April 11, 2012 by greenhouse04
Our church has a Sunrise Service every year – yes, at sunrise. This year we met at the church at 6:15, drove out to “the field,” and watched the sun rise as we sang songs. I gave the message this year, my testimony of what God has done in my life lately. Here it is.
Sunrise Service Testimony, 2012
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.
And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.
This is an amazing passage. Let me say it again in my own words.
Before the cross, Jesus pled with the Father to save him from death. He pled loudly, he wept, he had tears rolling down his face. He knew that horrible suffering lay on the path before him, and like any human, he dreaded and hated suffering.
But at the same time, he pled reverently – humbly, making his request known, then accepting the Father’s answer, whatever it was. And the Father did answer – by pointing to the path of suffering, to the cross.
And Jesus obeyed. He willingly suffered as the Father directed, and through that suffering learned obedience. He didn’t demand his rights, although he had the very rights of the God and Creator of the universe! He gave them up, and accepted the suffering that was part of the Father’s plan for him.
God’s plan for me has also included suffering. Nothing like what Jesus went through; but I, too, have pled with the Father many times in the past several years with tears and loud cries.
It all started nearly six years ago, when D—– and I returned from China and decided it was time to start a family. Soon, it became clear that our path to a family might be a long and difficult one. In 2007, I had major abdominal surgery to remove an infection that should have killed me, and in the process the infection nearly destroyed any chance that we might have biological children. I didn’t know that until just last summer, however, so we continued to try and pray. And plead.
Proverbs says “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” All my life my dream had been to be a mother. Not being able to have children made me feel like less of a woman, like a failure, or like one who had been failed by God. Hadn’t I prayed? Hadn’t I pled with tears? Didn’t I love God; wasn’t I serving Him; hadn’t I been faithful to Him? Why was He not answering my prayers like He did for Sarah, Hannah, Rachel, Rebecca, and Elizabeth? Why was He answering my prayers with silence, forcing me to continue walking this pathway of suffering?
Hopelessness and emptiness would often fill me, but God always reminded me of His love for me. Slowly, I learned that I don’t have the “right” to be a mother, that I was in fact trying to demand my own way. Do I truly believe that God’s plans for me are far, far better than my own? If so, how can I ever think He has failed me? He has already done so much for me – in fact, He placed His Son on the cross for me long before I was capable of knowing or caring about it. As His follower, can I not serve and love Him because of what He has already done, not in hopes He’ll let the future go my way?
Its easy enough to obey when your Father gives you an easy and pleasant path – true obedience is found when He asks you to walk a painful one. I suppose you could say that to a small degree, like Jesus I also learned obedience through my suffering. It was either that, or turning my back on my God entirely.
Then God led us to foster care. Our dream was to someday adopt, and we also figured that if God wasn’t giving us biological children, perhaps He wanted us to care for others. It was not an easy decision, and for awhile we simply did not have enough faith to make it. I remember telling Diane F—— exactly that one day. But God gave us the faith necessary – or perhaps the naïveté! And our fears for how difficult it might be were not unfounded.
Unless you enjoy living with uncertainty and emotional roller coasters, constant paperwork and meetings, and feeling like a full-time babysitter with little pay and no control, foster care is also a path of suffering. Everything involved in the months of paperwork and classes to get our license was difficult; our first foster kids were difficult; going from just us to us and two toddlers was more than difficult. But none of that could really be classified as suffering until you come to the year between Oct. 2010 to Nov. 2011.
In just one month’s time at the end of 2010 we received into our home two precious children, “Eddie” and “Emma” (names changed). Perhaps I was unwise, but soon after receiving Eddie in October I began to dream of someday adopting him. Maybe this would be my son! Then, in early November, a wonderful surprise came our way. I was holding a tiny, 3-day-old baby girl in my arms, and it truly did look like we might be able to adopt her!
However, my dreams for Eddie soon came shattering down. It became apparent that his Mama J—- loved him dearly, and I didn’t doubt that she would do all she could to bring him home. I went through a period of grieving when I realized that.
Now all my hopes were fixed on Emma. It became a waiting game – and the most difficult wait experience I’ve ever had. At times it felt like my child was gravely ill, and we were waiting to see if she would survive. I learned to live one day at a time, and enjoy the time I had. At first, all the news was good. The judge ruled early on that reintegration with her birth parents wasn’t a good option, so we applied to adopt her last summer, and began the wait until the parents’ termination hearing.
However, in early August the unthinkable happened. Right before the hearing at which the parents’ rights were supposed to be terminated, we were told that her birth dad was doing well, and that there wasn’t enough evidence to terminate his rights. In fact, they were increasing his visits with Emma to 2 full days a week, at his home, unsupervised.
So right around the time of the 125th celebration last summer, D—- and I were facing the very real possibility of losing little Emma. I have never felt so helpless and frightened before; in fact, words cannot describe the hopelessness that washed over me. I knew that if she returned to her birth dad, her life would not be easy, and that she would be lost to us. I loved her like a daughter – imagine giving your tiny daughter, who loves and trusts you, to a man whom you don’t trust, knowing you’ll never see her again. This is what we faced. I have never before felt such grief.
This was where the rubber of my faith met the road – was it real enough to carry me through? Was my Father in Heaven real? Was He really sovereign over my life and Emma’s? God didn’t give me a sign, other than never letting me doubt that He was there, that He did care, and that He did know best. I knew I had to say as Jesus did, “not my will, but Yours be done.” I had to leave her in God’s hands completely, knowing that I had no control over the path of her future. I had to try to see this from God’s perspective – that this horrible trial was meant to test my faith, more precious than gold, and that it would not compare to the joy that would be mine in the future with Christ. These things I did, and the Lord began to give me peace.
The morning of her first day-long visit at her birth dad’s will forever be seared into my memory. Eddie was gone on a visit that day as well, so we put Emma in the agency driver’s car and watched her drive away, returning to an empty house. I had made plans to research date ideas with D—- – something to distract my mind and refocus it on my husband. In my memory the day was dark and cloudy, with empty hours stretching ahead that I didn’t know how to fill.
I was at the computer and D—- was nearby, talking to me, when the phone rang. It was Emma’s case worker. I saw D—-’s face as he listened to her – I knew something had happened. Something had indeed happened. In God’s mercy, there had been a huge and unexpected turn in the case. Emma’s birth mom had signed over her rights, and had also revealed the truth about her birth dad. His behavior had been worse than we realized, although he had kept it hidden well. The case workers had immediately gotten Emma from his house, and would we come to ————- to pick her up?
We jumped in the car as fast as we could, and the whole way to town were praising God. I knew this was the turning point – that it would only be a matter of time now. God had protected Emma through her birth mom’s courage and truthfulness.
Sure enough, her birth dad’s visits dropped to the minimum of 1-hour a month, at the office, and they filed for a termination hearing as soon as possible. He actually never saw Emma again, as he never showed up for anything after that. And his hearing was an agonizing three months later, at the end of November, at which time, by God’s grace, he signed over his rights.
I grieve for both Emma and her birth parents. Their separation was caused by sin, and is not good or normal. But God can bring good even out of a horrible situation, and I know the Lord has protected Emma from the womb, and for this I am so thankful.
And the Lord had another wonderful surprise for us last fall. In September it became clear that Eddie wouldn’t be living with his Mama J—- anymore, and we joyously re-embraced our once-shattered dream of making him our son. It has taken us a while to wrap our heads around the fact that the adoptions of both children will be finalized in just two weeks on April 23rd, and that the family we pled for is almost complete.
I have received innumerable blessings because God said no to our plea for a baby – the biggest two are my children. But I’ve also experienced true suffering, received the very real comfort of my Savior, learned a little bit more what He went through on my behalf, watched my faith become a little more pure, and lots more. If I had not accepted that biological children are not God’s will for me (at least right now), and had not looked for, then obeyed, what His will was, however scary and difficult, I would not have received all these blessings.
I am so glad for my Savior’s example, and that because of his suffering on my behalf, my suffering doesn’t have to be needless or wasted. As it says in Hebrews, he was given a path of suffering that he didn’t want. But he walked it anyway, learning obedience through what he suffered. And that wasn’t the end of the Father’s will for him – he was saved from death – He was raised to life! And he now has the joy of being the author of eternal salvation for those who believe in Him, of my salvation. He has gained a huge family of adopted brothers and sisters.
May I always be a little more like my Savior – may I humbly accept the Father’s will for me; may I allow my suffering to teach me true obedience and make me more mature; may I die to my self’s wills and desires so that I may gain the life of Christ – a life overflowing with all the rich spiritual blessings that come from truly following God.