Februray 14th, 2008.
While the rest of America was celebrating Valentine's Day, the Atwoods were celebrating the fact that our son was now legally an Atwood. Because of Ethiopia's laws at the time, an advocate went to court on our behalf before we actually ever saw Isaac face to face. So, he became a legal member of our family before we could ever hug him.
This Valentine's Day, as we have for the last 4 years, we'll take Isaac Sentayehu Atwood out for a special dinner, and we'll watch the video footage from our trip to Ethiopia. We will all laugh...and Mom and Dad will cry a bit, too.
Whenever I think about the process of adopting Ike, at some point I am reminded of one of the largest hurdles we had to overcome in order to bring him home.
When Keva first said to me, "I want to adopt from Africa!", I treated it like I did when she first announced years before that she wanted to adopt at all...I said, "I'll pray about it." Not that I really would offer more than the cursory "Lord, show us what to do." Basically I just needed to calm down my over-zealous wife.
The fear that was beneath the surface of my hesitation, I am ashamed to admit. It was a form of racism. I didn't particularly have anything against black people, I just didn't know how they could fit into my family. After all, I'm not even sure what to do with the kid's hair.
My fear was that I wouldn't be able to relate. I was afraid that he would have problems that only a black parent could solve. I was afraid he would feel alone or ostracized in our family. I was afraid he was just going to be different.
What moved me past my fear?
I didn't decide that my assumptions were wrong. They probably aren't. Isaac, ever observant, has already noticed his skin color is different. Just the other day he asked, "Dad, what color skin is Simon (our soon-to-be-born son) going to have?"
"Probably like Mom and Dad's. Maybe a little lighter or a little darker," I said.
"ARRGGHHH! I want him to have skin like me so I'm not by myself," he said.
As Isaac grows, we will continue to re-inforce his understanding of what binds us as a family. Not our skin color, not our genes, but our God-given love for each other.
So what changed my mind? A realization that hard things in life glorify God.
I realized that bringing a child of a different race wouldn't be easy. And it hasn't. (Though very little of that has had anything to do with skin color!) But what we also know about God is that he went through the suffering of the cross in order to bring us life.
The gospel tells me that I should expect when I lay my own life down for someone else, that it produces good things.
In them, and in me.
This has undoubtedly been the story of Isaac. In 4 years, he has been a tool of God that has chiseled our family more into his image.
I don't really see my son's skin color anymore. Just an incredibly bright, athletic, inquisitive, rough-and-tumble bit of energy that rightly calls us Mom and Dad.
Happy Adoption Day, Isaac Sentayehu! You are loved beyond your wildest imagination.