It seemed like yesterday that my older brother and sister-in-law brought her home to be part of our big, crazy family.
It was not a simple or an easy journey.
But from day one this little girl had a warmth, kindness and depth we all recognized as a special gift from God. All the kids in our extended family are amazing, genuine, undeniable blessings. But we all recognize that there is something unique about Lenae.
A few days ago when I got to see her I watched her interact with her wildly eccentric extended family and observed a nurturing gift that few people possess. All of the people in this raucous room that she loves so well, smile joyfully as we celebrate her. Each holding deep gratitude for all she brings to us.
She lovingly corrals her three growing boys with the tenderness of a mother hen and the ferocity of a matron lioness. She seemed to revel in her family’s attempts to spoil her little guys with treats and my tickle attacks that were intended to completely undo all her hard work at shaping them! She beams over her firefighter husband and glows with pride when you talk about her three siblings. Her love for Jesus is deep, singular and authentic.
She absolutely adores her mom and dad…an emotion that seems to run deeper than most kids will ever experience. Part of that is because they chose her–picked her out to make her their very own.
You see, my sweet niece, Lenae–like her older brother, Tony–is adopted. There was a day when without hesitation and with full acceptance Grace and Hal looked at her and said…
“I pick you!”
None of us can imagine our lives or family without her.
Since I saw her I have been ruminating over what it means to be chosen. Lenae possesses some things that I don’t see in most people.
- She carries a deep sense of gratitude because she is aware her life could have been very different.
- She possesses a strong sense of identity and belonging not based on bearing certain genes but in wearing a family name.
- She exudes a confidence of heart that knows she was not an accident, but was God-formed specifically for our family destiny.
Thinking of this precious girl who still as an adult refers to me playfully as Uncle Mikey, has helped me understand and appreciate the central truth of my spiritual life.
I am no accident of fate. I am not advanced pond-scum. I am unique–fearfully and wonderfully made.
But I am also broken. I came into this world with a dulled awareness of my place in Him and a deep sense of longing for something I could not quite see. The more I lived the less clear my destiny was. The more I chased identity through connection with the world around me, the less I understood and embraced the true reason I was made.
But then, like Lenae and Tony, I was adopted. Hand-picked. Chosen.
And the One who selected me is none less than the Almighty God who formed me.
- I was and am redeemed by love from a life that could have been very different.
- I have been embraced by a grace that restores my identity and reconnects me to my original purpose.
- I live and breathe and hope and love as a member of God’s family.
There is no question to my identity. I need no other basis for my significance. Because Jesus wrote “It is finished” in blood on His cross, I am now and forever a child of the Living God.
And my Father and my Big Brother embrace and celebrate me as their own. It is amazing–almost scandalous–that the great God of the universe cannot imagine His life and family without me.
He went to great lengths to adopt us. He would stop at nothing to make us His own. He wants nothing less than for us to realize and revel in our Sonship.
The New Testament book of Ephesians explodes in unbridled praise at this unimaginable truth: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” (Ephesians 1:3-8a)
As our loving Father, we often make Him smile and sometimes we make Him cry. We fill His heart and break it. We make Him proud. But all-too-often we also disappoint Him because we live in contradiction to the family character.
But He never stops loving us and He never will. And what changes us and causes us to grow up into our identity is to know viscerally and intimately that we are on purpose–chosen by the Father’s heart.
The old Apostle could hardly contain himself as he spoke of it: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” (Romans 8:14-19)
It seems Paul was caught on a thermal of understanding that kept sending him higher into joy as he contemplated what it meant to be adopted by the Father of Grace. No amount of hyperbole could water down this truth. It was earth-shaking, destiny-creating reality.
We are adopted and our Father rejoices over us with singing!
I am so grateful for my precious niece. First because our family would not be complete without her presence and light. But even more, because she serves as a constant reminder of that day when God the Father looked at my apparently ruined life and without hesitation and with full acceptance said…
“I pick you!”