Adopting Dwiane has changed my life. This was expected. Of course having a baby changes your life, whether that baby comes through adoption or childbirth. Everything – from the contents of our refrigerator (always at least one bottle of formula ready to go) to the way we furnish our house (baby swings, a crib, and a pack ‘n’ play) to my call and my career (stayed out of the pulpit for three months!) – is different. Sometimes I’m surprised that Kirk and I even recognize ourselves when we look in the mirror. Surely we have changed as much on the outside as we have on the inside, and as much as everything else on the “outside” of our world has changed.
As of August 25, I was back in the pulpit. But this doesn’t mean that things in my job and in other areas of my life went back to the way they were before Kirk and I brought Dwiane home. Things will never be the same, and even the way I pastor and preach will change. My life has changed, because my perspective and my priorities have changed.
I need to take care of my son, filling needs that he is unable to fill for himself. In adopting Dwiane, Kirk and I have adopted the responsibilities of meeting those needs for him and caring for him. That is what a parent does for his or her child. Dwiane eats certain amounts at certain times, a certain number of times a day. He naps at particular times of the day. And then there are the unscheduled parts of his life – diapers, spit up, clothing changes, play time, baby babble conversations, and crankiness. So as Kirk and I have both gone back to work, we have respected our work schedules, but we have planned our days so that Dwiane’s schedule comes first. We have formed our schedules around Dwiane, making our son the center of our daily lives.
This is how we are to live with Jesus, if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Our lives must be lived so that Jesus is the center. Not because Jesus has needs that cannot be met without our help, but because in accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Savior, we are accepting that we cannot live without Jesus, and what Jesus has done and continues to do for us.
What does it mean for Jesus to be the center of our lives? It means that praising Jesus, worshipping Jesus, obeying Jesus, following Jesus, must be our priority. Everything in our lives must serve this end, must revolve around this center of our existence. If there is some aspect of our lives that does not directly serve Jesus Christ, then it must be pushed to the side, out of the way, out of our lives if necessary, to make sure there is enough room to make Jesus Christ the center. Everything in our lives must fit around Jesus, only if there is room, and only if they serve the purpose of our lives, to love and follow and serve our Lord and Savior.
And it means that, if we truly accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and seek to follow Jesus in all that we are and all that we do, we must keep diligent watch over those aspects of our lives that directly serve Jesus – our worship, our mission, our fellowship with others, our obedience. We must make sure that we are doing these things in a way that honors Jesus as the center of our lives. Worshipping; giving of our talents, time, and treasure; feeding the hungry; making repairs in Kentucky; teaching Sunday School; going to Sunday School; fellowshipping with one another; not out of guilt, or because it is expected or proper or what “good Christian people” do, but because we love God. Because we recognize all that God has done and does for us, and we want to live our lives in thankful obedience.
“But wait just a minute, Pastor Lara! You just said that Dwiane is the center of yours and Kirk’s life now – not Jesus! Which is it? And what about our families and children? Aren’t they supposed to be the priority?”
It is true that our families are among the greatest gifts given to us by God. And we are to take care of one another, certainly. However, remember what Jesus says in Luke: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate mother and father, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26, NRSV). And what about the time that Jesus’ mother and brothers came to drag him away for saying crazy stuff? And Jesus, when made aware that his mother and brothers were outside, responded that it was not the folks at the door who were his mother and brothers, but those who did the will of God (Matthew 12:46-50).
So while my son, Dwiane, is the focal point around which Kirk and I arrange our schedules and our work, our mealtimes and our daily lives (even date night!); it is all for nothing if Jesus is not the center of Kirk’s and my lives. Dwiane is a gift from God, a blessing we cannot begin to measure. And yet, our love for Dwiane flows out of our love for God. So that if we do not love God truly, we cannot love Dwiane truly.
You have often heard me talk about the greatest commandment, and the second which is like it: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength.” And “love your neighbor as yourself.” These two are inseparable, and they are essential to one another. If you are not loving God properly, you cannot love others. If you are not loving others properly – not feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned, caring for family, neighbor, and stranger alike – you are not truly loving God.
This year, Hickory Hills Presbyterian Church is thankful for sixty years in the same place, privileged to love and serve those around us in Jesus’ name through our ministries and programs. As fall begins, we begin once again our ministries of education, continuing to learn more and more about our Lord and Savior, the center of our lives. May we continue to strive more and more to make Jesus Christ our center. See you in church!
In Joyful Anticipation,