A Tale Of Two Fathers

Ray and Phil were loose acquaintances. They would bump into each other in the neighborhood occasionally and exchange pleasantries. They would catch one another up on the latest dealings at work and home life. One day they finally got up enough gumption to have lunch together.

“Well, we finally did it!”, Ray said excitedly as Phil took a drink of water. “Did what?”, Phil replied. “We adopted a child. This week it was made official.”, Ray stated, clearly giddy still from the news that he has spent years in preparation to see to the end.

“Wow congratulations.”, Phil replied with a slight odd tone of disbelief. You see, Phil has a ton of biological children, so the thought of adopting one has never crossed his mind. He has enough to keep up with already. That level of commitment and permanence to a child not his own, honestly, is difficult for Phil to conceive and quite frankly has never had to think about.

Phil looked at his barely eaten sandwich and asked a superb open-ended question that would no doubt keep Ray talking, so that he could finish his meal. “I’m curious about the whole process. How did all of this come to be?” True to form, Ray started spilling every detail.

“So you know that we were searching high and low for the perfect child to adopt. Unfortunately, none were up to that standard of perfection. One day though we found this boy. Walking through the orphanage, as the directors were trying to find the closest thing to a match for us, there he was. Disheveled and alone looking as helpless as a sheep without a shepherd. This was the one. We were warned by the directors that we would want no part of this boy. He was alone for good reason. He made it a practice of hitting, biting, and stealing other toys from the boys and girls in the orphanage. He was frequently defiant of those in charge including his biological parents that abandoned him at the orphanage years earlier. Yeah, there was truly nothing outwardly desirable about this one.”

It was at this moment that Phil had to interject, “This seems not even close to your standard. What made you change your mind?” Ray, usually a man that has no loss for words, suddenly could not find them, except one. “Grace.”, he said concisely. Phil looked at Ray like a confused dog that tilts his head desperately trying to interpret what their human owner is saying.

Like a rush of water, the words and the emotions of that moment came back to Ray, as he started to explain his decision.

“The intent of that moment was so deep. I wasn’t flippant or passive. I wasn’t overwhelmed having my emotions cloud my judgment. I’ve never been more present in any decision that I have ever made in my life. I knew the cost and I chose him in spite of it all. So yeah, grace.” Phil’s face moved from confusion to borderline awe now and he was struck speechless, so Ray continued.

“Like a good infomercial, the “but wait there’s more” moment is coming. So the agency in a last ditch effort to ensure we went home with the right child, showed us his medical file. This boy was born with a heart defect. His heart was failing him. Maybe more accurately, his heart was killing him. What was clearly the most damning evidence to reject this boy, only deepened our resolve. It was only later that we found out that our biological son is a perfect match for this boy. Our son has the perfect heart to put in place of this boy’s defective one.”

Awe turned to disgust, as Phil was compelled to interrupt. “You mean to tell me that you’re going to let your biological son swap hearts with your adoptive son!? Your biological son has done nothing wrong! In fact, you tell me all the time how pleased you are with him and that he does everything you ask of him! Even if you swap the hearts, it’s not even a guarantee that the adoptive son will be a good steward of it. What do you hope to gain from this!?”

Phil now out of breath looked to Ray in hopes to hear some grand plan. Ray, again not one to be of so few words could only muster two, “A son.”, he replied. “I hope to gain a son.”

The conversation turned Phil’s direction as Ray asked him about his children. Phil no doubt was not ready to follow this display of Ray’s actions toward someone so undeserving. Phil collected his thoughts, took a big drink of water and began to share.

“Well, I believe I’ve been fairly gracious as well. All my kids wanted to learn the piano. Piano lessons can be quite expensive, multiplying that by all my kids and that adds up! But I knew that if they were to scrape together all the money that they had, they would still fall short of the amount needed. So we just decided to pay for the lessons ourselves. Now, we know that they will never play the piano perfectly. That is not the point. We just want to make sure that they keep practicing and getting better. Why else would we pay for them to have piano lessons, right? So I guess you could say that you and I have been pretty gracious lately.”

Now it was time for Ray to have the confused look. “So you would equate our adoption of our heart defect, rebellious son under no conditions except sonship to paying for piano lessons for your biological children under the condition that they keep practicing?” “Yeah, that is what I’m saying. They are essentially the same thing.”, replied Phil.

Not wanting to cause too much of a commotion at the cafe, Ray and Phil finished up their respective lunches, paid their bills and went their separate ways. Phil walked away feeling affirmed by his actions as a measure of grace. Ray drove home still wondering how Phil could see these two acts as essentially the same thing.

3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

  • Galatians 4:3–7

Brad Wilcox: His Grace Is Sufficient

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. — Romans 11:6

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Ben Neiser

Ben Neiser

Christian. Husband. Father of two girls. Creative. Writer. Collaborator of Faith, Art, and Community.