His will is wild

“He came to His own and those who were His own did not receive Him.”

Parenting involves a lot: driving, helping, listening, wondering, hurting, rejoicing, paying and sitting … having kids means sitting at appointments, programs, meetings and along football sidelines in this strange season. Never did football-sitting before. And sitting can get you thinking.

Five years have passed since they came to us. We had nine months to prepare for our other three. Neither party had much time to prepare for Alex and LeShawn’s arrival. From our end, an email, some phone calls, a visit, a “yes.” Then sudden removal, a three-hour ride and a walk through the door from theirs. Nonetheless they arrived, wide eyes, new Yankees caps, a few bags of clothes and the gift of toy John Deere tractors waiting for them.

“Look,” said LeShawn, “yard machines!”

What does it feel like to leave the latest in a series of homes at age 4 and 6? I don’t know. But I know someone who does. He knows what it is like to be rejected by those who were to receive Him. It is a strange language of the heart to have been cast aside, but Jesus speaks it.

Alex finally talked me into football this fall. His team is very good, and that isn’t so good for a little boy who desperately wants to play. He came to us at the first weight percentile. He has beefed up to around the 40th, but that still doesn’t translate wonderfully in a game of force and momentum. He has the football swagger, but most of it is spent on the sidelines.

LeShawn is very good, and that isn’t always so good for a little boy who is more about being liked than being noticed. We hear many told tales about Alex’s late fourth-quarter exploits. We heard little from LeShawn about his five touchdowns on six carries, save this: “Mom,” he said without irony, “it’s really not that hard to get through all the people.”

“But as many as received Him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

Believing is so simple, yet so complex when you haven’t had much to believe in but your ability to survive. The rejected can reject. And so the gentle insistence of the Gospel is received in principle (God loves us that much, Wow!) and uneven in practice. If the people who were supposed to be caring for you didn’t, you have likely learned the art of caring for yourself. So where does that place those who are now doing the caring?

We have learned new levels of love and rejection. Hopefully they are learning that their reflex to reject will be met with a reflex to love. The process requires much of us all. It is faith in ways I never experienced before.

“…who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Alex was in and out (I thought) in garbage time of a blowout. The opposing quarterback threw a long pass which spiraled toward four boys, who leapt for it. I saw a flash of red and stood up. A teammate had leant my son a red shirt for under his green uniform. A small brown arm seemed to emerge from tangle and pull the ball in as all four bodies formed a knot on the ground.

As though in a dream, the smallest body emerged from the pile with the ball and slammed it on the ground as the sideline went nuts, and the referee told him to calm down. He didn’t.

A few weeks later, LeShawn calmly broke three or four tackes in the backfield, and ran past everybody with an ease that prompted a we’re-in-trouble “Ohhhhh” to ripple through the other team’s sideline.

They weren’t in trouble. With the soon discovery that another player’s injury had left LeShawn as our only gamebreaker, they set to breaking the little muscular boy with the shy smile who had already been broken in deeper places.

Clumps of players followed him wherever he went. Enveloped at the 10-yard line by what seemed like the entire team, the coaching staff, cheerleaders and a few parents from the stands, he almost dragged the whole pile over the goal line. A little later, I noticed that he wasn’t out there. He was on the bench with his helmet off.

Tears were tracing rivulets through his eye black when I got there after vaulting the fence (sort of glad my wife wasn’t there as she probably would have torn a section of fence from the ground).

“Helmet to helmet,” he whispered, as he buried his face in my chest.

The Hallmark channel version of our experience would be to say that raising Alex and LeShawn is little different than raising our other three. But that would be no more true than saying that raising sweet, compliant, now 23-year-old Scotty was the same as containing Allyson, the 5-year-old firecracker.

They don’t share our blood, they didn’t come through the flesh and they came to us when our will had given no thought of even looking toward adoption. But they came through the will of God. And the joy I felt as Alex reveled in a rare moment of football glory was every bit as strong as any I felt when Valarie dropped four three-pointers in a big basketball game or when Scotty killed it as the lead in a college musical.

My swelling anger and tragedy as LeShawn was targeted and then broken on the sidelines was right up there with my emotions after Valarie’s terrible concussion in a senior year soccer game. And I will say that God is behind the tangled beauty of it … because he adopted me, not because I was blood, but through His blood. His will is wild.

“How great the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God. And that is what we are!”

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Andy Meiser is the pastor of Eshcol Brethren in Christ and Saville Brethren in Christ churches, in Ickesburg.

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