“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
My beloved children have an annoying habit of overusing the word “Mom.” If you have kids, this interaction probably sounds familiar to you:
Mom: Yes, Sweetie?
Child: (silent for a minute) Hey, Mom?
Mom: Yes, what is it?
Child: (more distracted silence) Um, Mom?
Mom: YES! WHAT?!
Child: Oh, um, Mom? . . . Did I have hair when I was born? (or some other equally meaningless question)
Did I mention that I have five children? So this kind of interaction is repeated multiple times a day until I contemplate locking myself in the bathroom for a minute of solitude to regroup. I can’t tell you how many times the thought crosses my mind, “I wish I could just go ten minutes without somebody saying ‘Mom’!” Ten minutes of quiet. Ten minutes of not being constantly needed. Ten minutes to think my own thoughts.
But it’s in that moment that God often blesses me with a perspective adjustment.
I have had ten minutes to myself in the past. I had a lot of ten minutes all in a row. I had five years. Five years of wondering if there would ever be a child that would call me “Mama” or come to me with their problems and questions. Those were the years I cried out to God to ask if I would ever be a mother. I begged him for a child- just one! And after those barren years, God responded with foster children, adopted children, and biological children in an overwhelming answer to the prayers of that difficult season.
I’m not saying that infertility means I don’t suffer from the usual mom frustrations. I do. I am driven to the brink of insanity on a near daily basis by the arguments and special lunch requests and forgotten library books and bathroom accidents and middle of the night wake-up calls. But it is the beauty of the words “Mama”, “Mommy” and “Mom” that seem to snap me out of my irritations and remind me of the great gift I’ve been given when I embrace that change in perspective.
It was not easy to move from being “just” a woman and a wife to being Mama. The international adoption process was long and expensive and scary. The road that lead our foster children to become our forever children was an emotional roller coaster. Even the birth of my biological son was traumatic and didn’t go as we had hoped. But it has been in the difficult moments, the struggles and disappointments that I have learned what it really means to be a mother. It isn’t about loving children just in the times when they are easy to love, but about pursuing children with love even when they are running in the other direction.
In talking with my adopted children about the first mothers in their lives I feel the weight of that word in a new way. I have become their mother, but that wasn’t always the case. I didn’t birth these children or earn these children. I have chosen to love and mother them and they have chosen to love me and embrace me as their mother. Part of loving them is loving their history and honoring the mothers who gave them life, no matter their circumstances or choices. Those women didn’t stop being mothers when they made the adoption plan for their child. In some ways, that was an ultimate act of motherhood— choosing the good of your child even when it breaks your heart. And because of that choice, I am benefiting from the beauty these children bring to my life and our family when they call me Mommy.
I wonder sometimes if the joy and honor I feel at hearing my children call me “Mama” (even when they follow it up with some frustrating question or irritating request) is some small reflection of God’s joy when we call him “Father”. How blessed we are that we have a God who invites us to have that familial relationship with him. He isn’t simply a master, a boss, a teacher, or an uninvolved observer, but he hears our cries like a parent. He feels our joys and grieves our sorrows when we call out to our Daddy. As a Father, he has chosen to pursue us in love, even when we were running the other direction.
We aren’t accidental children of God. We weren’t spiritually unplanned or unexpected. We were chosen and brought into the family with the intentionality of adoption. We become heirs and receive the benefits of being part of this family. Adoption isn’t about obligation or taking responsibility for your actions, but about taking responsibility for someone else’s actions out of a deep desire to love and care for someone who needs you. God has chosen to love me with a father’s compassion not because of how great I am, but because of his great love for me. I know that love. He gave me that love for my children, too.
Because I feel confident in that love, I can come to him even with my annoying requests, my fears and doubts. I know he hears me and wants to know what’s in my heart, even when what is in my heart is ugly or shameful. Where I fail as a parent in getting frustrated or disappointed, my Father God continues to reach out in compassion and understanding. I may never fully show the perfect love that God has for his children, but I’m thankful for the ways my children are teaching me to love more fully as they give me a glimpse at God’s heart for me.
“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” -Galatians 4:4-7