their days. God's goal is to make them like Jesus which means they must endure suffering. If only we could see the hope for which we long...but then again, as Paul says, hope that is seen is not really hope at all. Hoping for what we cannot see...the end result that awaits us when we are all forever home...that requires perseverance. And just look at Romans 5:4!
This verse says clearly that perseverance produces character...which produces HOPE. It is all connected. One cannot exist without the others. If we are His, we will struggle. But if we are His, He will gently remind us during the struggle that there is so much more to the story He is writing over us. Yes, He calls us by name...His name.
Today, if you are reading this, I hope you see the truth in the words of Scripture. Nothing you can do will separate you from the love of your Father, if you have indeed been adopted into His family. You are His, irrevocably. The adoption papers were signed with blood and you have been given a new name in Christ. If you struggle to believe that, I encourage you to search the scriptures for yourself and let God prove His Father heart towards you. If you have surrendered your life to Jesus, then you are His, whether you act like it or not. But if you do act like it...now that opens up a whole new can of worms. He will take you along for the adventure of a lifetime.