Our church just began a series of sermons today on the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. The focus was on the church in Ephesus and "returning to our first love"... in particular, how we spend so much time trying to look like "good Christians" that we neglect our relationship with the One it is all about. One of the "responses" that our Pastor encouraged us to pursue was to take some time in the next 24 hours to reflect on when our faith first came alive and write about it.
As I was thinking through this exercise, I had some trouble identifying a specific time period or age when this occurred for me. Being brought up in a Christian home and identifying myself as a Christian for my entire life has put me in the position (sometimes awkward in church circles) of not having a "conversion date" (or "spiritual birthday" as those who trumpet their own like to call it). My relationship with Christ has all been a journey and not always linear.
I did find, however, that even though I couldn't point to a conversion experience, I could clearly recall moments where grace sneaked into my life and invaded my space...changing forever the way I viewed God, myself and the world around me and marking that instant of time as life altering kairos.
I experienced one of these moments in November of 1997.
The months, even years, leading up to this particular winter were some of the most difficult of my life and definitely the most difficult in our marriage. We had been dealing with everything from secondary infertility to finishing a master's degree, raising the most precocious toddler on earth and watching our marriage fall apart. Both wounded, angry and tired, we had committed to being obedient...despite how we "felt"...and staying in and working on our marriage. During the worst months of our marriage and the first couple months of our decision to love each other "no matter what", we had put our plans for expanding our family on hold... no fertility treatments, no talks about adoption... not right now.
On November 10th, I received a call from an adoption facilitator, Sarah, who we had met through a crisis pregnancy center. She informed me that she was in contact with several birth moms who were looking specifically for Christian families for their babies. Sarah liked to give the birth moms information on several families so that they could make the best decision about placing their children. At this particular time, she felt she didn't have enough families that fit these requests to give the girls real options. In addition, one had already given birth and a couple others were due any day. Time was of the essence. She asked me if Larry and I would consider submitting a "birth mother" letter for her to offer along with the few other families she currently had on file.
Larry and I were overwhelmed with every emotion imaginable...excitement, fear, apprehension. We knew we were not even out of the pit our marriage had fallen into...would this even be wise? We prayed about it together that night and talked to our parents and some trusted people at church. Then, believing that God had His hand on this and had confirmed it, we wrote the letter and on the 12th I drove it up to Sarah's office.
On Friday, the 14th, I received a page from Sarah (the days of the ever present cell phone had not yet arrived). I returned her call and she reminded me to make copies of the letter so that she could present them to the birth mothers. I assured her that I would get them done and deliver them later that day. Not half an hour later, my phone rang. I answered and Sarah said, "You know, Melissa, don't bother making copies of that letter." My immediate panicked thought was, "What could she have found out about us?" She followed up immediately with, "I read your letter to a birth mom over the phone and she picked your family! The baby is five months old already and you can meet him on Sunday." WHAT??????!!!!!!!!
I'm sure I don't need to go into the details of our crazy weekend. I can share that another time. Suffice it to say that we met Desiree and our sweet Isaac on Sunday, November 16th and Monday, November 17th he was in our home. A true miracle.
With no time to prepare, we ended up setting up a Pack 'n Play in our bedroom next to our bed for him to sleep in. He slept through the first night but the second night he woke up whimpering. I leaned over, still in compete amazement over this gift with which God had astonished us. I gently lifted him into bed and placed him between me and Larry. He continued to whimper and reached about with his little hand until he found my face in the dark. He placed his little palm on my cheek and immediately stopped crying... falling asleep with his hand still on my face. Tears streamed down my face and soaked my pillow and his little hand. Larry whispered, "Are you okay?" All I could say was, "I don't deserve this."
THAT is grace. God had given us a gift in Isaac. He had shown us that He believed in our family...that He would sustain our marriage. Grace had invaded my space.
These are the moments I need to remember... what God has done for me, the chief of sinners. I need to keep that wonder... return to that wonder...the wonder of His grace.