This is the short story of four orphaned boys. Their lineages vary from unimportant to scandalous, but at early ages they were all adopted by loving and affluent families. The way these boys responded to their adoptions is the reason I’m telling their story. This is not a true story, mind you…or is it? I’ll let you decide for yourself.
The first boy fell in love with his parents from his very first glance of them. He was excited to meet his new brothers and sisters and to find his place in the family. He wore his new name like a crown upon his head, and he spent rainy afternoons doodling his name in a notebook. He’d never owned anything of value before, and his new name was a thing of beauty that no one could take away. More than the riches of the household, he valued his home and family. He would never be an orphan again.
He’d had the same diet and done the same chores for his eleven years in the orphanage. His family’s rules were different to him, but he dedicated himself to knowing and doing those things that would please his parents. He loved his brothers and sisters, and he was careful to be generous, loving, and grateful, but it was his parents he endeavored to please. Within a few short months he had found his place. He no longer referred to himself as “adopted,” though his history left him with a gratitude that his siblings couldn’t quite understand. He was simply his father’s son, now. His adoption had been a success.
The second boy’s reaction was different. Of course he was grateful for his adoption, and he expressed that gratitude often. He did not think himself worthy of full adoption, however. He did not accept his new name. He tip-toed around his new siblings, always afraid of what they might think. Did they think he was overstepping? Was he trying to be more than his birth would allow? He did his chores dutifully; he participated in family activities, and he tried to be very good. But until the day he died he never stopped referring to himself as his father’s adopted son.
The third boy’s reaction was similar to the second’s. He also felt unworthy of his adoption and of his new family’s name. He was inwardly jealous of his siblings because he thought they were loved more than he was. Though his parents accepted him unconditionally, he maintained an attitude of second-class. He wore a badge of poverty in the wealthiest of households, and he refused to eat at the same table or to participate in family activities that seemed to be traditions unique to his family. He thought he was acting humbly as he maintained his orphan identity. He wanted sincerely to please his parents and siblings, but he often felt far from them. He insisted on the chores and diet that he’d grown accustomed to in the orphanage. He lived his whole life as an orphan, though he was offered his father’s house.
The last boy’s reaction may shock you; it seems unlikely, though I’ve seen it happen. He entered his new home with excitement, but in that excitement he quickly usurped the place of his parents’ natural born children. He demanded the best room in the house. He gave little thought to the chores or rules that guided his siblings’ lives. He’d heard that one cannot disown an adopted child like they can a natural born; his parents had promised to love him forever, and he felt confident in their promise. That confidence did not produce a heart of service, however, but an attitude of entitlement. He felt as much right, more right, to the family name as the children who had been born in the house. He felt strongly that his adoption also afforded him special privileges. “Freedom” was the banner he carried; he was free from his family’s archaic ideas. He served his parents as he pleased, and he enjoyed the unconditional wealth of his father.
If you’ve been adopted into the family of God, you may see yourself in these boys’ stories. I see my past in the third and fourth. I grew up as an adopted orphan. I would never just be “His child”. The rules and discipline for me were different; I was adopted, not a real child. That lie alone left me outside when I so desperately wanted to be included, but I also enjoyed what I thought of as “freedom”. I was free from the rules of His house, though that freedom left me wanting.
Today, I see myself in the first boy’s reaction. I am my Father’s child. My Father’s rules apply to me because He’s given me His name. I doodle my name on paper. I wear my name like a crown. There is no difference between me and the children who were born in His house. There is no difference in our rules. There is no difference in our food. There is no difference in our traditions. I do not serve Him to earn His love; I serve Him because He loves me. I’m not His adopted child; I’m Sarah of the family of Israel. I will walk as Israel walks. Everything He has is mine, and I will inherit what Israel inherits. If your adoption has been different than this, it’s not too late to change your mind.
Ephesians 2:11-13 (KJV)
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.