You might want to sit down for this one. I’ve got a week’s worth of purpose to find in this post.
2 : being exactly as purposed
3 a : in accordance with the law
This word and it’s many applications have been on my mind for quite some time. My parents divorced when I was five years old. I was born a legitimate child, but by definition, I was illegitimate from that point on. I still had a Dad and I still had a relationship with him, but the minute my parents stopped living together, I lost my filial rights.
How’s that for a word of the day. Just so you don’t have to open another tab and look up the meaning of filial (like I did), it’s an adjective meaning: of, pertaining to, or befitting a son or daughter.
Anyone who has grown up in a house with a single mom knows what I am referring to. When you ask your Mom for anything that she can’t provide, you can’t just walk across the room and ask your Dad. When your mom’s busy cooking dinner and your bike breaks or your ball needs air or you can’t find something, you either learn to take care of it yourself or you do without. You avoid confrontations in elementary school just because you don’t have the “wait till my Dad comes up here” card to throw down. At school, church or scouting events that include an invite for your dad, you either find a way to stay home, try to disappear at the event, or tag along with a friend and ‘borrow’ their dad. This latter option is probably the most torturous. No, it is indeed the most torturous. I know not just from my own experiences, but because I’ve discussed it with others and anyone who’s been there will tell you that it sucks. There is nothing quite as difficult as being the third wheel on a parent/child date. This is a great place to use my cool new word. The third wheel has no filial rights. The third wheel always waits for the dad to help out their own child before they get a turn with the ‘borrowed dad’.
For the last week, I’ve thought alot about my own illegitimacy. My Mom was always quick to tell me that God was really everybody’s father and that I should be dependent on Him. There was just one big flaw in that lecture. I had no clue what that looked like. The concept of a strong fatherly figure being there to care for me on a weekly, daily and hourly basis was foreign to me. I felt like a temporary guest in my Dad’s house and looking back I can see that I also felt like a temporary guest in my Father’s house. It was nice to visit, but I didn’t feel comfortable digging through the fridge and getting fed.
I can’t say that it happened at one specific moment. It was definitely a process. But in the last decade of my life I came to know what the picture of God as my father looks like. Being a parent has painted a pretty clear picture, but the process took more than just loving my own children. Just typing it makes me wince a little, but… I had to give up control. I also had to learn to be dependent.
1 John 3
What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God!
Father to the fatherless, defender of widows – this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
In the five weeks that Sofija has been a member of our family, I have watched her struggle with this same concept. She came into our family not knowing how to be dependent on anyone. I’ve mentioned before that she called anyone that she thought would give her what she wanted, “Mama”. I’m not gonna lie. It hurt. I cannot count how many times I’ve watched her run to complete strangers and grab onto them while calling them by the name that should have been reserved for me.
Every time my name slipped through her lips, aimed in someone else’s direction, I have thought of the 1st of the ten commandments. “You shall have no other gods before or besides me.” The persistent whisper of that one simple sentence brought with it conviction and consolation. God knows exactly what it feels like to desire dependency from your child. He knows what it’s like to listen to others being called by the name that should be reserved for you. He knows what it feels like to give unconditional, unanswered love.
Who knows? Maybe I needed a refresher on just how badly God desires to be my primary caretaker. This recurring theme prompted me to dig for more scripture on the subject. There are dozens of verses between Genesis and Revelation that reiterate just how strongly God feels about being numero uno in our lives, but this one really grabbed my attention.
The LORD wants you to know he is the only true God, and he wants you to obey him.
Perhaps it’s because I so desperately wanted my daughter to acknowledge that I am her only mother and because I want her to listen to me when I give her direction.
One day last week I was praying about my desires for her to see me as her primary caretaker and I realized that during all the years I lacked dependency on God, the real issue was a lack of trust. It wasn’t as simple as me not depending on Him. I didn’t trust Him to be dependable. Too many years of my life were spent missing out on the fullness of the blessed life that God had in store for me simply because I didn’t trust Him.
I am one of those people who saves lists of ridiculous campaign promises and crosses them off the list as they are broken. Being a list person, I put together this list of gifts that are promised to us if we give God our trust. Guess what? I’ve never had to cross anything off it.
- You will be happy – Proverbs 16:20
- You will not walk in darkness – but in God’s light – John 8:12
- God will direct your paths in the life – Proverbs 3:6
- You will prosper wherever you go – Joshua 1:7-9
- Your mind will be at perfect peace – Isaiah 26:3
- Your heart will remain steadfast in the Lord – Psalm 112:5-8
- You will have no want – you shall not lack any good thing – Psalm 34:8-10
- You shall be safe in your surroundings – Proverbs 29:25
- You shall possess the land – Isaiah 57:13
- You will have the desires of your heart – Psalm 37:4
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
You can’t depend on someone that you don’t trust. Period.
Sofija’s nesting is all about her lack of trust. Her testing us with violence is all about her lack of trust. Her self-soothing rocking is all about her lack of trust. It all goes back to her not knowing what the picture of dependency looks like and not trusting anyone to paint that picture for her.
So…about a week ago, my prayers and my behaviors changed. Okay, my behavior didn’t change all that drastically, but I am now making a very conscious effort to build her trust. I am also praying with her as often as possible. I want her to have a very clear picture of what it looks like to trust God.
Something funny happened when I finally allowed God to occupy the role of primary caretaker in my life. It got a whole lot easier to navigate and accept all of my other relationships. With my dependency and trust in the right place, it makes it easy to just love the people in my life and to let them love me in return.
The day after my prayers changed from asking God to fulfill my own selfish desires to asking Him to change me and show me how to be trustworthy in my daughter’s eyes, my Dad, my step-Mom, and her Mom came to visit. On Friday we toured the Pentagon. I think everyone was amazed at how peaceful and cooperative Sofija was throughout the day. We arrived home and found that her citizenship certificate had arrived from USCIS.
We spent Saturday walking the paths of Arlington cemetery. Sofija had no idea just how significant this sequence of events was, but I could not overlook it. The day after she became an American citizen, she walked the paths that wind through the graves of those who gave value to that citizenship. She is now a member of a nation that guarantees her many freedoms that did not come free.
Sunday morning was the pinnacle of our weekend. My family came here not only to sight-see, but to witness the dedications of my nephew and my daughter.
On Sunday night I climbed in bed unable to escape my thoughts about what had taken place in three short days. On April 27th, Sofija became legally ours. Chad’s name was placed on the paternal part of her birth certificate, but it wasn’t until after her dedication that I began to think about what a big deal that is. She is about the same age that I was when my parents divorced. At the age where I lost my filial rights, she gained them. She is now an American citizen. We, as her parents, have dedicated ourselves to raising her in a God-first home. We are committed to steering her toward God’s purpose for her life. By every definition of the word, she is legitimate.
On Monday morning I had some alone time with God before everyone else was awake. I was in the middle of thanking Him for being the “father of the fatherless”, when I realized something. During the week before her dedication and throughout the weekend, Sofija encountered hundreds of new people. New faces had been in and out of our home every single day and we passed new faces every place we went. Not once had she called someone else by my name. For more than a week now the word “Mama” has been reserved for me. I am legitimately her one and only mother. A week ago I felt pretty convicted for asking God to take care of that desire. But you know what? Giving us the desires of our heart is one of those promises he can fulfill when we whole-heartedly trust Him.
On Monday evening I saw my Dad off. We didn’t exchange lengthy goodbyes because we know we will see each other again in a few weeks. As he hugged me, told me he loves me and said how great the visit had been; my heart was full. His name has always filled the paternal part of my birth certificate. I have felt comfortable digging through his fridge and being fed in his home for many years now.
And…my Mom was right. God really was always there filling the role of Father. All the filial rights and Biblical promises were there for the taking too. I just had to trust Him.
And one more thing. I really hope it pleases God just as much to hear me call Him, “Father” as it pleases me to hear Sofija call me, “Mama.”