The Bible says that men should not presume to be teachers. I agree with that and in the life experience of adopting ELI I have found myself, even though I have fathered 4 other kids for a while now, becoming a student of life, parenting and child development all over again. As a good student I listen, discuss, object and then attempt to adjust my understanding according to new found truth or facts. Through the intensity of the past 2 years surrounding this adoption, including this very day, I might add, I feel like I have swallowed a river worth of living waters full of refreshing and energy. There is something special bottled up inside that little boy we have all so naturally begun calling Eli.
I say that to say, I am not a teacher, but rather a student who likes to teach. Truth is, I really like to tell stories, to recount moments in life when something powerful, funny or special brought attention to some interesting fact. One example would be, and follow me here as I change decades, the time when I was around 7/8 years old with blood all over my face from a backyard brawl. The setting was the backyard of a small suburban home playing beside a new possible step brother named Scotty, don't ask, and his sisters. We were playing in our cool tree house on stilts when the 6th grade bully from the next lot over came to play. He played but he also bullied Scotty's sisters. So, as we had discussed, with the precise planning of a special forces operation, we stepped in and defended the ladies. The perfect example of chivalry and bravery, with honor at stake, we lured the unsuspecting bully up the stairs of our tree house then attacked. For the sake of our family name and with every ounce of "scrappy" we could muster up at 4th grade and 78 pounds, we attacked. The battle included tackling down the stairs, rolling on the ground, hitting, kicking and bloody noses. There is a secret picture to prove that Scotty and I, were both laughing and crying as the medical staff treated our bloody faces while the bigger, tougher and now defeated Goliath of a 6th grader ran away, jumping the fence in fear to never return again. It was fun, memorable and perfectly executed, teamwork at it's best. It was a story that 33 years later still makes me admire my friend and almost step brother Scotty and makes me wish we had more opportunities to defend more innocent ladies of Tidewater Lane.
Getting back on topic, I would like to write about my personal experience with becoming the Father of our newly adopted son, Elias Zhang Wei Ramsdell. For the longest time we were just doing paperwork and getting ready to adopt. Eventually we got pictures of Eli. I thought he was cute, I showed them around to friends and prayed over them, but never felt any real confirmation or connection, they were just pictures. Eventually, I was beginning to feel like we were not being decisive, mainly me, and that something needed to happen to confirm we were headed down the right path. This was Spring of this 2009. In pursuit of greater confidence in the matter, I ditched work to spend a day, the first official day of Spring actually, hiking up Stanley Canyon behind the Air Force Academy, seeking God's heart on the matter. As I hiked, still feeling the pain of a recent ACL reconstruction on my right knee, I prayed. Sometimes being physical helps me pray more focused and more intense. I stopped along the way to rest, drink water and read scripture. I was also listening to some kicking praise on my iPod. At one point I was wondering if I should just turn back. I was weak due to fasting, tired due to being out of shape and breathing hard due to the cool rain and altitude. Pressing on, however, proved to be just the right thing to do as I eventually found a great spot to sit and to pray. It was there that a normal prayer for God to speak turned into a life experience worthy of retelling. In the following moments, as I drank water, rested and really began to focus in on the heart of God, that a miracle happened. With no words and with no visions, and during a normal moment of quiet time before God, my heart began to break. The more I prayed the more my soul began to become torn and twisted inside of me. The heart of Father God, especially the heart of God for Elias, deeply penetrated my own heart and broke me like a baby. I cried, I sobbed. For a few minutes upon that mountain side, I fell apart. Easy to understand though was the reason for the breakdown. It was, like I have said, God's heart, the Father's Heart, reaching out through me to one of HIS dear sons, stuck in an orphanage thousands of miles away without a family, father or chance in the world. God's brokenness over Eli's situation broke me. I pictured him going to sleep at night, cold, uncomforted and alone. I felt the feelings of abandonment, I felt the feelings of deep sorrow and I felt the passion God has for this little ones. After this short time, I didn't have to pray for God to speak or to show me, I knew, like a Father knows, this boy was mine. I had felt both his pain and the pain of his Heavenly Father and was now fully vested as his Earthly Father.
As if that is not cool enough, there is another piece to the Father's Heart puzzle. It has to do with our Baby Dedication just 2 wks ago, 2 months or so after we actually brought Eli home. Without anyone in the world knowing about the above experience we went forward for Baby Dedication Sunday morning. A pastor was assigned to us, to pray for us and to symbolically receive the child from our arms and we dedicated him to God and God's Purpose. We went through the routine and the prayer with a sizable group of family and friends around us for support. A group we are very thankful to have with us, by the way. Following the dedication the pastor standing with us gave me a word about an impression he received while holding Eli. He said that God had shown him that Eli DID IN FACT have a place in our family, a place made by God and that the place was near The Father's Heart. Say what, The Father's Heart? Did he really say that, why yes he did. So, you know what I thought of...that day on the mountain. It was a confirmation that God had been involved in every step of the way and that HE had placed Eli in our home and that He had given us the right amount of space in our home and heart for Eli.
I do believe that Eli is my son. I know he has biological parents and I believe that his birth dad is his dad. But, he will never be his Father and he will never be the kind of Father I can be to him. There is a special bond between us already and I appreciate the way God has breathed into our lives through this young man. I look forward to writing about it and talking about it in the days to come. The first year of experiences with Eli at home have already started with amazing growth and surprise. I can only imagine what he will be like 6 months from now. And without being a teacher I hope to share more about the parenting we have engaged in and practiced in response to this unique experience.