The Gospel is Not Paralysed
The following article is a guest post by Sarmishta “Shammi” Venkatesh. This article is a follow-up to yesterday's post "Two Broken Hearts, One Love."
Adoption is risky. As someone who evaded this possibility for several years, I know how it feels. After losing our two children in the womb, I became somewhat withdrawn from children in general. Sure, I taught middle school children Sabbath school. Sure, I baby-sat for several of my friends. But that was all on the Lord’s insistence to heal me. Not once was I able to attach myself to any of these children whom I taught of shared life with. That would mean tearing open my womb again. Seeing the blood spill. The grief would be too much to handle. Adoption was a scary thing for me. How would I be able to bond emotionally with someone whom I have not birthed? How can I love when my womb is still bleeding?
When Venky and I applied to the central adoption agency in India, I had to trust my husband’s lead. Trust my Lord’s sovereignty in closing all other doors. Lean on His Fatherly provisions. If I had to mother a child, I had to receive an alien love which I did not have. When I first saw Abhi’s photo, the Lord opened a fountain of love from within my bowels. For the first time, after a long season of waiting, I found a new kind of love and affection towards one I had never known. I knew I could love Abhi as a mother. My heart started beating for him. My prayers were consumed with thoughts about this child, his struggles, his sorrows, his needs, his future. And without a doubt, this love came from my Heavenly Father. Adoption is risky, because you cannot love one who is untethered from your womb. You need Christ to pour that love afresh in your heart.
Adopting a special needs child is quite another thing. It is not only risky but scandalous. I know many well-wishers who came to know that we were adopting, early this year. They were all happy for us, rejoiced in this decision to bring a child home. But when they later came to know that we are bringing home a child who had no sensation below his torso, they were appalled. Some were scared for us. My family broke down. Those we looked up to looked down on us in disbelief. It was too much for them to handle.
I remember going to a neurosurgeon just two days before meeting Abhi for the very first time, in order to understand Abhi’s special case and future medical needs. His report card was bleak, I knew that. He would need lot of care and support, I knew that. I made a mistake by going alone, or so I thought. At first this doctor was all welcoming and friendly. Once he began looking into Abhi’s files, his countenance fell. His brows frowned. He let out a heavy sigh and started thumbing through my medical reports (which he should not have done), and then gave me unsolicited counselling. This child is a vegetable. Why are you wasting your life adopting him? He won't be able to walk to do anything on his own. He will be forever dependent on you. People adopt and breed the best, to become the best. Why take up what is rejected? Why take on the challenge of parenting someone who is going to regress you? A medical anomaly? A refuse? You cannot gain anything from him. Gain. That’s right. That’s the word. We rear children so that they will take care of us when we grow old. Pay us back. Karma. In financial terms it’s called, return on investment. What return will I get for my investment? It didn't make sense to this doctor. It probably doesnt make sense to some of you who may be reading this post.
There were some others who are Christian who had slightly different concerns, owing to our dual vocation as church planters and business owners. While trying to discern God’s will for our family, we realised that we were not going to get a lot of people excited about our new mission. Some of our friends were concerned for our “ministry” and the church, that it would all get sidestepped in our zeal to parent a child with different needs. What would happen to your ministry? What would happen to the church? Who was going to meet their needs? Is this not an additional burden? A hindrance to the Gospel work?
Friends, put the two sets of concerns together and you begin to see that they are not very different. They are two expressions of unhealthy fear. One tries to protect the self and family line from extinction. Another tries to protect God and His heritage from endangerment. Of course, I include myself in these fears. I’ve had them too. I’m human, fully human. But listening to Christ’s truths amidst these howling fears has calmed my inner seas.
I remember answering these questions in the concern of one such friend. As tears rolled down my cheek, he comforted me with these words, “You will need a lot of support. He (Abhi) will need a lot of support. This is going to take a lot of your time and effort from ministry.” All very true. One big missing piece. What if this is the ministry God is calling us to? What makes you think Abhi can’t be a vessel for ministry? The Gospel is not paralysed!
I began to see this truth while ministering to special needs children in my erstwhile church. At first, I went there to minister to them, but only later did I realise that they were the ones ministering to me. The Spirit of God does not need perfect bodies and bones to penetrate and perfect His work. God was going to use Abhi’s very infirmities as the channel for fruitful ministry. His immobile feet are going to speed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The weak will shatter the pride of the strong, the foolish the wisdom of the wise so that the boast of the saved are not in the power of their will, intellect or eloquence but in Christ who becomes to them wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:27-30). This is the Gospel. And it is scandalous, just like adopting a child with special needs. It is paradoxical, counter-intuitive, other-worldly, senseless to him who lacks sense. Useless to him who values himself. Every true Gospel ministry is scandalous and uncomfortable. It takes effort, sweat and, in some cases, blood.
If it were easy, then why preach it?
During this season of reflecting on Christ’s Incarnation (Note: This article was originally posted privately on December 26, 2017), one aspect of his birth comes to mind. When Jesus was a few months old, a very old and godly man by the name Simeon came to Mary his mother and told her something. Something scandalous. He told her that this little baby, this child, was going to cause the rise and fall of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed, yay, even someone who would pierce her own soul so that many thoughts of hearts are revealed. Notice, God did not use a Roman emperor or an Israelite King of that day to cause the rise and fall of many, no warrior to crush souls, no judge to reveal hearts, but the very God who humbled Himself to take on the form of a man, even an infant. A helpless weakling. It is in His weakness that Christ would shatter the strong.
Out of stones God raises up children for Abraham. Out of the lips of babes, He ordains praise. To the little children belongs the Kingdom of heaven. I’ve already seen a glimpse of this truth in and through Abhi’s life. He has disarmed angry hearts with his heart of love, broken down prideful walls with his sweet rest in his present estate, appalled the greater ones with his wheelchair-borne service. Adopting a special needs child is scandalous, but nothing is more scandalous than salvation coming to rebels, from the very person they had put to death. By His stripes, sinners are healed.