So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 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 with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:12-17 (ESV)
Dear Friends in Christ,
In the passage above from Romans 8 St. Paul is taking up an analogy that he also references his letters to the Galatians and to the Ephesians. No one, by nature, is deserving of a place in the family of the One True God. Rather, the forgiveness of sins and a place in that family, and the freedom to call upon the Creator of Heaven and Earth as “our Father,” is a gift of God. In Romans 8, as in Galatians 4 and Ephesians 1, we are reminded that in a spiritual sense we are all adopted by God.
The process of adopting our little boy, Brénainn, from Guatemala, has been a powerful and persistent reminder for me of this spiritual reality. As I have written previously, it is also a reminder that when I introduce the kids and say “these are my children” I am uttering a bit of a falsehood. The eternal truth is that they’re God’s children. They have been buried and raised with Christ in Holy Baptism. I am their father (small “f”). God is their Father. As with John the Baptist in relationship to Christ I must learn to say, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” There is a sense in which parenting reflects that simple equation: Godly parenting = magnifying Christ and decreasing self.
In a letter to my brother pastors in the circuit, I wrote:
Our family now rejoices that nearly complete is the two-year-long process of adopting our little boy, Brénainn Manuel O’Donnell, from Guatemala. This last Friday we received our formal invitation from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City to present ourselves with little Brénainn at 7:15am on Monday, August 25, 2008 so that his paperwork can be completed for entry into the U.S. Brénainn was born on May 28, 2007. He has been in foster care by a lovely family of five since he was one day old. For all of us, perhaps especially for Brénainn and his foster family, this will be an exceedingly difficult transition. If you would, please pray for all of us, that the difficulty of new life circumstances will be tempered by the grace of knowing that from the very beginning God has been at work to shower this little boy, born under less than ideal circumstances, with love and compassion. Our family is humbled to the core by the many and various ways by which the Lord has provided for us in this process, including the prayerful support of many brothers in the Ministry and their flocks. . . . On September 2nd I will celebrate my 39th birthday in Guatemala with my lovely wife, Carrie, and four children: Siobhan, Aidan, Failenn and Brénainn. I cannot remember a time in my life, honestly, when I have been more humbled . . . and thankful.
What I wrote there about my brother pastors is true for all my friends and family. Thanks for your patience in my absence, and my deepest thanks for your support.
Until some time in early September, then, I am
Yours in Christ--lao_+