(Fall 2021- Walk #12)
We are talking about Discipleship this weekend, but before we can wrap our minds around just what that means, we must first talk about our response to God’s call into His family.
Just as our physical birth marks the beginning of our physical lives, entering into God’s family is the beginning of our Walk with God.
Entering God’s family is possible because of God’s love for each and every one of us.
In fact, I am here to tell you that God loves you so much, that if He had a fridge your picture would be on it. I know, corny but true!
When he invites us into his family he says, “I will change your name. You shall no longer be called wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid. I will change your name. Your new name shall be confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one, faithfulness, friend of God, one who seeks My face.”
But first — a little stroll down memory lane.
I remember this moment like it was yesterday. I was sitting at my desk in my office at a fancy finance company at 91st and Meridian. It was a Friday afternoon. My husband was 600 miles away working out of town. We had been married for 8 years. I was 35 years old and the sound of my biological clock was increasingly deafening with the passing of each month after painful month. Over the years we had run through a ton of tears and a truckload of cash careening down the infertility track. But still, no pitter patter.
But when the phone rang on that cold December day, all of that changed.
It was our adoption attorney, and he was calling to say that a baby boy had been born on Wednesday, his birth mother had signed the paperwork Friday morning, and we could pick him up at Wishard Hospital on Monday.
Wait! What? Monday? Can’t we come to the hospital right now??
No, it seemed we had to appear before a judge and be awarded temporary custody before the adoption would become final in about six months. And the courts were closed for the day. And we’d have to wait til Monday morning to see the judge.
My mind suddenly flew into a wild flurry of thoughts and emotions. I called my husband and we both cried like babies when I choked out “It’s a boy!”
Then he got busy making airline reservations to come back to Indy on Sunday. We had nothing for a baby in our house. After all, our home study had just been completed in August and we had heard so many horror stories about years of waiting. But just 4 months later, here we were! And I had a lot to do before Monday. Baby car seat. Stroller. Diapers. Newborn clothes. Formula. And that was just for starters. That weekend went so fast and also — SOOOOO SLOOOOWWWW.
Friends and family were wildly excited for us and had lots of loving advice, “Get some sleep now because you are going to need it with a newborn in the house.”
Sunday night finally arrived and I met my husband at the gate – yes this was back in the olden days when you could actually enter the concourse without a ticket AND without getting yourself arrested – we locked eyes and fell into one another’s arms. In tears. Again. We had imagined this moment for years. And now it was finally here.
Of course, we got home and couldn’t sleep a wink all night. When the sun rose, we looked out to see a beautiful winter wonderland. In other words, a snowstorm! Snowdrifts were high along the roads and snowflakes were still falling like swirling dancers as we made our way from our little old farmhouse at 161st and Ditch Road all the way downtown Indianapolis, first to the courthouse, and then to Wishard Hospital. …
Where we drove around and around and around and couldn’t find the entrance to the parking lot!!
We could see the hospital, but we could not see how to get to the hospital. Towering piles of snow everywhere!
We were late to meet our attorney and getting later!
Finally, I screamed to my already anxious husband, “Stop the car! I can see the building! I will find a way in! Go park the car. And don’t forget the car seat!!”
We were so close, and nothing was going to stop us now!!
I hopped out of the car in my red three-inch-spike high heels, shiny snow squeaking beneath each step, I forged my way over mounds of dirty icy snowpack and across a couple of parking lots until I burst through the doors to the Wishard lobby, and there stood our attorney as cool as a cucumber. “Oh you came! I thought you might have changed your minds!”
I thought about shaking him by the lapels, “NO WE DID NOT CHANGE OUR MINDS!! NOW GIVE US THAT BABY!!!”
But I thought better, and simply said, “Oh it’s snowy out there. My husband is parking the car. I’m sure he’ll be right in.”
Actually I wasn’t sure of that AT ALL, because he may have been in Greenwood by that time as lost as we had been!
In a few minutes (which seemed like a few hours) in walked Karl, carrying the baby car seat with the tags on it. Soon we were in the social services office meeting our baby boy for the very first time. It was December 18, 1989. And he was perfect!
My name is Mia Hinkle and the title of my talk is Called Into God’s Family.
The days and weeks that followed that snowy December day were magical. We could not put that baby down. We’d both get up in the night to feed him; one of us would feed and the other would watch. And then we’d take turns burping him. Every little thing he did was completely memorizing to us. His sweet baby smell. His little coos and stretches. We went to Minnesota for Christmas. My entire family of almost 20 played hooky from work and school and showed up at our gate with welcome banners and balloons! Total strangers engaged in the celebration. After we came back to Westfield, our friends from church threw us a baby shower and over 200 people showed up. We ended up with more little blue outfits than we could shake a stick at!
We pursued that baby with all we had in us. There were obstacles for sure, but nothing would keep us from welcoming that little bundle of 7 lb 11 oz joy into our family! He, however, was completely oblivious to all the things in play that eventually brought him to us, but we knew each of the steps that led him to our family.
Isn’t that just how it is with our Lord? Even when we don’t know we are being pursued by God, he knows and he puts into play just the right circumstances to get our attention. To call us into His family. To invite us to His table.
There are two parts to God’s call on our lives. There is His part and then there is our part. He calls us. He pursues us. And then we choose whether or not to accept His birthright. That little bundle of joy became our oldest son, Walker Hinkle. He took our last name. He was raised in our home. He is our heir. The law recognizes these facts. Our friends and family know this is true. Most importantly, he knows it is true. Two years later, our second son was born, and he too is our heir with our last name and our birthright.
It’s almost comical now when people ask them, “Have you ever met your REAL parents?” Or when they ask us, “Do you have kids of your own?”
Real parents? Really? As opposed to what? Imaginary parents? Hologram parents?
Or “kids of your own”? Are you kidding me? Would I pay for college for someone else’s kids? Or let someone else’s kids eat us out of house and home? Nope. I don’t think so. These are our boys once and for all.
Now, they didn’t have much of a choice in the matter when they came home from the hospital at 3 days and 5 days old, but now they are 29 and 31 and guess what? They still have our birthright and last name. They still come to Sunday dinners. And now they bring their kids over and their last names are Hinkle too! Those boys are still our children, but now it’s THEIR choice. They have both met their biological families (wonderful people), but they are part of our family because of THEIR own choice in the matter.
God’s love and grace has extended the invitation for each of us to join His family. It’s our choice to accept the His offer. It is because of God’s grace that we are continuously pursued. He calls us. He invites us. He pursues us. Not just once as infants but throughout our Christian walk.
He welcomes us back every time we stray away. When our kids make mistakes, they still keep our birthright, they still keep our last name.
When our kids call us from jail in the middle of the night, do we disinherit them? Nope.
When our kids fail out of college (and not because of intellect issues) do we make them change their last name?
When our children bring us grandchildren when it is clear they are not ready to be parents, do we change the locks? No, we welcome them in and give them that soft place to land for a while.
We keep modeling. We keep caring. We keep loving. We keep pursuing our children.
That brings us to God’s part in this whole arrangement.
He gave us His son, Jesus. (John 3:16) Jesus became as a servant and died a criminal’s death (Phil. 2:6-8). FOR US! Didn’t have to. He just did it FOR US! Through Christ our sins are completely forgiven. In John 6:37 we are reassured that everyone is invited into God’s family. He gives us His name, bringing us into his family. It is God’s justifying grace freely given to us that opens that door.
Next up? Our part!
Our tendency is to think we must earn God’s grace. We live in a transactional culture, and it seems normal that we would have to earn our way to the Kingdom. In fact, all we are asked to do is to say “Yes” to God’s call. It is a free gift from God (Eph. 2:8&9). It is given to all who say yes (Rom: 3:21-24; 10:9-10)
God came knocking at the door on my heart when I was 17 years old. It felt so right to say YES and open that door. I had been raised in a Christian home with church every Sunday, baptism, confirmation. But this was different. This was personal! Some of the kids at school were getting involved in the Jesus movement (remember this was back in the 70’s).
Something about it felt so right. We began joining Bible Studies and Prayer Meetings. All went well for a couple of years and then I hit my 20s. One or two bad choices and then bam! Married. Divorced. Boyfriends. Drugs. Alcohol.
My family was disapproving and heartbroken, but guess what? They kept pursuing me. They kept inviting me to family events. They kept offering provision when I needed a hand. They kept their arms open. I kept their last name … my last name. They offered me that soft place to land as I reevaluated my goals and rebuilt my life. And when my parents passed away, I received my portion of the inheritance. Even in my poor choices I remained part of my family.
I knew I had to make the choice to say YES to God’s invitation back into his family. I knew I needed that foundation. I knew I needed Christ as the center of my life. And so I accepted HIS invitation.
It is the grace of God that pursues us, and it is the grace of God that brings us into His family. It’s also the grace of God continually working in our lives to keep us close to Him. We are foolish if we revert to trying to be God’s child through simply our own effort. (Gal 3:1-5) Yes there is effort on our part, but it is God’s grace that keeps him consistently loving us no matter how good or bad we may feel we are.
God will hold us accountable as we accept his gift of grace. He holds us accountable through the authentic relationships we cultivate with other believers thru our small groups and accountability groups. In my life, these women have been a treasured source of support, grace, and tough love sometimes. But that is another Talk for another time!
Now here is the very best part! Remember that little baby boy who joined our family on that snowy December day. Remember how we pursued him? Remember how hell or high water or piles of snow or icy roads would not keep us from him. How he became cemented into our family forever? Remember how overjoyed and memorized we were with his every little move and his sweet baby smells and his first little smiles?
Do you remember when your babies were born and how they nestled right into your heart? Or maybe it was the arrival of a niece or nephew? Or maybe your friend has adopted children, and you walked with them through the process to see the love at first sight in their eyes?
Well, as overwhelming as all those feelings were for you and for me, just imagine how our Father in heaven feels when someone says, “Yes! I would love to join your family!!!”
I think maybe our joy might pale in comparison to that of our Father in heaven who gave his only Son to make sure there would be a pathway for us to reach Him and keep us close.
“I will change your name. You shall no longer be called wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid. I will change your name. Your new name shall be confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one, faithfulness, friend of God, one who seeks My face.”
This I believe: “God loves you so much that if He had a fridge your picture would be on it.”
Walk in Love