From the Disney story of Moana
Listen to the story in this short clip from the Disney movie, Moana. Then I want to come back and make a Biblical analogy that might touch your heart like it has mine.
As I listen to the words of Moana in this clip I’m reminded of when God burst into Jacob’s life one night.
Let’s start by backing up a couple of generations. God gave this world-class blessing to Abraham, the grandfather of Jacob. “Abram, I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who treats you with contempt. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”
Then, later to Isaac, Jacob’s father, God repeated the blessing, he said, “Live in this land, and I will be with you, and will bless you. For I will give to you, and to your offspring, all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of the sky, and will give all these lands to your offspring. In your offspring all the nations of the earth will be blessed,”
Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, was born to his father Isaac, as one brother of twins. His twin brother’s name was Esau. When Esau, the firstborn came out, Jacob was holding on to his heel. It seems that the image becomes a pattern for Jacob’s life.
We know as a young man, Jacob cheated his brother out of his birthright by taking advantage of Esau’s desperate hunger. Later, when their father Isaac is near death, Jacob lies to his father and steals the blessing of the firstborn from Esau.
The father, Isaac, was blind, so when he called Esau in for the final blessing, Jacob came into the tent. “Jacob lied to his father and said, “I am Esau your firstborn.”
So Isaac blessed his son Jacob as the firstborn. In those days that was an irreversible permanent transfer of everything that belonged to the father. The power, position, wealth, and even to the ownership of the blessings of God.
Jacob lied about his name and stole all the position and power and blessings from Esau, his twin brother.
Esau was understandably furious. The bible says, “Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him. Esau said in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand. Then I will kill my brother Jacob.” and from then on Esau sought to kill Jacob. Jacob ran for his life.”
Fast-forwarding through the story we find Jacob runs and settles in a new land and marries the daughters of Laban. Jacob spends years working for Laban and builds a new pattern of cheating and lying. But during this time, he has eleven sons.
Finally, Jacob, after years of unfair wages and after deceiving Laban, his father in law, Jacob takes his two wives, his numerous children, including his eleven precious sons, and all his wealth, cattle, servants, and more, and leaves for a new land.
No sooner than Jacob and his clan had set out on their journey – they get word that Esau, his brother, is on a path to intercept Jacob and is coming with an army of four hundred men.
In skimming through the highlights of this story I don’t want to miss the seriousness, the gravity of this situation. The last time Jacob saw his brother, Esau wanted to kill him, for good reason. Jacob knows the blessings of God to the decedents of Abraham and Isaac and he is the rightful recipient of that blessing, even if stolen through deceit. God promised “a great nation,” yet it hasn’t been true throughout his father’s life or his grandfather’s life. Is God true or is he a liar just like Jacob?
Now, his brother is coming with an army of four-hundred men and Jacob knows he’s a dead man. He even knows he deserves death. But he also knows this blessing of God which makes the question even more dreadful, “Is God true or his he a liar?”
The bible says when he hears the news that his brother coming with an army of men, it says, “Then Jacob was greatly afraid and was distressed”
Remember, Abraham and his son Isaac, never saw the promises of God come to pass. They didn’t have sons or offspring that would inhabit the land. The promises, the blessings of God were clung to but never realized. Now Jacob, the one who has spent a lifetime positioning himself through lies and deception, finally has enough sons to build a small tribe; hardly what you would call a “great nation,” but it was a start.
I can almost hear the painful cry from Jacob, “God, you promised my grandfather Abraham a blessing and he died. You promised my father Isaac a blessing and he died. Must I die also? Have you been deceiving my family? Are you a liar like me?” Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed!
Jacob did the only thing he could think of to save his own life and the lives of his family. He sent ahead to Esau everything he had received from the blessing of his father Isaac, he sent away everything he acquired from his father in law Laban, and he sent away even his children and all his wealth. He sent them all ahead as “gifts” to his brother in hopes that Esau would take the gifts and his anger would be satisfied, and not slaughter the clan.
This is the part I want you to hear. Jacob sent everyone on ahead to meet Esau in hopes of saving their lives. Night falls and Jacob is all alone. His wives, who he dearly loves are gone. His children are gone. All his servants and animals and possessions are gone. There’s not a sound around him. It’s just him, afraid, alone, confused, angry…. silently alone.
He’s scared. I don’t know if we think of the great men of the Bible in that context. We think of these men and heroes, as colossal giants in the faith. But we often don’t see the other side. Here Jacob is more alone than he’s ever been in his life. Everyone he loves and everything he owns is gone. By morning he will probably be put to the sword by his brother Esau.
God hasn’t blessed him. He doesn’t even know if the blessings were real. His whole life he’s lived on deceit and lies and tonight there’s no cards left to play. I wonder how many times that scene played through his mind when he lied about his own name to his father, Isaac. His name wasn’t Esau, as he told his father, it was Jacob, Jacob the deceiver. Tonight, alone, he must have shed tears about all the times he stole and cheated. “Jacob the deceiver,” he must have mumbled to himself, “Jacob the liar, the cheat.”
Then the Bible drops this story on us like none other. A story like you can’t even imagine. It says, “Jacob wrestled with a man there until the breaking of the day“…. later we learn that man was God himself.
Jacob literally, physically wrestled with God, all night until the breaking of day.
But what’s even more amazing is the next line, it says that “the man” – God, didn’t prevail against him!
I have a hard time wrapping my mind around that statement. Jacob and God wrestled all night long and God did not prevail against Jacob!
The next line says God touched the hollow of his thigh, and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was strained as he wrestled.
The word “touched” here is the word the Jews use in a much deeper way. Like the way God touched the earth in creation to bring life. Or the way God touches the heart of a man and changes him. But it also is literal. God touched Jacob’s thigh to win the fight…. But Jacob still wouldn’t let go!
Do you get this picture? Can you imagine spending the entire night – literally physically fighting with God? God touches him and wounds him and he STILL WON’T LET GO! This is amazing!
Then Jacob said, “I won’t let you go unless you bless me.”
By now, Jacob knows who he’s fighting with. Somehow in the night hours during this wrestling match he realized that he has his hands on God himself. The creator of the universe. The one who set the stars in place and breathed life into Adam and Eve. And Jacob refuses to let go. “I won’t let you go unless you bless me.”
Everything Jacob has is gone. By morning his own life will be gone. The promises of Abraham and Isaac are dead. They’re lies. Jacob is now holding on to the God of blessing and saying to God, “are you a liar like me? Bless me or let me die.
Then God said four little words that would change the course of Jacob’s life forever and affect the lives of the people of God for all eternity.
God said, “What is your name?”
In my mind I picture Jacob letting go of God at that moment and falling apart, simply collapsing to the ground. What could he say? He had lied about his name before to gain a blessing. He has spent a lifetime in trouble because of his own deceptions. But he couldn’t deceive God.
Everything he ever said must have flooded through his mind. Every lie, everything he ever stole, every sneaky thing he did to become the man he thought he was. It was all laid out in front of him in a picture of guilt and shame.
“What is your name?” God asked him.
Without being able to lift his head from the dirt I imagine him mumbling through his tears to God, “My name is Jacob… Jacob, the deceiver.”
The man – God – stood over Jacob, pulled him to his feet, and looked him in the eyes. “Your name will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have fought with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
Do you hear those words of Muana in God’s words? Jacob – deceiver – is not who you are! I made you. I blessed your grandfather and your father. I know you… intimately. I know your name. Your name is no longer Jacob because that’s not who you are, that’s not who I created you to be. Your name is Israel.”
Then it goes on to say that God blessed him there. God blessed Israel – the man and the nation who would come from him.
I wonder how many of us can relate. How many of us have spent a lifetime not being the person God made us to be. We have spent a lifetime doing it our own way, trying to force life to happen according to our plans and not God’s. I wonder how many of us are living a lie but don’t know how to escape it.
Do you hear his voice? Do you feel God lifting you up and taking you by the face and looking you in the eyes…. “I know your name and this is not who you are.”
Like the Lava Monster in Moana (Don’t we all have a Lava Monster inside of ourselves?), maybe it’s time for a new name, a new identity, a new life. Maybe it’s time to hear and to live in the blessings of God.
Jesus came to give life. He came to change our identity. He came to give himself so that we could die to ourselves and put on his identity as a new person. But we can’t have a new life, a new identity if we don’t die to our old self.
Jacob had to come to the end of himself. That night he gave up everything and considered himself a dead man. That night God gave him a new name, a new life.
There’s an old church hymn that says, “There’s a new name written down in glory, and it’s mine…A sinner has come home.”
Repent of your sinful life. Repent to Jesus. Come to him, wrestle with him if you must. Then give it all away and follow Jesus. I promise, just like he did for Jacob, he will give you a new identity, a new name, a new life… a blessing of eternal life with Jesus. There is no greater blessing.
- All Biblical quotations are taken from the World English Bible (WEB) translation.
Something troubling is happening in the American church culture that needs to be addressed. I realize that not every assembly of God-fearing Christians are guilty, and maybe your congregation is different, but we need to consider Jesus’ words very carefully.
Jesus tells a story, in the book of Matthew, first telling a parable about ten virgins, then he moves on to a story about three servants. You remember the one: They were each given a measure of wealth, or “talents.” What did he call the last servant who buried the gold? “Unfaithful” or some translations, “wicked and slothful servant.”
Then Jesus moves on to the third parable about a king who separates the “sheep from the goats” based on what they did for “the least of these.” He carefully builds a story about those who saw the needs of the people around them and did nothing and those who dove in and met the needs of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and in prison.
I believe we have the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison all around us. As a matter of fact, many of those in the following stories have unknowingly used those exact words, “I’m so thirsty for love.” Or, “I feel so in-prisoned.”
Let’s let that sit a moment. I’d like to tell you a couple of stories.
Her name is Penelope. She was sexually used and abused as a small child by her step-dad while her mother was in jail. Although she admired her real dad, he also was in and out of jail and prison nearly all her young life for drug and substance abuse reasons. She grew up, bouncing between homes, and usually would stay with the parent who had the fewest rules, or who was out of jail at the time. Each parent demonstrating a revolving door of lovers and illegal substances suppliers.
Home life as a teenager was a daily train-wreck. High school was a pure failure. Her few friends were drug users and partiers. From a very young age she was sexually active with any boy who would be nice to her. Nothing she ever did had any future or hope. Undoubtedly, by the time she was eighteen, she would be pregnant and addicted to various substances.
Ironically, she grew up around a “church” environment. Her mother attended when she could, although often showing up high, at least she would show up. Penelope sat through numerous meetings, and her spirit struggled with the story of hope, but couldn’t wrap her head around the truth.
Shortly before her 17th birthday, she sat with an old friend. An older couple had befriended her family, and chosen to love them as much as allowed. The man, as a friend, spent a tearful and heart-wrenching day with her, crying together and praying together. Finally, as if scales fell from her eyes, a new light came into her world, and something clicked. Finally, she understood the plea of Jesus to come, broken and bleeding to the cross for healing. She and the man prayed, and Penelope came to know Jesus in a real and passionate way, for the first time.
The man and his wife travel extensively and couldn’t stay in the area. But they went to the local church, and with tears, pleading that people from the church would love that little girl. “Please spend time with her.” “Please teach her about Jesus.” “Please show her what a stable and healthy home looks like.” “Teach her to bake cookies. Just show her love and spend time with her.”
“Yes,” they replied. “Yes, we will.”
The man and his wife left the area with hugs and love for Penelope and her broken family.
Days past. Weeks past. Months passed. Not one phone call. Not one visit. Not one word from anybody. Penelope was left to herself, alone, unloved and abandoned. In Penelope’s mind, she was unloved by God and abandoned by God. No one cared.
DIdn’t Penelope qualify for the status of “the least of these?”
Let me tell you another story. This is a story of a young man and his wife and three little children. The small family moved to a new area. They didn’t know anyone but he quickly found a job and apartment. His mother and father came for an extended visit and helped them find a wonderful local church. The church was full of people of all ages, and the truth of the gospel was taught every Sunday. The young man and his family hurt in their hearts for Godly friendships; being new in an area is hard. But friendships don’t come easily for new people. Work required the young man to be out of church about every-other Sunday.
After some time past, the young man’s father came to the pastor and youth pastor and pleaded. “Please love this little family. They can’t always attend, but they need love. Those little children still need to know God, and they need to grow up with Godly friends.”
The pastor and the youth pastor agreed and said they would take this family under their wing and love them.
The pastor and youth pastor, occasionally, would send invitations to Sunday and Wednesday services. But, not once, did either of them come to visit that little family. As a matter of fact, not one person from that assembly has ever darkened the door of that young man’s home after asking for love.
That congregation does not love them. They don’t know how to love outside the building they call the church – that’s not really love at all, is it? They are welcome to attend when there is a function at the building.
Doesn’t this small family qualify for the status of “the least of these?”
I want to tell you about a single mom with three small children. Let’s call her Nancy. Nancy has a colored background. Drugs, jail, abuse, and more. But she’s a loving mother, as best as she knows how.
She’s struggled with substance abuse for most of her adult years. We don’t need to get into the reasons why; everyone has reasons that are more painful than many of us can imagine.
But somehow, through it all, Nancy came to church and found an anchor in her faith. She raised her children, as best as she knew how. Did she do everything right? Of course not. A woman addicted to pain medications, and other drugs, finds herself making bad choices in relationships, and priorities in her home. Drugs seem to rule the home; they control finances, they control time management, they control attitudes, and they control the decisions about the men who come through the doors. The choices are often wrong but driven only by a force, not of the Holy Spirit, but by the desire for the drugs.
But Nancy loves her children and tries to do the best she can for them. Over time, church became a place of judgment, pain, and conflict. She came to the church and asked for love. A man and his wife, who treated Nancy as their own daughter and her children as their grandchildren, went to the church on her behalf and asked for love. The man and his wife, along with Nancy and her children, invited the pastor and the elder, along with their wives, to a dinner at her house. At the dinner, Nancy pleaded with the pastor and elders to please love her family in their home as well as in the walls of the building. “Please spend time with us and teach us about Jesus. Please take my children and show them what it is like to live normal and healthy lives. Please take my son fishing and spend time with my daughter.” Only when they could find love in their home, then they could return to the meeting place to be loved. The pastor and elders agreed. Everyone prayed together and exchanged hugs and promises of time together and shared love.
Nancy’s kitchen window overlooked the church building. The road to the church passed her front door. Every person who attended the church had to pass by Nancy’s door to enter the church.
Days past. Weeks past. Months passed. Not one phone call. Not one visit. Not one word from anybody. The pastor and elder said they were welcome to attend but never invited her again. They never asked about the children or pulled into her driveway. They never called, they never asked, they never cared.
Doesn’t Nancy and her family qualify for the status of “the least of these?”
Lori is a petite woman, probably in her 50s now. As a small child, she grew up in a sexually, emotionally, and physically abusive home of unspeakable pain. She left home, unloved and abused but legally emancipated at the young age of 14. By the time she was 17 she had been in various relationships that gave her two babies, two more children came later. Her entire life has been one kind of pain after another. Physiological and physical problems have plagued her every step of the way.
She became addicted and dependent on piles of daily prescription drugs, each one exasperating the problems into more problems. However, somehow though the incredible grace of God, Lori found a relationship with Jesus in a way that should inspire each of us. Her day is filled with prayer, Bible reading and a sincere desire to connect with other Godly individuals. Hungry for more of Jesus, she attended church every time the doors where open.
Lori asks a lot of hard questions. “Why would God allow my children. . .?” “What does this passage in the scriptures mean?” “When will God answer my prayer?” “Why doesn’t God answer my prayer?” When the Bible study covers hard sections, she wants to understand, or at least she wants to try.
Lori wasn’t really accepted in the woman’s Bible studies. She asked too many questions. If Lori wasn’t there, they would talk about her drug problems and her embarrassing past, all in the name of prayer, of course. But rumors spread like wildfire and news travels fast to people who don’t need to know the indecent gritty details.
Soon Lori felt separated from the body. The women felt threatened by her, and the men gazed at her. Those who teach from prewritten curriculums couldn’t answer her questions and didn’t want to be intimated by a woman who could quote scriptures from her heart. Slowly she retreated from the church congregation.
Time brought more pain. She desperately thirsted for the love and relationships that the church promised. The “family” she so desperately needed pushed her out and abused her, even took advantage of her sexually, much the same way as her blood family had. She cried out to the paster and elders for love. “Please love me, even when I can’t bring myself to enter the doors.”
She was ignored. Without being inside the walls she was unnoticed and forgotten. Some probably glad she wasn’t there anymore to disrupt their plans.
Lori calls the man and his wife almost daily, asking questions about the scriptures and crying for some kind of family. She only wants an occasional hug. She just wants people who genuinely care with the love of Jesus. She only wants to know she is loved by the people of God. But she is ignored.
Doesn’t Lori qualify for the status of “the least of these?”
I could continue with these stories.
I could tell you about a broken and hurting single lady who’s sin was condemned before she knew the story of Jesus, she never returned.
I could tell you the story about a young man who dated a girl of poor reputation and was criticized and never returned.
I could tell you of a young man, who didn’t dress right and was told to go home and not to come back until he cleaned up his style.
I could tell you of an alcoholic woman who was kept at arms-length and found herself alone.
I could tell you of a drug-addicted young man who killed himself because he felt condemned and unloved.
I could tell you about broken homes, addictions, insatiable sexual appetites, abuse, jail, alcohol, and more, and more, and more. . .
Do these qualify for the status of “the least of these?”
When Jesus talked about the actions of caring for the “least of these,” he was not describing a condition to gain salvation. No, he was describing a condition resulting from salvation. You and I, every one of us, is no more qualified to be accepted by God, than the people in this story. Paul himself, the apostle who wrote most of our New Testament books, called himself the “chief of sinners.” Was he displaying false humility? Absolutely not! He had matured to the point where he recognized the unimaginable, boundless grace of God. He understood that he was equal to the worst of the human race – no better.
Until we see ourselves as filthy rags, we do not qualify for salvation. There are many, in church pews today, who take sides. We look across the aisle at “them and us.” They try not to be prideful, but they don’t suffer from the same battles of sin that “those people do.”
Jesus had some Pharisees near him one day. The Pharisees considered themselves to be nearly free of sin and quickly cleansed through lawful means, as soon as any sin was known. But Jesus spoke of the commandments and said: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” He said something almost the same about murder.
Was Jesus raising the bar of the law and putting all mankind under sin? In a sense, yes. But more than that, he was proving to the self-righteous Pharisees that, they too, were equal to the worst of sinners. They’re no better.
The same is true for me. The same is true for you.
Penelope is loved by God and he has commanded us to “love one another as I have loved you.” Penelope qualifies as the least of these.
Nancy is loved by God and he has commanded us to “love one another as I have loved you.” Nancy qualifies as the least of these.
Lori is loved by God and he has commanded us to “love one another as I have loved you.” Lori qualifies as the least of these.
If Penelope and Nancy and Lori are not worthy of my intense, selfless, sacrificial love, then I am not recognizing the sin in myself.
Let’s go back to the second parable, the parable of the talent. Why was the third servant called, “unfaithful” or “wicked?” It’s because he did nothing. He kept the gold. He protected it and kept it safe for his king. But he did nothing.
How many times do we see a person in need? I’m not talking about some random person on the street corner. I’m talking about somebody who God has put directly in your path in life. What do we do? Have you ever put your hand on their shoulder and said, “I’ll pray for you,” but don’t actually do anything? How dare you! You wicked and unfaithful servant! You’ve done nothing!
Have you ever gone fishing but didn’t think to take that little boy you see on Sunday morning in the front row? Have you ever gone out with your daughter for a girl’s night but didn’t invite the little girl from the back row because you don’t want that kind of influence around your kids?
I wonder how sterile we’ve made our lives, so we don’t have to touch the unclean anymore.
“Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
In the last few years I’ve really struggled with this word “Relationship” as it relates to Jesus. When I think of relationship I think of spending time together, talking, mutual advice, chatting about anything and nothing, seeing each other, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to hug, a body to hold. In the case of a marriage relationship the word relationship includes sexual intimacy, understanding the thoughts and feelings of each other, emotional and physical protection, admiration, emotional and physical closeness and so much more. But, our relationship with Jesus doesn’t consist of those things.
Now I realize that as soon as I say those words that many will argue that all of those things are true with Jesus. Yes, we can spend time with Him; Yes, we can talk with Him…. etc. But, even the most emphatic must agree that’s it’s not the same as a true, flesh and blood, friend.
As a Christian, I think the word relationship, as it’s applied in churches and amongst Christians, implies something that most, if not all of us, feel we’re missing – something. For me, it spurs feelings of guilt.
There must be something more I should be doing to make this feel more like a relationship. Maybe I need to spend more time talking to Him. Maybe I need to spend more time reading His book. Can you imagine if I met the girl of my dream, asked her to marry me, then handed her a book and told her that everything she needs to know about me is in the book? This is the extent of our relationship, and I expect her to bury herself in the book so she knows me more and more. Read it every day, and talk to me. I’m silent, but she can speak. Sometimes I’ll speak through my spirit. Then she will truly love me – she has to love me – she reads my book – right?
If that were true, online dating would be perfect – right?
If I feel something is lacking in this relationship then I need to spend more time and exert more energy improving this relationship. After all, He hasn’t gone anywhere, He has given me everything I need, He has provided His book, He has done it all. It must be me.
That’s depressing. Often when we’ve struggled, good friends have asked us, “how’s your relationship with God?”. What does that mean? How do I answer? Does that imply that I may or may not be doing enough? Maybe that’s why I struggle because I haven’t worked hard enough at my part of this relationship?
I’m guilty of using the phrase “relationship with Jesus” or “relationship with God”. I think it’s time to re-think the terminology.
Truly, what has Jesus asked us to do while we wait for His return? Abide? Obey? Anything else?
Okay, let’s come at this from another angle.
Jesus calls us His bride. He is returning for a pure and spotless bride. Much of his Last Supper conversation uses marriage proposal language. In the tradition of Jesus’ day the groom would propose to the girl; then, if she accepts, he will go back to his father’s house and prepare a house for his bride. Then, on the day appointed (could be months or even years), he would return for his bride. Often the bride would not even know what day he would return. She would always be watching and listening. He would return, often blowing trumpets, certainly with all the noisy music he could muster, to marry his bride and take her back to his home.
“Relationship” in this context is probably the wrong word. Yes, they’re engaged, betrothed in their terminology, but she might not know him at all. That day, when the father of the bride and the father of the groom made an agreement, and the boy proposed to the girl, it might be the first time they ever met each other. They certainly didn’t date or court, or have a relationship. He proposes. She accepts. He builds a home for them. She prepares herself to be a bride. He ultimately returns for her. – Then the relationship begins. There will be, in their tradition, a wedding ceremony, a party, and a consummation; then they will live happily ever after – as a relationship where they can spend time together, talking, mutual advice, chatting about anything and nothing, seeing each other, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to hug, a body to hold, intimacy, understanding the thoughts and feelings of each other, emotional and physical protection, admiration, emotional and physical closeness and so much more.
Is it possible the true relationship with Jesus starts after He takes us home? Is it possible that we are currently betrothed or engaged or could we even use the words “bought with a price”? Then, if we view this relationship as an engagement, or commitment to be married, then this changes our perspective on our relationship. Now I’m trusting Him. I’m waiting for Him. My life belongs to Him. I am not free to enter into worldly or unhealthy activities. I must prepare myself to be a bride, by learning how to please my groom. By keeping myself pure, clean, and ready for His return. Now I can simply abide and obey. Now I can look forward to a true relationship.
Considering that, it would be normal to feel that something is missing in my “relationship”. Certainly, a lot is missing. That’s true of any bride waiting to marry her groom. Waiting in anticipation of the day when their relationship is consummated. Waiting for more closeness, more intimacy, more understanding. My relationship with Jesus isn’t complete yet. Not even close. Yes, we’ve met. He has given me his marriage proposal. He has given me His life, His blood, and His promise. I have accepted His proposal. I have promised my life. But relationship?
In my Father’s house are many mansions (dwelling places); if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
This article is borrowed from The Gospel Coalition
It is saved here, simply to keep a lasting copy for myself. No copyright infringements are intened and no profit will be gained from this storage.
Russell Moore, Adopted for Life:
The creepiest sound I have ever heard was nothing at all. My wife, Maria, and I stood in the hallway of an orphanage somewhere in the former Soviet Union, on the first of two trips required for our petition to adopt. Orphanage staff led us down a hallway to greet the two 1-year-olds we hoped would become our sons. The horror wasn’t the squalor and the stench, although we at times stifled the urge to vomit and weep. The horror was the quiet of it all. The place was more silent than a funeral home by night.
I stopped and pulled on Maria’s elbow. “Why is it so quiet? The place is filled with babies.” Both of us compared the stillness with the buzz and punctuated squeals that came from our church nursery back home. Here, if we listened carefully enough, we could hear babies rocking themselves back and forth, the crib slats gently bumping against the walls. These children did not cry, because infants eventually learn to stop crying if no one ever responds to their calls for food, for comfort, for love. No one ever responded to these children. So they stopped.
The silence continued as we entered the boys’ room. Little Sergei (now Timothy) smiled at us, dancing up and down while holding the side of his crib. Little Maxim (now Benjamin) stood straight at attention, regal and czar-like. But neither boy made a sound. We read them books filled with words they couldn’t understand, about saying goodnight to the moon and cows jumping over the same. But there were no cries, no squeals, no groans. Every day we left at the appointed time in the same way we had entered: in silence.
On the last day of the trip, Maria and I arrived at the moment we had dreaded since the minute we received our adoption referral. We had to tell the boys goodbye, as by law we had to return to the United States and wait for the legal paperwork to be completed before returning to pick them up for good. After hugging and kissing them, we walked out into the quiet hallway as Maria shook with tears.
And that’s when we heard the scream.
Little Maxim fell back in his crib and let out a guttural yell. It seemed he knew, maybe for the first time, that he would be heard. On some primal level, he knew he had a father and mother now. I will never forget how the hairs on my arms stood up as I heard the yell. I was struck, maybe for the first time, by the force of the Abba cry passages in the New Testament, ones I had memorized in Vacation Bible School. And I was surprised by how little I had gotten it until now. . . .
Little Maxim’s scream changed everything—more, I think, than did the judge’s verdict and the notarized paperwork. It was the moment, in his recognizing that he would be heard, that he went from being an orphan to being a son. It was also the moment I became a father, in fact if not in law. We both recognized that something was wrong, because suddenly, life as it had been seemed terribly disordered.
Up to that time, I had read the Abba cry passages in Romans and Galatians the same way I had heard them preached: as a gurgle of familiarity, the spiritual equivalent of an infant cooing “Papa” or “Daddy.” Relational intimacy is surely present in the texts—hence Paul’s choice of such a personal word as Abba—but this definitely isn’t sentimental. After all, Scripture tells us that Jesus’ Spirit lets our hearts cry “Abba, Father!” (Gal. 4:6). Jesus cries “Abba, Father” as he screams “with loud cries and tears” for deliverance in the Garden of Gethsemane (Heb. 5:7; Mark 14:36). Similarly, the doctrine of adoption shows us that we “groan” with the creation itself “as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). It is the scream of the crucified.