I want to recount my experience in court on Thursday. It was perhaps one of the most profound moments I’ve ever had. In juvenile court there is a lot of dysfunction, abuse, anger, neglect, brokenness and heartbreaking sadness. Every case begins with Child Protective Services taking away children from their parent(s). But in the midst of this dark and emotionally disturbing reality there are also beautiful redeeming moments. I always come into the court waiting room feeling a sense of risk and heightened suspicion having passed through the security check, symbolic of my entry into a whole different and dangerous world. My eyes scan the crowd. Many of these people I have seen before at previous court dates. There are the unfortunate victims, the children, from infants up to teens, some of them carrying on as if life was normal and others visibly showing their deep pain. There are the single parents desperately fighting to get their children back having lost them due to their own inability to provide a safe home. Many of these parents have a parent or relative with them – most obviously grieving the unfortunate situation and committed to helping their wayward children and their victimized grandchildren, and most, clearly the source of the dysfunction that has been passed down generation upon generation, victims themselves. There are others who are like me – the caretakers, foster families and relatives seeking to provide a stable and permanent home for these children who are dependents of the court. There is the buzz of the lawyers I recognize, calling out names and having private meetings outside or in the corners with their clients. The space is cramped with the rows of seats a bit too close for comfort. The conversations all around me are almost impossible not to hear. Some conversations I wish I could not hear.
I sat in a corner where I had a pretty good view of the whole room – I was wondering if Maria’s birth mother or father would show. Julie went to sign in and ran into Maria’s social worker. She introduced us to a colleague, another social worker anxiously waiting for a family that was late to their scheduled adoption hearing. Nobody was ever late for these, so she was quite concerned. A half-hour later, the family came rushing in. They were a black couple in their 50’s with two young boys about Billy’s age. One of the boys was Caucasian and the other was Hispanic. They quickly moved by us, connected with their social worker and I went back to reading, excited for this family and anticipating our own day when our adoption would be made final. It wasn’t until the family returned from the courtroom that I paused long enough to take it in. There was visible relief and excitement as the adoption was finalized. I watched as they talked to the social worker and began to study these fortunate kids who now officially belonged in this family. Then I noticed that the Caucasian boy was wearing a bib and drooling. Julie, noticing this with me, mentioned that the boy was disabled. This deeply touched our hearts. As the family passed us we said our congratulations and then I noticed that the Hispanic boy walked with a limp and was also mentally disabled. At this moment my heart could not take the emotion any longer and the dam burst. Tears began rolling down my face as I contemplated the beautiful scene that was passing before my eyes. How often do we ever get to see unconditional love demonstrated before us like that? Here was a couple that according to the American way of life were nearing retirement age where they could live out the rest of their days playing golf, sleeping in, watching TV, RVing and traveling as they spent whatever fortune they were able to acquire. But instead they were taking on a life-long commitment, a second family of children. And these kids weren’t going to be easy, requiring extraordinary care and advocacy each day of their lives through adulthood. They weren’t doing this because they had to. There was no perceivable family link. There was just one thing and that one thing challenged me to the very core of who I am. Unconditional love. Seeing the embodiment of this love was a sacred moment as deeply spiritual as anything I have ever experienced before in my life. I wept on and off for the next hour and still get moved to tears as I recount this story. Am I capable of giving that kind of love? My heart yearns for this depth of love and more than anything I want to be able to give it out.
I follow a God who is the author of this love. He was willing to sacrifice his son so that I might be adopted into his family. The Bible uses this adoption language when explaining our relationship to our Heavenly Father.
“In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” (Eph. 1:4-5, NIV)
He gave up his very own son so that I, a broken product of a dysfunctional and broken world, could be brought into his family and called a ‘son of God.’ And now, this God lives in my heart through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. And he did this according to his “pleasure and will.” Shouldn’t I be capable of this kind of love if the very source of it resides in me? I’ll take it a step further. Am I not obligated to show this kind of love? Jesus’ marching orders as he commissioned his disciples for ministry were, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:8, NIV) Jesus also said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, NIV) What I observed in the court waiting room that day was a couple laying down their life for two young boys.
I think the enabling force behind such love is first an encounter with the one who laid down his life, Jesus Christ. Second is the acknowledged and sought presence of the Holy Spirit demonstrated in a life overflowing with the fruit that this produces – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control. As for me, I want it more than anything else and I am willing to pursue it with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Is there anything that could be more important? Is there anything that is more satisfying? Is there anything that brings God more glory? God open the floodgates of your Holy Spirit in my life. Pour Him out ‘till it’s more than I can hold and then let the excess spill over and change the lives of those around me and make an eternal difference in your Kingdom. May it begin with my family, Julie, Billy, Maria and my future children. May this be the way I Pastor your people in Trinity Church and the way I lead them in worshiping you. May our worship services be defined by an undeniable presence of your Holy Spirit, moving us to repentance, faith, wholeness, transformation, and to action. May this be how I love and build into my friends. May this be how I love and care for those who are lost and outside of your loving family.
Since the moment I said, “yes” to this new way of life I just want to go deeper and deeper. I have tasted what Jesus calls the streams of Living Water, when referring to the Holy Spirit, and they just make me thirst for more. I am seeing and feeling more deeply than I ever have before. I am truly alive. I’m experiencing the overflow.
“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit,” (John 7:38-39, NIV)