Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Escaping the Sins of the Fathers

“The Lord passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.'” (Exodus 34:6-7, emphasis mine)

Have you heard this passage before? Or maybe just that last part–about the iniquity of the fathers?

Ouch.

How many times have we witnessed this truth, though? Children suffer, and we see the consequences of their parents’ sin, the consequences of their parents’ wrong actons playing out in the lives of the most vulnerable. A child chooses to follow his father’s footsteps toward a life of crime and ends up in prison. A child mimics the abusive behavior he sees between his father and mother and is expelled from school. A child whose father was more interested in beatings than bed-time stories chooses to abuse his own children. It’s easy to see how parents’ bad actions can influence their children. And that’s without mentioning the consequences these children may face at no fault of their own: being behind in school, failing to achieve career or relationship success, inescapable poverty, dependency issues. The list of serious negative sin-consequences is, sadly, inexhaustable.

And if we believe that all people are born with a sinful nature, that our very hearts bend us toward evil (Matthew 15:19), then how can we possibly escape the double whammy of our own sin and the sins passed down from our parents, even if we have been blessed with “good” homes and generally positive role models?

How can our children have any hope of peace beyond the consequences sure to be visited upon them for our sins, not to mention the sins of our parents, and even of our grandparents?

Is there any way to break this cycle?

I’ve been thinking about these questions, and I believe the answers lie in an understanding of adoption. Specifically, of adoption laws in Roman times.

John Wesley Valnes writes that “in [Roman] adoption, a person had to pass . . . out of the possession and control of one father into the equally absolute control and possession of another father.”

Adoption in Roman times was a serious matter, with four major consequences:

  1. An adoptee lost all rights in his original family, but gained all the rights of his new family. He received a new name and a new family.
  2. An adoptee became heir to his new father’s estate–even if that father previously or later had biological children.
  3. An adoptee’s old life was completely wiped out. He was regarded as a new person entering a new life, and the past had nothing to do with his present or future. This included the removal of any debts or obligations connected with the adoptee’s previous family. 
  4. In the eyes of the law, an adoptee was seen as the absolute child of the new father.

 

So why is Roman adoption so important?

Because this explains how Paul, a Roman citizen, would have understood the term “adoption” when he wrote his letter to the Romans:

Romans 8:16“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness that we are children of God.” (Romans 8: 14-16, emphasis mine)

If the sins of the fathers are visited on the children . . .

And if God is our Father by adoption . . .

Then I submit that there can be no sins of the father visited upon us.

What freedom. What joy. And what hope for us in this life.

Praise God, who made a way for us to find freedom from our debts, and freedom from the debts of our families. Praise God, who loved us enough to make a place for us in his family, to include us as his heirs.

Have you been adopted into God’s family? If so, how has your life been changed?

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Moses Looked to the Reward

The time of Moses’ birth was a difficult period for the Jewish people. They were enslaved in Egypt, and Pharaoh, afraid that the Hebrews were becoming too populous, decreed that all male Jewish infants should be killed at birth. The story of how Moses ended up adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter is one we tell the youngest children in Sunday school. It’s a lovely story: The baby that should have been killed is discovered floating in a basket and catches the eye of the Pharaoh’s daughter. He is raised in the palace and his own mother is brought in to be his nurse. He grows up with an understanding of his culture and heritage, but he also grows up in a king’s family.

Moses’ rescue of his people from slavery is another popular Sunday school story. It sounds exciting, even thrilling. Moses is called to save his people and to bring them to the land God had promised hundreds of years earlier to their ancestors.

And so the difficulty starts. First of all, Moses doesn’t want the job. His first response when God speaks to him from a burning bush is to make a series of excuses, ultimately ending in Exodus 4:13 by saying, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”

This part really hits home for me as we’re dealing with infertility. I don’t want to be infertile. I want a normal family-building trajectory. I want to have a baby whose first birthday we should have recently celebrated. But, whether I will ultimately be a mother or not, I cannot deny that I have been called to go through infertility at this time.

It also hits me because I’ve been considering what I should do with myself lately. Part of me feels like pursuing anything other than motherhood would indicate that I am giving up on that dream. That wrestling match is a subject for another post. And lately, I have been feeling like I need to look into adoption more seriously. I don’t know that we are called to adopt, but I do know that right now it’s not what I want to be called to do. I’ve mentioned some of my reservations about adopting before. And if we end up going that route it will only be because the Lord has done a mighty work to change my heart on the issue. Nonetheless, I have been feeling compelled to look into it.

So I feel like I can really relate to Moses here. He gets a calling he doesn’t want. That is the beginning of his hardship.

From that despised calling, we see Moses suffer even more. He had difficulty with the Israelites from day one. It makes no difference that God shows them again and again that he is faithful. It makes no difference that they walked across the Red Sea on dry ground. It makes no difference that God’s very presence accompanies them day and night. The Israelites like to whine.

Moses is called to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land. And because of their—shall we say misbehavior?—their journey is extended by 40 years. He had to be feeling so close! But no, not finished yet.

Moses is called to show the Israelites how to be God’s people. I can’t blame him for not relishing that task!

And ultimately, because of Moses’ own pride or lack of trust, he does not get to join the people in the Promised Land when they finally get there. He dies on a mountain top instead.

At one point, when the Israelites are whining for Moses to give them meat to eat, see Moses’ response to God:

Where am I going to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness” (Numbers 11:13-15).

These are the words of a distressed and desperate man.

His calling wasn’t all bad, of course. Throughout his life, Moses spoke with God. He met with the Lord all. the. time. He delivered the law to the people. He is credited with putting the oral history of the Jewish people into writing. And he was permitted to see God. What glory! What wondrous grace!  

And where would we be without Moses? He is remembered as a man of great faith. His mention in Hebrews 11, often referred to as the “Hall of Faith,” encompasses seven full verses, including,

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11: 24-26).

And so I am reminded of a few things:

  1. I don’t know the full story God has planned.
  2. I should trust God with my life, even if he is calling me to something other than motherhood.
  3. I should be looking to the reward.
  4. The road isn’t always easy.

This is episode 2 of my “They Were Called” series. To see episode 1, about David and his calling, click here. For the introduction to the series, click here. For episode 3, about how Hannah had to wait to fulfill her calling, click here.


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Thoughts of Adopting

I’m back. We did our two weeks in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. We did some really fun things and saw some beautiful things. And I’m so glad to be back and able to sleep in my own bed.

For some reason the trip brought up thoughts of adoption. I don’t know if it’s because Angelina Jolie’s first child, Maddox, was adopted from Cambodia (I didn’t know that until we were there), or because the children we saw were so adorable, or something else. DH and I had always talked about adoption, you know, before we found out we couldn’t procreate naturally, in the naive, after we’re done having pregnancies, maybe we’ll adopt some more kids kind of way. And I looked into it briefly when we first found out we were dealing with infertility. But when I really think about adopting, I find it frightens me. What if our kids never feel like they’re ours? Does adoption mean I’ll always feel infertile?

We had the opportunity a while ago to see Mark Schultz in concert in our neighborhood. I enjoy his music and we stood in the rain to watch him play. It was great, until he started talking about his life. He was adopted. And he clearly loves his adoptive parents. But he was talking about how he had always wanted to meet a blood relative. He always wanted to meet someone who was physically related to him. And then he and his wife had their first child. And when that child smiled for the first time, it was his smile. And he was so excited because he had finally met a blood relative.

It’s supposed to be a happy story. And I think I may have been able to share his joy a little better if I heard it today, or last week. But I was very weak then. We were in so much pain and it was all right there on the surface. Just the mention of a baby would make me feel sad and small and not whole. That feeling isn’t totally gone, of course. It still resurfaces from time to time. But I’m a little less sensitive to it today than I was a few months ago.

All I could think of when he was telling this story was that if we adopted we would always be infertile. And that our children would always feel like they missed out on something.

Of course, the case for adopting isn’t helped when you look at the uncertainty and the expense compared with doing IVF. And I still don’t really feel like adoption is a way to replace having children naturally or even through ART. I think some people are called to adopt. And some people have a heart for orphans and will adopt and thereby add to their families. And I think it’s wonderful to adopt a child. A truly wonderful calling. But I wouldn’t want that to be a second-choice plan–I wouldn’t want my children to feel like they were a second-choice plan.

Our hearts could change tomorrow; we could find one day that adopting is the right step for us, the first choice. And maybe a seed has been planted for adoption in our hearts, though it has not yet matured. Right now, choosing adoption would be some kind of compromise. It wouldn’t be right for the child or for us. And I know that.

But I looked at the children around us on our trip and started to wonder . . .