Week 9: The New Testament and Adoption
Day 1: The Benefits of Belonging – Romans 8:16-18
Have you ever felt like you just didn’t belong? When I first went to Russia, I had many of those moments. I would suddenly find myself in a room full of people having an animated conversation and all I could do was hope no one asked me anything. I was afraid I would do something wrong. Thoughts like these were constantly going through my mind: Don’t put your hand in your lap while you eat, Rachel. That’s the wrong etiquette here. Don’t shake hands through the doorway. Don’t shake hands with your gloves on. Don’t sit at the corner of the table (or it will be seven years until you get married – I think I must have violated that one a few times!). Don’t whistle in the building. (Ok, I just outright ignored that one.) Don’t overuse the “to be” verb. Learn the difference between perfective and imperfective verbs, and speak without articles. Laugh when you have no idea what is funny, but you know you’re supposed to laugh. Cry because you have no idea what that woman just yelled at you, and because your family is 8,000 miles away, and because you just don’t belong here.
But after a while, those moments became fewer and fewer until one day I realized, I was happiest among my Russian coworkers, children and friends. One day, I realized I’d had more Russian (and sometimes Runglish) conversations than I’d had English conversations, and it had been a happy day. One day, I realized that the people I spent the most time with, was eager to share with, planned and plotted with, were my Russian coworkers. I had found a place.
Then, life went a new direction. It took me back to the States (after ten years), to a town I had never lived in before and a new church. I had extended family nearby, but we had never lived close before, so even that was new. I remember going grocery shopping the first few weeks. I would come home exhausted and at the point of tears. I couldn’t understand why. Then one day it was suddenly easy, and I realized I had thought the whole thing out in Russian. Once again, I didn’t belong.
Then, I was off to Bible college. Thinking in English for most situations had become the norm by then, until one day mid-semester when I finally started to feel a little more at ease with my much-younger-than-me classmates. They were having a wonderful time and I suddenly wanted to join them. I remember laughing and opening my mouth to say something and then quickly shutting it. I had nearly said it in Russian. Russian had long ago become my language of friendship. I quickly switched gears and joined the banter in English, but I was more than a little homesick as I went home that night.
In 2008, I went back to Russia, just for a few weeks. I was home. It was wonderful. But it wasn’t to last. I thought God was taking me back to stay, but He wasn’t. I went back to the States, and realized I didn’t know where I belonged. I felt out of place in my hometown, it had been thirteen years since I had lived there consistently. I felt out of place at work. Few people could relate to living the first ten years of adulthood in a foreign country.
Through it all, there was one place I always belonged: On my bedroom floor, with a cup of tea and my open Bible and journal. Sitting at Jesus feet is always home.
Knowing that we belong means a great deal to the stability of our lives. Having proof that you belong somewhere can quickly calm a racing heart. In Romans 8, we find the first usage of the word adoption not just in the New Testament but in the whole Bible. Here, Paul has been talking about the fact that there is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” This should cause us to rejoice! No one can point a finger. No one can condemn the one in whom Christ lives.
What does all of this have to do with adoption? Consider for a moment the blessings of being someone’s child, of belonging.
Romans 8:16-18 says, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
What an amazing thought! I am God’s child. This means that I am His heir. It means I am a joint-heir with Jesus. Yes, there may be some suffering in this life, but we will be glorified with Him! And we already possess all that is in Him! If Paul could be excited about this, then surely we can. I mean, think of the things he suffered:
“…In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27) The list goes on, yet he could rejoice for the glory that was to come. We have so much in Christ as the children of God.
The blessings we experience in our lives with our own parents are intended to mirror the blessing that we have as we walk with God. Although no example is perfect, think of what the child who has no parents is missing in their understanding of the Father/Child relationship between God and us.
What if God had never made us His child. What if He had chosen, as so many of us do, to ignore the needs around Him? Where would we be?
Time after time, I have seen children sit at a window waiting for a relative to appear for just a few minutes, only to be disappointed. Sometimes the relative never came, other times they came and dared to ask the child for money to buy liquor, other times they came so intoxicated they could barely stand. 143,000,000 children in this world are waiting to belong. Will we give them the chance?
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Also Check out Rachel Miller’s Book: The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption