You know that feeling? The feeling of confidence that everything in your life is exactly the way it’s supposed to be with absolutely no fear of the future because of the security of the present.
I used to know that feeling. It was nice. That is, until my life was radically changed this summer. Everything from my daily habits to the way I love my family, from my priorities to the way I worship God was turned upside down. It’s like taking the set of standards and values you hold so dear and throwing them in a blender, hitting puree and then putting the blender into a washing machine on the spin cycle.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You see, in May of this year, my wife and I got on a plane and flew to China to adopt our first child.
Now having been DINKs (Double Income No Kids) for upwards of 9 years now, adopting our first child was an interesting endeavor. I use the word “interesting” because that’s what pastors say when they are trying to be kind. For example, “That’s an interesting dress that lady has on,” or “This meatloaf tastes interesting.’”
But I digress.
Our adopted child, Avalie, also was born with a severe cleft lip and palate. Yeah, it was that “interesting.”
Anyways, here we are in Guangzhou, China, about to meet our little girl, and it hits me like a wrecking ball hitting a glass tower: What am I doing here? Am I ready for this? I’ve never taken care of a baby before, much less a baby who wasn’t physically born to me or even one with a cleft lip and palate for that matter.
While I’m thinking all of this, here comes the orphanage director with Avalie in her arms. As the director handed our new 17-month-old daughter to us, it was nothing less than magical. And then she cried…and cried…and cried. She probably hadn’t had her diaper changed in a day, hadn’t been bathed in over a week and hadn’t had a change of clothes in a month.
And she was mine. All mine. And she is beautiful.
Fast forward a week, and Avalie was sleeping soundly in our hotel room. My heart had completely left me and was now held in her little fists. All I could think about was how God found me: filthy, abandoned, upset. Yet He went all in and adopted me into His family. At this notion I found myself crying (like a man) and telling God I would keep serving Him with all I am. Then He spoke to my heart with this verse from the Gospels: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”
Then he said that if I am to do that, then I need to love Him with all the love I am giving to Avalie, because He is worth it. I fought back. I told God how there was no way I could strip Avalie of all the love I pour out on her and give it to someone else, and yet, I knew He was right.
When God asks us to give Him all we have, He doesn’t mean all we have left.
He means all we are and all we hold dear. The verse literally means to strip all the affection, adoration, attention, time and love from everything in our lives and give it to Him in worship, because if you’re not giving God your all, it may as well be nothing.
But this is where the beauty of all-or-nothing worship to God comes through: As we give God our all, He creates in us a greater capacity to hold even greater amounts of love that we can pour out to others in our lives.
As a result, I am able to love Avalie with more love than I had when I got on that plane to go to China. I have a greater capacity inside my heart to hold even greater measures of love to pour out on others because I first gave my all in worship to God.
I was changed this summer, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
-Terry Parkman is youth ministries pastor at Evangel Assembly of God.