Sunday, July 28, 2013

Struggling with Sovereignty

[Warning: for those of you who like easy answers or safe, comfortable thoughts, this post is not for you. You've been warned.]

The first week we were home from Africa, the three girls and I were in the dining room. Mali was poking her way through a bowl of cheerios and I was talking to Olivia and Katie. A quiet lull hangs over the room when OG says, "You know Mom, God knew you were going to adopt Mali. He knew even when you and dad were first married."

Me, the pinnacle of wisdom, "Yeah, he did."

She continues, "He even knew when you were born."

"Yes, he did." A wide smile erupts across my face. My daughter gets that God has a plan for me and for our family that includes adoption. Yes!! She understands, in her 6-year-old self, that God is sovereign over my life. Quietly, I pat myself on the back and file that conversation away.

And I start to think about the truth of her statement. Yes, God knew and pre-ordained that Mali would become a part of this family. And while right now it feels hard to see, it is part of his story of redemption.

However, if I acknowledge that this was part of his plan for redemption for this child, I also have to acknowledge her life before we welcomed her. In general, her story, like so many adopted orphans, goes something like this. She was born. She was mis-treated. She was abandoned. She waited for us.

Did my God stand by as this innocent child was subjected to the whims of humans? As they harmed her? If God ordained for her to come to our family, did he also ordain for her abandonment?

These are difficult questions. There are no easy answers.

There are things that I know to be true, things that I claim with my entire being to be true, things I claim for the other three children, for Eric, for our family. It's stated most clearly in my denomination's statement of faith, the Heidelberg Catechism.

Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own,
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

Did you read every word of that? Did any of it strike you? I do, whenever I think of Mali and her story, these words get me: "He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in Heaven."

Not a hair? The will of my Father in Heaven?

I can accept that for myself, as an adult, that he is using difficult things to advance his kingdom and his presence in my life. But I am an adult. She was not, she is not, she is an innocent child to whom things happened.

I am having a difficult time reconciling God's sovereignty to Mali's story.

But I have to. Because God is sovereign, he rules over all the crap that happens in this world, even that which happens to innocent children, to babies.

I can hear you now, saying something like this, "But look at God's plan for her, he brought her into your family."

Yes, God did. He is working in her life even now. This is part of his sovereignty. I can accept this easily, but what about the millions of other children--those who are without parents right now, those who are being abused, those who are hungry, those who scavenge trash to find something to eat, those who have to protect their even younger siblings, those who are alone, those who are scared, those who are without hope? How is God still sovereign? How can God still reign when innocence is lost, when the innocent are wounded, when babies cry out in hunger or fear or pain?

I don't know the answers, but I know it to be true. God is still sovereign. God still reigns. He still holds the whole world and every single, precious, broken child in the palm of his hand.

But I can't end there. I can't just accept that God is sovereign and feel comforted and walk away. Because God in his sovereignty called me to be his hands and feet, he calls me to respond to this deep and desperate need, he calls me to love, to grieve, to pray, to act. If I believe that God is sovereign, I also believe that his rule over my life is complete and when he calls me to protect the fatherless and love the widow, he means it. It's part of his plan.

He means it for you, too.

That's what I've come to. I'm sure it's not a total answer and there are theologians who can do this much  better than me, but God has planned that his love, his message, his care and concern is extended to those who need it through my hands, your hands, our hands.

Because if I believe that I belong to Jesus Christ, if I believe that he watches me, defends me, loves me, I also need to respond:

The catechism finishes, "Because I belong to him, Christ...makes me wholeheartedly ready and willing and ready from now on to live for him."

I'm ready to act. I'm ready to live for Him. Are you?

[How will you live for him? How will answer the call to be part of God's sovereign plan? Adoption isn't the answer for everyone--but everyone is called to defend, to love, to care. You could sponsor a child through Compassion International or you could sponsor an orphan program through Lifesong for Orphans or you could sponsor an orphanage that seeks to be the hands and feet of Christ to those precious ones that have been abandoned. Beautiful Gate in Lesotho is where Mali lived and was loved. It will always have a special place in our heart.]

1 comment:

Kim Helm said...

I believe that every Christian has this struggle in their walk of faith at one time or another. We ask those hard questions when life is not fair. When a child is abused, aborted, gets cancer or dies too young. We have to wrestle with the sovereignty of a loving God that allows such things to occur. However, after the struggle and questioning comes the realization that none of these unfair, difficult things of life were ever in God's original plan for any of us!! We messed up His plan for a perfect world in union with Him. Now we are left here to be His light and shine His love and truth to these tragic situations until we meet Him in glory, where there will never be this kind of painful experience or questions!
I love your heart and your transparency! My belief is that if you haven't struggled with these hard questions yet, you have been spared tragedies or you haven't been exposed to the "real" world.
We can trust God even when we don't understand His
ways. Soon enough, we will have perfect understanding and vision of His master plan.
You and Eric have been faithful to follow God's calling. Others will do the same and we need to pray for every orphan to have a family like yours to love them and show them who God is.
Just my random thoughts.....