Last year, my friends Jimmy and Sarah invited me to join them for a day of water-skiing at their home in the Florida panhandle. (Mercifully, a "day of water-skiing" also included "sitting on an inflated tube" for us less-coordinated folks.) At the end of the day when Jimmy was piloting the boat out of the bayou to allow room for a mom and dad attempting to teach their son to ski, Sarah put her hand on Jimmy's arm and said, "Wait, we'll want to know how to do this one day."
This was poignant because Jimmy and Sarah had been praying to adopt for two years. Crib assembled and parenting books on the shelf, they had prepared a home for a child. However, a few months after that day on the water, Jimmy's job moved them all the way to Buffalo, N.Y. Jimmy and Sarah had to pack up and move their unused crib to storage. With heavy hearts, they began paperwork with a new adoption agency in New York.
On Easter Sunday, they received the call they had been waiting three years for from a hospital in Pensacola, Fla. A couple had selected them to be the family of a son they loved very much but felt unprepared to raise. Logistically this seemed impossible since New York law prohibits adoptions with agencies not licensed in the state. However, their house in Florida -- which had not been sold or rented -- remained vacant, and their social worker realized that their home study would leave them eligible to adopt in Florida for one more month.
In the next 36 hours, Sarah took a leave of absence from her job, and they packed up a U-haul with the essentials Sarah would need to live in Florida alone with their son for the three to six months it would take to finalize their adoption. They drove 1,151 miles, moved back into their empty house and -- a mere six days after they received the phone call -- brought home their son.
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They left their jobs. They drove through the night. They moved into an empty house. All for a child they hadn't even met, but already loved. Sitting in the living room as Sarah attempted to make formula in their empty kitchen and Jimmy grinned because his son was already passing gas "like his Daddy," this child who had been in their home for a mere three hours was so very loved, wanted and at home.
I had to step outside because there was something in my eye.
This was more than a Hallmark special. When we say that God is our father, we're saying he loves us like this. Not just "I love you because you share my genetics and last name" (which is also totally valid). No, God loves us with an "I'm choosing to leave my job and drive all night and camp out in an empty house so that you can become my child" kind of love.
"See what love the father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are" (1 John 3:1). God didn't just drive from Buffalo to Pensacola -- he actually became one of us and left heaven for earth -- all so we could become his children.
When Jimmy and Sarah observed that water-ski lesson last year, they were already thinking about the life and love they would share with their son. In the same way, God desires a life with us here on earth and has prepared a home for us in heaven.
We are his children, and Jimmy and Sarah's story (and the countless ones like theirs) is a reminder of how much God loves us.