Adoption and Orphan Care

I Missed My Son’s Birthday

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Today is my oldest son Ben’s twelfth birthday. Here is a meditation I wrote on the day he turned five.

Five years ago today my oldest son, Benjamin, was born. Five years ago on June 19th my middle son, Timothy, was born. I missed both days. I didn’t send out any “It’s a Boy” notices. I didn’t deliver flowers to my wife. I don’t even know what I was doing on those days in May and June of 2001, except probably writing away on my dissertation. It’s not that I was a deadbeat dad five years ago. I just wasn’t a dad. I missed my sons’ births because I didn’t know they were born.

As a matter of fact, five years ago today a baby was born but his name wasn’t Benjamin. It was Maxim. Five years ago a few weeks from now, another baby was born but his name wasn’t Timothy. It was Sergei. The two of them languished in a Russian orphanage for over a year until the Lord directed our steps to their nursery door and on to the Russian courthouse where we adopted them, and changed their names.

This morning Benjamin came bounding down the stairs, jumping up and down with excitement that he is now five. He and Timothy couldn’t go to sleep easily last night. We could hear them chattering upstairs in their bunkbeds about a birthday cake, presents, Steak and Shake, and Chuck E. Cheese. But all I could think about was that first birthday, the one I missed. I don’t know what Benjamin and Timothy looked like when they were born. I don’t know whether anyone held them, or whether they were just washed and placed in a filthy crib. I don’t know what their newborn cries sounded like.

But I do know that five years ago I was feeling sorry for myself. After years of infertility and miscarriages, it was only my faith, not my sight, that told me that God was for me and not against me. I probably prayed that day for the gift of children, maybe while I was ordering coffee and writing another rough draft of a dissertation chapter. Little did I know that my prayers were being answered, despite my lack of trust in my Father.

I have written and preached elsewhere about what becoming father to Benjamin and Timothy taught me about the doctrine of adoption. But, on these fifth birthdays, I’m also keenly aware of what the Scripture tells us about the relationship between adoption and suffering. Even as Paul instructs the Roman congregation that they have inherited the spirit of adoption, he reminds them that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18).

Five years ago I didn’t know that the greatest joys of my life were already here, and yet not quite here. I didn’t know that the Lord was using the suffering of an empty cradle to teach me what it means to love two sons more than I ever would have known possible. Perhaps I need to be reminded of that when I allow the worries of the present age to overshadow the glory that is to come. Perhaps I need to be reminded that while I bemoaned my situation five years ago, my children were waiting all the while. And, right now, as I consider the worries of the present age, there’s an empty tomb in Jerusalem, the first installment of the glorious kingdom of Christ.

I love Benjamin Jacob Moore and I love Timothy Russell Moore. I don’t love them any more than I love Samuel Kenneth Moore (who some might clinically call a “biological” child). But in my love for these two, I sense something more of the Father’s love for me. They once were lost, but now they’re found.

Tonight you won’t find me in my library or behind a pulpit. You can find me at Steak and Shake, and at Chuck E. Cheese. You can find me watching one thrilled little boy open up his presents (Don’t tell him but it’s a bow and arrow set), while another little boy wonders aloud how many more days until he opens his. And if you notice that plastic birthday hat on my head, just know: that’s my theologian’s cap. It has taught me more about my God than the tasseled, formal hat on my shelf ever has.

Happy birthday Benjamin and Timothy. I missed the first one. But I’ll never miss another.

Only when we see how lost we are, we can find our way again. Only when we bury what’s dead can we experience life again. Only when we lose our religion can we be amazed by grace again.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Editor in Chief of Christianity Today and is the author of the forthcoming book Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America (Penguin Random House).