Do you recall that sermon Tony Campolo published many years ago where he describes his experience in Haiti? Campolo tells about seeing the devastation of poverty first hand, then getting on a plane to leave, and a woman comes running along side, banging on the door hysterically pleading with him to take her baby as the plane prepares to depart. Campolo’s guide explains that she wants him (a total stranger) to take her baby from the deadly poverty – even though it means she would never see the child again.
Most people don’t give up their babies, certainly not like that. Of those who do, most of them are quite desperate.
Campolo wraps up that story saying the guide tries to comfort him, that by leaving her crying like that, they are doing the right thing. But Campolo also confesses that as he sits back in his seat reflecting on it once the plane was safely in the air, well away from that woman’s desperate plea, he suddenly realizes who that child is.
It was Jesus.
And Campolo suggests that at the Judgment, he will face Jesus who will say to him, “I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink, I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was a baby in need of your help at the Haitian airport, and you left me there to die!”
Giving up your kid.
I am a foster parent.
Here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, we take desperate people’s babies. We keep some people permanently and others we show hospitality to only temporarily, after which, we give them up too. Giving up the babies is not a new feature of this work, but it is some of the hardest. Not always, but more often than not, it feels desperate.
Giving up a kid who has become one of us, who came to us in utter dependence, faced fears to learn to love us and be loved by us, to take comfort in our arms, at our table, in our home, and especially one who has been with us a very long time, is heartbreaking. The heartbreak alone is enough, but the worry about the care this child will receive (or not) is a risk no worthy parent would entertain, unless she were a Haitian mother seeing a rich American boarding a plane bound for the US.
And so I think of (and pray the prayers with) Abraham who simply says, “Here I am” to God when God commands that he kill his son as a burnt offering, a child-sacrifice. And Abraham dutifully complies, searching for the place for THREE DAYS (a significant number for such an occasion, if ever there was one). And for THREE DAYS, Abe looks into Isaac’s eyes as they make the trip, and then as if Isaac senses what was coming, the innocent child/victim, asks, “Where is the sacrifice?” – pinning Abe between his rock and a hard place, between his promised son and the God who promised him. And thus the here-I-am dad, in a cheap bid to not blow his cover, utters those desperate words: “God will provide”.
Oh… to have trust in God like that!
And then I think of (and pray the prayers with) the mother of Moses, who places her three month-old child in a basket down at the river, a river, we presume, is full of crocodiles! A death sentence by any measure, even an already-too-late term abortion, actually! Yet it’s not the croc’s that get him! It’s the evil empire itself, the beast from the sea!!! (as Dan. 7 demonstrates). I think it’s fair to say she gives her child to God. And in God’s hands, despite her fears and beyond her ability to manipulate her situation, God makes a great man out of the child she gives.
I think of (and pray the prayers with) Hannah, and we have a record of her prayer! She couldn’t have a child, but she offers him to God even before she conceives. (In her desperation, she even appears drunk!) And we know she keeps her word. Samuel goes on to be raised by Eli and eventually becomes the king-making Judge of his people when Hannah gives her baby back to God.
But then there is Mother Mary. A young virgin not even looking for a pregnancy when God gives her his Son to bear, putting her reputation and life at risk. And I think of that raw day when she gives the boy back to God in what must be the unimaginable nightmare! And when she gives her son back to God, just look what God does with him!
Who says the Christian faith isn’t about child sacrifice???
I am absolutely heartbroken in this last stage of the foster-care job. Giving the kid up. But I join these heroes of the faith for strength and guidance and for their words to God as I give away my kid to the crocodile infested waters, to the strangers who don’t know what they are doing, and to the demons that ravage God’s world. And I hope that God will do the thing he has proven himself faithful and true to do: make this child HIS MAN.
It is now time.
Here I am, Lord.
Go with God, son.
God will provide.