Embracing My Adoption
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. (1 John 3:1)
Consider this: The Father has given us his love. He loves us so much that we are actually called God's dear children. And that's what we are. For this reason the world doesn't recognize us, and it didn't recognize him either. (GW)
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. (John 1:12 NRSV)
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. (Romans 8:14-16)
I found it quite interesting that these verses were all lined up in this morning's reading in the devotional book I am currently using. It is one of those times again when God arranges conversations and circumstances to line up so that a certain theme is reinforced to get my attention. When that happens I try to listen more intently to discern what it is that I need to be embracing, especially at the heart level.
Last night I attended a men's group that I helped to start quite a number of years ago when I lived here in Michigan at that time. I always enjoy returning to participate in this group whenever I am back in the area because it is pretty much the only group that I have attended where it feels relatively safe to open up and express things with other men at the heart level. That was the purpose of starting this group originally and I am thrilled that it still continues to this day and ministers to a good number of men who choose to come and be changed in its atmosphere.
Last night the main topic of discussion was the question, “Who are you?” We looked at this idea from a number of different angles: the issue of our perception of our identity and value, who we allow to define what we think about ourselves and the concept of being a child of God, a child of the King. The facilitator went around the circle and asked each person to respond to this question and prodded them to keep on focus, to try to express what their heart felt about this issue of identity. He also tried to nudge us toward saying that we were a child of God.
I guess it is in my nature to resist embracing typical answers to questions. That is because most of my life I have been pressured by the religious culture around me to adopt their clichés and in the process they lose most of their intended meaning while many of them are in doubt to begin with. Over the years I have forced myself to challenge many of these pat answers in my pursuit of discovering the real truth, both about God and about myself and religion. That has put me at odds with most around me but it has also brought me a great deal of peace along the way because I am learning to know God more directly instead of simply accepting the forms of religion or being able to spout off the 'right' answers.
As we neared the end of the meeting the question was again directed back to me because the moderator was feeling uneasy with my former response, that I was still seeking to discover my true identity. As he expressed this concern my own internal resistance began to stir against the pressure to simply repeat what others were saying about being a child of the King. Particularly in this setting I wanted to be sure to be as accurate as possible, as true to what was really in my heart to convey that without feeling pressured to conform to peer pressure or religious expectations. That is the whole purpose of this group, at least as I understand its intentions, so why should I allow one person's pressure to elicit a 'correct' answer from me to deter me from being as honest as possible about what I felt inside.
I pondered his query for a few moments to try to ascertain what I really felt inside and finally responded that I believed that I was a child of God to the extent that I currently had capacity to do so. This statement had been part of a discussion with another member of the group who was really tuning in to what I was trying to express and was helping me sort through my feelings and desires. It might be nice to say that I am a child of God in a religious setting, but I personally feel it is far more beneficial to be honest about where I am at currently while still seeking to move in the direction of aligning my heart with the realities that God has laid out in the texts listed above.
So this whole issue of my identity, my relationship to God is fresh in my mind as I sit here this morning and open up the devotional book and suddenly am confronted with these verses. Evidently God is wanting to keep this thread going for me, and I am glad He is. I deeply desire to have much more assurance, more peace, more confidence in the reality of what Jesus has done to ensure my identity in His family. I choose right now to embrace and stretch my capacity to believe with my heart this reality as I read these passages and others like them. I can feel God's Spirit moving inside of me when I read these verses, moving to increase my very limited capacity to feel like a child of God, to deepen the growing roots of belief that He is cultivating inside of me.
When I first read these verses it did not click with me how closely tied they are to the chapter I am currently immersed in studying over the past few months. But as I pondered these truths and dialogued with God about their meaning for me personally, it began to sink in that this is tied very closely with the theme of who our real father is that runs through John 8 where I have been meditating recently.