I have a friend who is working through the incredibly glorious and painful process of caring for a newly adopted daughter.
On the good days, she would tell you about the unspeakable joy that comes when the barriers of blood and DNA dissolve in the baptism of true family that comes through love. On the hard days, she has to endure the incredibly violating pain of watching this little human look at her and reject her love as insufficient because of that DNA. The oceans this mom has crossed, the scars she bears that declare her love and evidence her intention – all are dismissed as inadequate.
In the worst moments, hurtful words have been flung into the space between them: “You’re not my real mom!”. And no matter how much my friend can understand and empathize with the fear and wounds that would prompt this sweet girl to lash out, it doesn’t void the pain.
I can’t imagine what it feels like to watch someone you love with all of your time, energy, emotion, resources reject you. It seems so desperately tragic to me: that this child would exchange someone who loves her so radically for someone who is utterly lacking the resource or intention to meet her needs. Why? Simply because that other person happens to share a physical connection.
It is utterly illogical.
That’s how I pass most of my time: exchanging Someone who loves me so radically for people or things who are utterly lacking the resource or intention to meet my needs. Why? Because I can reach out my hands and touch them.
I’m not alone in making this insane exchange. Israel did it back in the day when they demanded a King. No matter how many times God said: um. Hey. Sitting right here. King of Kings and Lord of Lords, they insisted: We want a REAL King. One we can touch and see.
I watch it unfold every Valentine’s Day on my Facebook feed. Men and women feeling frustrated with singleness and refusing to be comforted by their knowledge that God wants to partner with them in this life. They don’t want Him. They want a REAL partner. One who can hold them at night.
I hear it in the halls of my church where the walls echo with cries for a community that will destroy loneliness. I want to offer up the thought that in Christ we have everything we need for life and godliness, but it sounds too cliche and simple. And before I can censor it, the thought is there: They don’t want God, Fabs. They want REAL friends.
I feel it every Father’s Day, as I watch those around me celebrate their dads, and I hear the still small voice reminding me that God is a father to the fatherless, but I feel in my heart this childish sigh: I don’t want God to be my father. I want to have my REAL father.
We hear of Christ’s deep sufficiency to fill every role for us: friend, father, spouse – but we feel the cry rise up in our throats: “you’re not my real…”
Sure, Jesus is great and all, but He’s not the same as a flesh and blood father. He’s not the same as a flesh and blood friend. He’s not the same as a flesh and blood spouse.
It’s true. He’s not the same. He’s better.
After all, what is ‘real’? What is a ‘real’ mom? Is it a mom who shares your DNA, who carried you for 9 months, or a mom whose knees are bruised from praying for you, whose eyes are wet from weeping at your pain and arms weary from picking you up?
Real. It means genuine. Not counterfeit. Not artificial. Not imitation.
And you know what that means? God is the ONLY real Father. Every other parent is a reflection, an image bearer – not the image Himself. God is the ONLY real husband. Every other husband – on his BEST day – is just a shadow and an imitator. God is the ONLY real King; the ONLY real friend. Every glimpse you have of a ‘good’ friend, a ‘good’ ruler – is only good because it smells like Him.
Want more today than flesh and blood. Don’t settle for anything less than the real thing.