“God is spirit and exists at the level of reality where the human heart, or spirit, also exists, serving as the foundation and source of our visible life.” – Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy
I love the movie, The Matrix. One of my favorite parts is at the end; right after Trinity declares her love and kisses him, Neo gets up and “sees” the Matrix for the very first time. The millions of lines of scrolling green code are plainly visible as is his new found power to manipulate them and the Matrix. The result… the agents who “ran” the show for the majority of the movie are now the ones doing the running – running away in fear!
Is the world we live in all that different?
Much like the machines in the Matrix, our culture encourages us to live by sight. Our society teaches us that reality is what can be seen, touched, and measured. The physical, to include the biological, is given exclusive say as to what is real. These lessons are unconsciously learned and internalized at an early age. My wife, Libby, and I brought our son Ren home from China when he was a little over one and a half years old. His oldest sister, Tessa, was five at the time and for years would ask questions about Ren’s “real” mom. Of course, we knew what she meant. She meant Ren’s biological mom. But, even in her young mind, biology had an indisputable claim upon what was real.
Truth be told, I have held that same belief for most of my life as well. Although Libby had been open to adoption from the time she was in high school, I was resistant to the idea of having biological and adopted children in the same family. I feared that the adopted children would be prone to feel like second class citizens, unable to compete with the biological children in regards to value and standing within the family. In reflecting back on those concerns, I think they exposed my previously held belief that without a biological/genetic connection, something would always be missing.
Our adoption journey began shortly after we finished the study Forgotten God by Francis Chan. We were challenged to intentionally look for the Holy Spirit working in the midst of our day to day routine and be willing to abandon our “plan” for His. Shortly thereafter, Libby stumbled upon a blog about the heart-wrenching orphan crisis in Haiti. As she tried to read these posts to me, she wept uncontrollably, unable to finish. Over the ensuing months, it became more and more clear; God was calling us to adoption.
As we researched the numerous kinds of adoptions, we felt led to pursue the adoption of a little boy through the China special needs program. Once we started, it took about a year for us to be “matched” with Ren. Ren was born with numerous large scalp, facial and neck lesions which required several surgeries to remove when he was just a few months old. In addition to leaving him with large, visible scars, the distribution of these lesions is associated with severe neurologic conditions to include epilepsy and mental retardation.
The small window of time that we had to decide whether or not we would accept Ren was the most difficult and stressful time of the adoption process for me. However, it was also the time that God opened my eyes to my very limited view of reality and family in particular. As I grappled with the very real possibility of significant future medical problems for Ren and their implications for him and our family, I realized that we had no guarantee regarding the future medical history of even our two existing biological children.
And as I unpacked how little control I had regarding the future of my children, biological and adopted alike, I began to appreciate how little of a direct role I had in the process of their addition to our family as well.
Regarding my biological children – Tessa and Lucy, now 10 and 7 – I played a very brief role in providing the “material” required for their conception. However, it was all God’s work in orchestrating which one of the 300 or more million unique “swimmers” would join the one of 2 million (equally unique) eggs chosen to ovulate that particular month.
The unfathomable number of biologic and chemical interactions that transpires moving forward from the conception event, resulting in a baby, is nothing short of miraculous. And these biologic and chemical interactions certainly don’t stop there. They continue on as we grow and learn and mature without any effort or awareness on our part. Truly amazing.
Although the processes that resulted in adding Ren (now 6) to our family were certainly not biologic, that doesn’t mean that they were any less God ordained or orchestrated.
It is estimated that there are about 600,000 orphans in China with about 2,500 adoptions occurring each year since 2011. These numbers certainly are multiple orders of magnitude less than the potential biological combinations discussed above, but even with these Chinese adoption figures, the number of possible unique combinations of orphans and families are about 8 times 10 to the power of 7031.
To put that in perspective, the speed of light is about 3 times 10 to the power of 8 meters per second. Our national debt is about 20 times 10 to the power of 12 dollars. 8 times 10 to the power of 7031! That is a staggering number, beyond our comprehension! From start to finish, our adoption took about a year and a half and the number of agencies, people, signatures, documents, notaries, flights, emails and interviews required to accomplish it was also a staggering number.
The complexity of both processes through which we have added to our family was incredible. To be sure, Libby and I played a role in deciding to pursue growing our family both through biology and adoption and we did everything we could, but the three unique children we have been called to love and raise were placed in our care through none other than God.
And since it was His will and power that brought the five of us together, it should be no surprise that it is also His will and power that bind us together and define our family.
Seeing the Holy Spirit at work in our daily lives, in both the grand and small events, is like Neo seeing the code in the Matrix. And that is why I think Paul encourages us to “Live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). Whereby, we recognize that the level of reality beyond the reach of our physical senses, not only exists, but, as Dallas Willard declares above, is “the foundation and source of our visible life.” When we live in a manner consistent with that belief, our ability to see, interact and influence the world we live in is transformed, just like Neo’s in The Matrix.
Adoption has been God’s kiss, awakening me to the spiritual reality that defines and holds my family and the entire visible world together. Living as a family made up of members that “look” different is a wonderfully powerful opportunity to live this out on a daily basis.
By sight, we are a blended American-Chinese family through adoption.
By faith, we are a family brought together in different, but no less, God-ordained and orchestrated ways, knitted together by powers and forces far greater and stronger than DNA or anything else in the visible world.
As a father, it is my responsibility to model and teach my children how to live by faith, and not by sight.
The world they live in will not do that, not at all. In fact, the world will seek to subjugate them with its distorted elevation of the physical as the prime determinant of reality.
The legacy I seek to leave is not a genetic or biological one, but a spiritual one, an example and encouragement to lean not on our own understanding (information available to our physical senses), but to trust God with all our heart, engaging Him in that spiritual reality that empowers us to affect our world for His purpose and glory!
– guest post by Chris