Before my oldest son came into my life, I fell in love with him from his picture on my fiancé’s bookshelf. I was stationed in Sicily with Alan’s mom, which is where we met, dated, fell in love, got engaged and married. It was a whirlwind romance that has lasted 28-years. One of the most amazing parts of it has been how much joy I have found in raising this son that I fell in love with from 6200-miles away. My experience with Alan has been a divine appointment.
God taught me about His adopting me, sharing a few lessons applicable to my adopting Alan. Not even a year old, Alan couldn’t have known that I would take him into my family. This has a doubly-deep impact on me because I was an agnostic at the time, and could not have known God planned to adopt me, too. Looking back, I thank God that He knew me before I was even born, and accepted me unconditionally.
Ephesians 1:4-5 (NLT)
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
At the time, I didn’t know God, but He knew me. He wanted me, even though I was rebellious and prideful, quick-tempered and a bit reckless. Now I see through God’s Word that I gave Him great pleasure. Now I see my oldest son, hard-headed, quick-tempered and a bit reckless, but Alan has given me great fulfillment. Whatever I was, I was already accepted, flaws and all. I only knew Alan from a picture the day I married his mother. There was no turning back, so whatever flaws the baby in the photograph may have, I had to accept them even before I knew them.
Perhaps the biggest challenge my wife and I faced with raising our oldest son was dealing with his struggle against the natural flaws of his flesh. Diagnosed with ADD and ADHD, Alan’s recurring struggles with his attention and hyperactivity put him in difficult situations. Still, much to our amazement, our son triumphed over those obstacles again and again. As an elementary school student, his running off campus and assaulting an administrator challenged efforts for a solution. His visits to the principal’s office in high school were tough to go through, but we could only give him freedom to grow into a solution for his natural challenges. The Apostle Paul writes,
Galatians 5:16-18 (NIV)
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
Alan’s mother brought him to church, and quite deliberately put him in the pathway of coming to know God. She also encouraged me to get my agnostic self into church and into the pathway of coming to know God. Alan was a better student than I, and was saved and baptized before I was whole-heartedly committed to my Christian life. He and I have both battled our sinful natures, but I have been so grateful to watch my son lean on God and overcome.
Alan’s walk has taught me much. At some point, you have to accept and admit you have sinned, and you must turn away from it and receive God’s forgiveness. His acceptance of his natural tendencies and his willingness to eventually confess and repent blazed a trail for me, as a dad, following the example of my son.
Despite his struggles, his heart to overcome, and his heart to love amaze me every day. At great risk to himself, he keeps tools and auto fluids in his car, and quietly and humbly ministers to strangers who break down on the road-side. Alan was recently recognized by the University of South Carolina Chief of Police for saving the life of a suicidal student. Watching Alan’s process taught me, just like Peter’s instruction of stubborn Jews in the Temple.
Acts 3:19 (NIV)
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,”
The overcoming, and the successes that Alan has accumulated over 29-years have been a testimony to God’s hand in Alan’s life. He graduated high school with honors, served 5 honorable years in the US Air Force, was an elite Honor Graduate in Basic Training, and many other outstanding accomplishments. Every day we get letters from school, and from political figures praising Alan’s scholarship.
It is my prayer that God sees me, his adopted son, as I see my adopted son Alan. Long ago we stopped being “adopted”, and just became beloved sons. Just like Alan was chosen, so was I. We share so much. Accomplishments aside, I am so blessed to have the amazing heart, who happens to be my son, enriching my life every day and calling me “dad”. I hope to be such a heart for my Father.
Wednesday, my son turns 29. He graduates college next spring. His future is so amazingly bright. I cannot thank God enough for putting Alan in my pathway 29-years ago. I wish him a happy birthday. I’m at a loss to describe how rich I am to get to call him son.
Psalm 149:4 (NIV)
“For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.”