As hard as it is to believe, it has been FOUR years since we first met our kids. And every year on March 27, we make a family trek to Cracker Barrel restaurant (or, “Old Country Store”) to celebrate our togetherness on “Gotcha Day.” This year something extra special happened on our special day, and that is the fact that our day coincided with Easter - Resurrection Sunday. Now, before I continue let me stop right here and say that I don’t mean to say that Gotcha Day in any way overshadows what we celebrate on Easter, but if you will indulge me, I want to share about the connection between these two celebrations for me, and hopefully also for my kids.
John typically reads to the boys at night while I read to “double Z” as we have been referring to her lately. Lizzie requires a lot of attention at bedtime, in order to prevent an all-night makeup party with Barbies, a total redecorating of her room, or perhaps something far more menacing (we never know what she will come up with.) So after I say goodnight to the boys and spend a few minutes with them, I spend a long time trying to get Double Z to finally fall asleep. But since it was Holy Week, I found an old illustrated Children’s Bible Story book by Frances Henderson and Shari Lewis and decided to embark on task of nightly reading the stories of Jesus’ last week on earth.
Camden and Cole were full of questions, some very good and others completely ridiculous. They erupted into giggles when Judas “kissed” Jesus on the cheek to identify him to the authorities, and grew angry when Peter pretended not to know Jesus, Cole shouting angrily, “He’s a lying meanie head!” On Thursday, Lizzie scrambled from her bed to join us for the dramatic reading of the crucifixion, mentioning “they put NEEDLES in his hands!” several times, growing more animated each time she mentioned it, pounding into her own palm with the opposite fist.
It is, of course, a story that is dramatic in every way. That last week of Christ’s life was filled with cheering, jeering, celebration, abandonment, rejection, love, despair, gore, and everything a good story should include. The boys looked forward to our readings, and the illustrations. Cole pointed out that one of the Roman soldiers was on the small size and that Jesus ought to be able to “kick his butt.” Seeing the stories through my sons’ eyes was wonderful, remembering as a child myself that I didn’t understand why God didn’t bring the hammer down on those accusers and Pharisees. I tried my best to explain to the boys that Jesus chose to die for us, and that it was part of God’s plan, in order that we might live under a New Covenant and be able to experience Heaven. I may have spent a little more time on the crucifixion story, trying to really pound out the point that we ought not behave like heathens. But then Sunday morning during the children’s sermon in worship, I was pleased when my kids answered all the questions really well, and I knew they had been paying close attention to all the details.
So, back to the Gotcha Day part of this story- and how it relates to Easter. Friday night as we were talking about the disciples who loved Jesus, and how heartbroken they were when Jesus died, I was struck with an odd memory from four years before. The memory that struck me was the memory of that time between our approval to adopt and the placement of my children - that long period of waiting in between. While in reality, the time between our final approval and the kids’ arrival was actually just a matter of months, it seemed like the longest wait of my life. I thought about how, in a different time, and in a different way, Jesus’ disciples and closest friends (and mother!) spent three long, anxious days of agony. Those days must have stretched out and felt like weeks and months. After the horror of seeing Jesus arrested and crucified, I imagine those closest to Jesus lie awake at night, reliving the terror, and longing for the ache to end.
When I was “waiting” for my kids, I spent hours obsessively searching adoption photo listings online, reaching out to caseworkers from other cities and states, hoping God had not forgotten the longing of my heart and the deep, deep raw ache that followed me around for those months. It seemed like the longest season of my life. And then that day - that glorious day - March 27, 2012, as I was living in the season of waiting, and I was working, functioning, and staying busy, that phone call came . . . and everything changed.
No, the disciples didn’t get a phone call about Jesus’ resurrection. It was word of mouth in those days. It was good old-fashioned awestruck running and finding each other, breathless shouting, “Jesus is alive! He’s no longer in the grave!” Can’t you hear them? Words tumbling out, overflowing with emotion, choking back the sobs of relief and joy, the followers of Christ gathering in clusters and repeating the good news over and over. It’s not quite the same- but that first day our family and closest friends spread the news for us, “The wait is over! John and Melissa found their kids!” and what followed was a scramble and flurry of excitement as our closest friends gathered in our home and brought baby gifts, food, yes, even a dishwasher! All the while, we raced to the Cracker Barrel in Cartersville, Georgia, to receive our kids. Even that drive was the longest of my life! I felt like every traffic light turned red as we rushed headlong to pick up our babies! one of my favorite moments from our first night together was my stepchildren anxiously waiting for their new siblings at home. When we finally came in the front door of the house, Georgia (then, 16 years old) was standing at the top of the steps jumping up and down with excitement, hands outstretched to receive Lizzie, and crying tears of joy with me.
I can say it over and over again to infertile couples and hopeful adoptive moms and dads and it never loses its meaning: The kids are worth the wait! As I told them yesterday on our Easter/Gotcha Day, I would do it all over again to find you! You fill my heart to overflowing! You were worth the wait and all the loneliness! Just like Jesus’ Resurrection was worth the suffering and the wait. New Life is a beautiful, glorious, sacred thing. Never lose hope that it will all be worth it in the end!
Hebrews 12:2Good News Translation (GNT)
2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God's throne.