I’ve just finished watching the new movie, “Annie,” with the boys. It is a remake of the old version. And, it isn’t nearly as good. Who could possibly out-perform Carol Burnett as Ms. Hannigan?
But, as we were watching, even the bad acting and the cheesy music moved me. And, I realized that this movie has a very common theme with Les Miserables. A father figure – one who has no biological children of his own – comes to love dearly a child from another. It is a profound, and a resonant, story.
What I love about both of these tales is that they defy – quite boldly – the common concept that the greatest love in the universe is that of a father or mother for their biological children. There is a reason that most of us think this way. It is the common story. And surely, it is the way that God created humanity to work. God placed man and woman in the garden with the intention that they should have children (explicitly stated in Genesis 1 and 2). And then, Malachi tells us millennia later that God’s primary design for marriage was that He desired “godly offspring.”
But, alas, that isn’t the whole story. Throughout the Bible we find a counter-thread. We see something that diverges from the normal. We see a theme of “adoption.” We read Hosea, and discover that God Himself longs to call those who are “not My people,” “My people.” He wants to say to those who are “not beloved” that they are “beloved.”
And then again in the New Testament, we read that God, the Father, sacrificed His own seed – His own “biological” heir – because He loved something else. In this manner God loved the world, that He gave His only biological heir, that we might be saved through Him. In the economy of God, He decided that it was somehow worth it to give not only “men for thy ransom,” but also His own – and only begotten –Son.
Yes, what Annie, and Les Miserables, and Hosea, and the Gospel of John remind me of is that somehow God decided that there is a love that not only countervails the love of a parent for their biological children, but also prevails over that love. It is the love that God has for us. And, it is the love that He expects us to exhibit, precisely to those who did not “come forth from our loins.” The message of Genesis is that “one shot forth from thy hip” shall inherit your possessions. But, the message of the new beginning in Christ is that God sacrificed the heir, that He may be the firstborn among many brethren.
I remember not too many years ago having a conversation with my neighbor across the street. He and his wife had been told that they could not conceive. She was practically barren. I remember saying to this neighbor something to the effect of, “The creation mandate is that we are to procreate. But, I don’t believe that is God’s design for all of us. The Bible tells two stories: One of Creation, the other of Redemption. What if your story is to be one not of creating a child, but of redeeming the broken story of one that you did not create?”
This is the situation in which I find myself now. And, I take great delight in it. I meet the frowning faces of some. I’ve had it said to me more than once, “Don’t you want your own children?” And, with this statement usually comes a dismissive gaze – or a glare –or an incredulous expression of “You can’t be serious about what you are doing.”
But, I want to say that I am quite serious. And, that I think that the life I am living is not subpar in any way to those who have their own children. I believe the Bible tells two stories: One of Creation, and the other of Redemption. I am very happy that for most people, God has decided that they are to be a living sacrament of Creation. But, I think that I am perhaps more happy that God has chosen that I should be one of Redemption.
I am a broken sacrament. I do not tell God’s story perfectly. Some days I’m mortified at how poorly I tell it. But, alas, that’s why we have the Gospel: To remind us that God didn’t just create the world. He – with His own arm – and in the crushing of His own Son – is bringing many sons to glory. In a very real sense, “I and my sons are for signs and for symbols.” We are far from the real thing. For that You’ll have to look to Scripture. We just testify to the real thing (albeit poorly) in every day life.
So – to those of you out there who can’t conceive, and to those who aren’t even married, and to those who don’t know if they are even supposed to beget children, I wish to challenge you with a thought: What if your life isn’t about Creation? What if it is about Redemption? What if you aren’t telling the first part of the story? What if you are telling the second part? Don’t let your life be consigned to Genesis. Try Hosea, and John. Don’t miss out on what God has for you, because you didn’t fit into the part of the Gospel you might have originally chosen. Let God choose for you. It need not be any less satisfying (and it might even be more satisfying) than the choice you would have made for yourself.