The providence of God is not a mountaintop where we stand and look outward at the future unfolding before us. It is a place we run to in faith and grace, only understanding its implication on our lives as we look back on our course.
Nearly eighteen years ago, my wife an I walked into the Wayne County, WV courthouse to attend one of the most important events of our lives. We sat at the end of a long wooden conference room desk holding a tiny baby. I was young at twenty-six...Kim was even younger. Our hopes were innocently naive and our plans were as big an ocean before us.
We didn’t know it at the time, but God’s plans were even bigger.
The adoption hearing was scheduled for 10am sharp. The judge sat at the opposite end of the table looking at his watch. Except for the short bouts of nervous conversation and the babbling coo of the baby, the room was silent as we waited for the case to officially begin. The judge was not looking at his watch anticipating the end of the hearing. He was watching the clock to mark an exact beginning.
It was to be strategically exact because the baby’s biological father refused to waive his parental rights. He didn’t refuse because he was an outstanding human being, a conscientious objector or a caring dad for that matter. The biological donor in question was a drug addict with an extensive criminal history, who only knew he had a son because we had to search him out to eliminate the vacant spot on the birth records where the father’s name is supposed to appear. Still, he refused to waive his parental rights stating in a nonchalant manner, “Who knows? I might want to raise me a son...someday.”
It was that “someday” that frightened us the most.
The judge gave us specific warning that if the biological father showed up to the final adoption hearing to contest, then the hearing would be cancelled and a trial would have to determine who would receive custody of the baby.
I was confident that the man would not show up. Most of my confidence came from his criminal past and habitual drug use. The rest of my confidence came from the police cruiser strategically parked at the county line a few miles from the courthouse--the line the man would have to cross in his “illegal” vehicle to get to the hearing. I was more than confident that he would not make it on time. Still the ticking of the clock grew louder and louder.
“Let the court take note that it is now 10 am and the hearing has officially proceeded.” The judge said, looking at us with a smile. “Do you promise to take good care of this child?” He said quickly getting straight to the point. It almost sounded like a portion of our marriage vow, to which I answered rather instinctively and accordingly, “I do.” Kim resounded, “We will.”
He shuffled around a stack of official papers stamping some and signing others. We placed our signature on more than a few documents and the clerk officially filed them with her stamp.
“Let the court know that this child is now legally named Jacob Gregory Lucas and is now legally placed into the custody of Gregory and Kimberly Lucas as...their...son.” The judge officially proclaimed.
“Congratulations”, he said as he stood at the head of the table and shook our hands. There were hugs and pictures and smiles and tears. It was one of the greatest times of my life.
That little baby boy turned 18 years old today.
He is still an infant in many ways. Perhaps this is one of the blessings of being Jake’s dad. He still depends on me to meet his most basic needs and to care for him like a father would care for a little baby. Yet today, as we celebrate his birthday at his new home, a full time care facility for independent living, the words of the judge cut into my heart. “Do you promise to take good care of this child?”
“I do...we will”.
Yet someone else cares for my son now--a team of professionals have replaced me and my wife. And no matter how attached they get to my son, they will always care for him more out of duty instead of deep love. The guilt we feel from this is overwhelming at times.
Even more overwhelming is the transition now at hand. Tomorrow morning at 10am we will attend yet another hearing, at the exact same courthouse where Jake’s adoption took place 18 years ago...in the exact same room. The irony is rich and the flood of emotions are overflowing their banks today. Instead of proclaiming us as parents of Jacob Gregory Lucas, this hearing will place us as his “legal guardians”.
I cannot describe the heartbreak that title evokes.
God is good for not showing us the ending from the beginning. We would be paralyzed by fear and crippled with anxiety if we knew what the earthly future had in store for each of us. Instead he reveals the ending through our sanctified lives, little by little, step by step. Still He gives us grace-filled, backward glances of insight and understanding as we run the race forwards, leaning towards the finish line, grasping at faith to take us around the next blind curve and over the next steep hill.
Standing in that courtroom 18 years ago I would have been absolutely overwhelmed seeing my life as it is today. The failures would be too devastating; the burdens would be too great. But when I stand there tomorrow, looking back over the past 18 years of triumph and tears, I will see God’s hand of providence in my life. I will recognize His perfect plan of love, grace, adoption, rescue and redemption--both mine and my son’s.
If I had a hundred lives to live, I would live every one of them as Jake’s dad, and I would choose to stand in no other place...rather, I would choose to run in no other race, than the perfect providence of God’s great grace.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAKE!