Over the past week, two stories have loomed large in my mind: the story of Abraham and Isaac at the mountain altar in Genesis 22 and the story of the two mothers fighting over one child in 1 Kings 3. In case you need a summary or refresher, I'll share the gist of each:
In Genesis 22*, God calls Abraham to take his long-awaited son to Mount Moriah for a sacrifice, except they had no ram or other animal to offer on the altar. That's because Isaac was meant to be the offering. I can't imagine Abraham's three day hike with his son and two servants, knowing what was to be asked of him at the end point. Then he and Isaac leave the servants behind as they go to the altar. Abraham lays the wood upon the altar, binds his son on top of it, and just before the sacrifice, God puts a stop to it. A ram is provided. Abraham gets to lift Isaac off the altar again.
In 1 Kings 3, two women are sleeping in a house with their newborns when one baby dies. The mother of the dead child switches the children, placing her dead baby in the sleeping mother's arms while taking the live baby back to bed as her own. The sleeping mother awakes and begins to mourn but then realizes the dead child isn't hers. The two women end up in Solomon's court, both demanding that the living child is hers. Given that DNA testing isn't a thing yet, Solomon has to judge which mother should raise the child. His solution? Cut the child in half and give part to each mother. One mother agrees to that plan, even though the baby will die, and the other offers to give the child away to prevent any harm. Solomon rightly determines that the mother is the one who was willing to give up the child rather than allow him to die. A real mother is one who seeks the best for her child, no matter what heartache it might bring to her.
God has asked us to lay our adoption of "Sam" on altar before him. The beautiful difference, of course, is that no harm will come to Zoe's brother. Another family has been offered his referral or, in terms of this metaphor, the opportunity to pick his adoption up from that altar. If they say no, we will gladly lift our plans from the altar once more and continue to pursue being mom and dad to "Samuel." But for now, we have to leave it all at the altar, trusting God to do what he deems best.
God has asked us to care more about what's best for "Sam" than what we consider to be best for us. If the other family says yes to the adoption referral of Zoe's brother, that means we set aside our hurts to move forward with a relationship with them, so that the siblings can know each other. Yes, we want for them to grow up together in the same family. But, no, that decision isn't up to us right now. So rather than to allow our feelings to tear apart this little boy or tear at the adoption hopes of another couple, our bold answer has to be that of the first mother in 1 Kings 3:26:
Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.”
I will act as this sort of mother to "Sam," even if I never get to be his actual mother. If it is best for him - which is something only God knows - my prayer is "God, give them this baby boy." Being a parent means putting a child's best interests first, even when it breaks your heart. Perhaps that's what we'll be asked to do, to have fostered love for "Sam" in our hearts for months but then to submit to the adoption by another family. Or perhaps, like Hannah said of her Samuel in 1 Samuel 1:27, we might get to say, "I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him."
I don't know how this will play out.
I do know that I will trust God, no matter what.
And I am thankful that we will probably get to be part of Zoe's brother's life, even if we don't get to be his parents.
*Note on Genesis 22: I know two of my dear friends, both atheists, who point to this story as proof of a macabre god who isn't worthy of worship. I understand their stance. It is a hard story. But for me, it serves as a powerful object lesson. For starters, Abraham tells Isaac that God will provide the lamb, so maybe he trusted all along that God would spare Isaac. We don't know that for sure, though, from the story given in the Bible. If God had Abraham go through with it, sure, I might have difficulty trusting that God, if I'm completely honest. But as this story stands, nothing in it changes in my respect for a God who illustrates to us again and again that he is all we need! I'm not saying that because of blind obedience or "shoulds" - as in "I should believe..." or "pastors say I should..." or "I write about faith so I should..." but rather because I have been there. No, I've never been asked to lay a child on an altar for bodily sacrifice, but I have been called by him to lay my health, my marriage, my child's eyesight, this adoption, and more treasures at the foot of the cross... and in each of tose moments, I've found Christ alone to be sufficient. After all, God provided the ultimate sacrifice of his son on the cross, and this story of Genesis 22 - and my story of my own life - is but a shadow of that. I started this side note as an explanation for friends who aren't Christians, but I think I might be failing at that because I can only explain this through the lens of knowing and trusting a God who you don't know or consider to be real, if you're one of those friends. So suffice it to say: I know in the dark and in the depths and in the quiet and in the loud and in the hard and in the easy and in the doubts and in the tears and in the laughter that he is real to me, so I can't help but read and dissect this story with that perspective.