Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Isaac



I love learning. I love reading and writing and new ideas and stretching myself.

I was the first of my family to go to college. My parents didn’t graduate high school. I had made it through the two years of a community college, gotten an AA transfer degree and was attending a university.

The Bible as Literature seemed like a good choice. It was a summer course, it fit my schedule nicely, and it would be good to come at the Bible from a fresh angle.

In the lit class we were to select a particular story from the old testament and analyze its literary qualities. Did it have the elements of an oral tradition? Where there parts of the story that had deeper meanings, double meanings, unclear meanings?

Since we had wanted children for so long (and we had recently realized that it would never happen), I chose the Abraham and Isaac story.

Abraham, a successful shepherd from Ur, and his wife Sarah believed that there was only one God who was everywhere, all knowing, and all powerful. This creator of the universe wanted to work through Abraham to create a nation, a people through which He would interact.

The problem was that Abraham had no children. God promised to remedy that, and though the years passed and this couple grew old, Abraham held fast to that belief.

So I chose that story for my final project. It’s a fascinating story. It culminates with Abraham having two children, an illegitimate child of his wife’s maid and, surprisingly, a child from his aged wife. This child of his old age, Isaac, he loved dearly. God tested Abraham’s obedience and devotion by asking him to sacrifice Isaac (or Ishmael according to the muslims) on the very hill upon which Jerusalem is built.

I read that story, I studied that tale, I wondered, and pondered, and prayed.

“Lord, if you give me a child, as you did for Abraham, I promise I will give him to You. I will raise him as You wish, I will dedicate him to Your service. Let me have a child as well.”

I met a pregnant 16 year old who asked us if we wanted her child. I took her to her doctor visits. I made sure that she was eating well. I prayed for guidance. Should we adopt this child? Is he Isaac, the child the Lord has for me, or Ishmael, the child that came first, but is not the child?

We made an appointment to see a lawyer, to begin the adoption proceedings. We hadn’t much money. Is this the child we were to have?

As we went to bed the night before our appointment with the attorney we prayed.

“Lord, please give us the wisdom to make the correct choice. Is this the child that you want us to have? We haven’t much money, and tomorrow we begin spending what little we have toward this adoption. If we go through with this how will we pay for it? We pray that when we wake in the morning we will know clearly what we should do.”

We drifted off to sleep.

And I had a dream.

Not the usual sort of dream that has the flotsam and jetsam of a rattled subconscious. No rhinos pulling tractors in the mud or Bill Clinton selling flavored ice at the fair. This dream was different.

It felt different. There was a choral note hanging, reverberating, in the air. There was a sense of deep calm. Everything was still, dark. And in this vibrating stillness a pool of light formed. In the center of the light was a treasure chest. The sort one sees in pirate movies. The chest opened. It was empty. A gold coin dropped in. And another. And more, and a steady stream of coins flowed into that empty chest until it was heaped up. The unseen choir grew more intense as I looked at that pile of gold filling that chest to the top.

A dollar bill floated down and landed atop the gold. And another, and more, until every bit of the gold was covered with currency.

I awoke.

I knew.

I rolled over, woke B. up.

“I know what we are supposed to do.”

“What?”

I told her the dream.

“It sounds weird, but I know just what it means.” I was actually choking up. I felt so happy.

“We are supposed to adopt the baby. What has been missing in our lives is coming. The treasure we have been looking for will be ours and it will fill us up. We aren’t supposed to worry about the money. It will all be covered. Whatever the baby needs we will have the money to do it.”

And we did it.

We adopted that baby, born two weeks early, on B.’s birthday. We took him home when he was less than a day old.


And people helped. Mostly folks from our church. We got gifts of clothing. We got cards and cases of baby formula and diapers and everything we needed. We were so happy it is not possible for me to express it.

I loved holding him and feeding him and changing his diapers. I even loved it when he spit up on my shoulder while I burped him. I wasn’t so fond of the 3 a.m. feedings and the fussy way he cried at odd hours.

Close to Thanksgiving we had a special meal with our friends to thank the Lord for this blessing. And with those close friends I said a prayer something like this:

“Thank you Lord for this blessing of our child Willy (we had named him after me). I will always remember this wonderful gift. And this afternoon I keep the promise I had made with you last summer. I read of Abraham’s desire for children and I promised that if You gave me a child I would dedicate him to You. And I do that now, Lord. This child is Yours. I will do what You would have me do. I will raise him as You wish. Thank you for giving him to us, and now I give him back to You.”


Raising a child is an amazing experience. For those who have never had a child it is difficult to understand. But when you are handed a baby and you look down on that small wiggling bundle, something clicks deep inside. You become something different. You are no longer a husband, or a student, or employee. You are suddenly FATHER. You realize that for the next two decades every action you take you must consider how it affects this small life. You have a new task that takes precedence over everything else. You are a parent.

There are hopes and dreams and plans and things to do. There are rooms to clean, dishes to wash, and traditions to start. On December 15 I started a tradition. I took my infant son out to cut down our Christmas tree. OK, he didn’t do much more than ride in the car seat and watch (sort of) me cut the tree, but we did it together. Our first Christmas and there would be at least 17 more of these trees that he and I would cut.

I put him in the car, tied the tree to the roof, and took him home.

I changed him, fed him, and laid him down to sleep.

He didn’t want to sleep. He screamed and hollered. I sat nearby at the computer (it was 1992 and I had a computer I was very proud of. It had a whole 64 mg of RAM and a huge hard drive of one gigabyte!). Willy screamed and hollered and cried, and whimpered, and moaned softly, and finally drifted off to sleep while I tinkered with my computer. (It was the first time I had let him fall asleep crying. I felt he needed to learn to sleep without my holding him.)

I waited a few minutes to make sure he fell deeply asleep, and I went over to check on him.

He was gone.

What was left of him looked like him, but it was cold, and blueish, and not him at all.

“Oh God no!”

I called 911. They took him away. I met B. at the hospital. We picked out a tiny casket and held a memorial service for him with all the pictures we had of him taken a week before at K-Mart. I took a large piece of petrified wood to Washington state where it could be cut into a headstone.

And it was the beginning of a very bad year. I struggled on as a double major for most of it, but finally I dropped the art major and stuck with the path that would lead to teaching language arts. Grey started appearing at my temples and in my beard, and I needed glasses for the first time. I thought of suicide. I started really reading the book of Job.

After his death we received a flood of cards. Many of them had money in them. A lot of money. An awful lot of money. I counted it all up. Then I started thinking about what it cost us to adopt and care for Willy, including the funeral. To my best calculations the two numbers, what we spent and what we were given, were within $10 of each other.

There were three calamities that fell on Job. First his possessions. He lost his livestock, his wealth. Then he lost his servants and employees, his business. Finally, the worst came. He lost his children.

“Lord, You asked Abraham to offer up his child to You and I did it also. But You didn’t take Isaac from him! Why did you have to take my only child? Why did you have to have the one thing I prize over anything else? Why did Willy have to die?!”

I studied hard (I graduated with a 3.96 g.p.a.) because there wasn’t anything else to do. I mowed the lawn. I went to church. We went to a SIDS support group and a grief group It helped a little to know we weren’t alone. Mostly I simply shuffled along.

They put me on prozac and the scream deep inside quieted down.

As the anniversary of Willy’s death drew near I insisted on dropping the prozac so I could know that whatever I felt was truly me and not some drug.

How could this be? The Lord had clearly told me that I was to adopt that boy. Even after all that had happened I still knew that the dream was unique. It was a message for me. But how can this be right? This child was my Isaac and God took him.

He didn’t die from pneumonia. There wasn’t a car accident or a drowning or food poisoning. He just went to sleep and died. He simply died.

Job’s friends tried to comfort him, but they were no help. My friends tried as well. But in the end what carried Job through was simply being steadfast. I determined to stand steady.

Now this is a sad chapter in my story. But it is only a chapter.

About a year and a half after Willy’s death we got a phone call. The woman, a missionary, had heard our story somehow and said that she had been praying for us. She said that “your quiver would be full”, a reference to children (Psalm 127). She told us about a fertility doctor in New York and a woman with war orphans from Haiti in Florida. We made a call.

I told the woman there about our situation, that we were looking for a child to adopt. We wanted someone very young. Skin color did not matter.

“We have just the child!” she said. “His name is Isaac.”

A few weeks later during a follow up call she told us that Isaac’s best friend’s adoption had fallen through and would we be interested in adopting J. as well?

June 1st is family day for us. That is the date we first laid eyes on our kids. We were in Florida at the foster home, and the overworked dynamo who ran the place asked us between straining spaghetti noodles and emptying the trash if we wanted to see the boys.

“I think Isaac is awake. If you look out the sliding door across the back porch you should see him in the first crib in the bedroom on the other side.”

I looked where she directed. There was a crib by the bedroom’s sliding glass door and a big eyed little boy was jumping up and down in his crib watching me and yelling “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”


I had my Isaac.




“The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. . ." --Job 42:12



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26 comments:

The Server said...

Hi there. You took the time to check out my blog, so it's only fair that I check out yours. I'm not big into religion, but I LOVE good writing/storytelling. Your posts definitely qualify. I'll be back for more.

Hope said...

Oh I am just sitting here weeping great big tears. God bless you. I don't know what else to say. It puts my day(life) in perspective.

Natala said...

thank you for sharing this... i too am not sure what to say, it left me with out words.
thank you.

QueenBee said...

Your story has touched my heart - words aren't enough. Thank you for sharing.

The Gas Guy said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog. I enjoyed this post tremendously and will be back.

Phyllis S said...

I am in awe with how lovingly you told us this. I'll be back.

the reverend mommy said...

You have me in tears. I understand the Job thing. I understand the Prozac thing. Blessings on you today.

MMM said...

You have come to read me.

I have come to read you.

Kiss Isaac on my behalf. Let him know there is a MMMommy figure in the Desert of the Real that knows his name and loves him. ;)

The Family Man said...

Thank you for checking out my blog. Thank you, also, for pointing me to yours. Your story, and your writing, is powerful and moving. I will come back for more.

Anne said...

Beautifully told. It is hard to imagine but your words make it easier to understand.

How is everything going with the church fire and your son?

Kathryn St.Clair said...

I have always been told that God does not shut one window without opening another. Perhaps that happened for you. I do not think it was a coincidence that your second son's name was Issac.

Life is what we make it. Understanding and taking into our hearts what has happened in the past makes us stronger on our journey in the future.

cat

dsweetz said...

Thank you for sharing. I am going through a tough time right now and sometimes forget how truly blessed I am. Thank you for reminding me that God always has a purpose and the pain of it will not be in vain, no matter how hard it is to understand at this moment. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. You are a very special and strong person who has extended your strength and touched my heart. Thank you.

Kajay said...

You checked out my blog as well and I have to say I am glad I read yours! ITs awsome!

Maripat said...

After reading your blog, I almost feel like a whiner. What incredible strengh you have. Bless you and your family. Take care.

MMM said...

Tell me more about Isaac, and the unnamed little one that came along with him.:)

kate said...

Thank your for stopping by my blog. I wanted to return the favour--and I'm so glad I did. I pray blessings on you and yours.

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come for you." John 14:18

The Time said...

Thanks for your comment on my "Google Bias" Post. I will keep an eye on your writings as well.

SMW said...

Wow.

This was an amazing story.

Thank you so much for sharing. It realy encouraged me beyond what you may even realize.

Sincerely.

Serenity23 said...

I am at a loss for words. It is amazing to listen to the faith you have. I strongly believe that God will give us the desires of our hearts if we have faith. And even though I know this, I still struggle with allowing him to be in total control. It was so powerful for me to read this. I'm happy for you and your family. May God continue to bless you.

Sunshine said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. If you didn't, I would not have come across yours. Your story touched me, and somehow strengthens faith. It's good to read these kinds of true stories and even bible passages. I used to be very religious, but the shallowness of our priest and very strict old school rules of excommunication somehow made me avoid to attend the masses that priest officiates.
There are other ways of showing faith, having it in my heart, rather than how many times I attend mass in our church in a week. Thanks for sharing these personal stories and bible passages in your blog. Hope to see you again in my blog too. I will add your blog under my Links if you don't mind.

Sunshine said...

p.s. i still attend mass every sunday, those officiated by other priests.sometimes i attend mass in my university, instead of the one in my community. God is a loving God, a forgiving God. I believe Jesus would not cast away women from receiving His word based on the clothes they wear. Jesus loved everyone, including sinners, and never judged others. That is why I believe the old school rules of excommunication based on clothing is against the rights of people.

lex said...

unbelievable...your story of how God gave you your Isaac is amazingly unbeleivable. my husband and I are currently struggling with infertility issues and are beginning to open our minds to other options. Your adoption story is beautiful. Thank you. I really think that God sent me to your blog today to quiet some questions that have been screaming in my head lately.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

- M.D.

Anonymous said...

best regards, nice info
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