Every year now, I am struck with pangs of sadness right around the beginning of Advent. Without fail. My heart feels a deep sense of heaviness that is hard to explain. Even though I'm an adoptive mama, I acutely remember the painful years of longing and waiting for a child, and the sadness that accompanied the inability to have one. If you've ever faced infertility, you understand.
Something about this time of year brings it back so predictably. (Perhaps I should just get out a calendar and mark it off for next year so I won't be so surprised by it.)
And this year? Here's what triggered it for me:
A genealogy account, of all things...
This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. 5 Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.
6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. 7 Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8 Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died. 9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. 13 Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died. 15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. 16 Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died. 18 When Jared had lived 162 years he fathered Enoch. 19 Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died. 21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God[i] after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not,[j] for God took him. 25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. 26 Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died. 28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief[k] from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died. 32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Weird, right? I know.
This is the passage our pastor will be preaching on in church this Sunday as we are making our way through the book of Genesis. It was in the middle of preparing music for this week's service that these memories washed over me.
Why a genealogy of all things?
If I had to guess, I'd say genealogies are some of the most skipped-over verses in the Bible. (yet strangely enough, one of my most life-changing sermons was actually about a genealogy!) I mean, what's there to be found in "so-and-so begat so-and-so" anyways?
But after you have walked the road of infertility and adoption, you don't read those accounts quite the same way again.
Suddenly "so-and-so begat so-and-so" seems so flippant. So expected.
And then I look at my own life, and all the years of bloodwork and doctors' appointments and treatments and medications that I gruelingly endured. All in the effort to say that I, too, begat so-and-so.
As I read the genealogies, I can't help but hear how the Lord blessed others and blessed them again. These women are fruitful. They bear children that bear more children. Seems easy enough.
But what happens when God puts a big ol', bright red STOP SIGN on your own genealogy? What happens when He pushes "pause" on your dreams for your own family tree?
Enosh fathered Kenan... Kenan fathered Mahalelel...Mahalalel fathered Jared...
the words roll effortlessly across the page.
Why aren't you working in MY family, God?!? I remember thinking, tears flooding my eyes. Why must I be so different?!? From the page, conceiving and delivering seems so normal, so expected. You're a woman, therefore you must have the right and ability to bear children.
At least that's what it appears to be on the surface.
(Thankfully, God in His tender grace also gives us plenty of examples of barren women in His scriptures.)
But when you're in the midst of infertility, it's as if all you can SEE are pregnant bellies and newborn babies.
And the waiting feels ENDLESS.
So, we've just entered Advent.
A season of waiting.
Advent is all about waiting on a baby. Waiting for a birth.
Every man and woman struggling with the pains of infertility can identify with the people of the Old Testament who longed for and waited upon a child to be born. They held onto a promise. They held onto faith over sight. Generation after generation passed without this baby. They continued to trust and hope upon the One who would redeem their misery.
As they looked ahead, we look back. We have the privilege of seeing the culmination of all their hopes: a baby born in Bethlehem.
But he didn't come as they thought he would, did he?
This baby, who was worthy of all the glory and riches the universe could give, came through a young birthmother named Mary. Into the world in a cattle stall. Wrapped in cloths unfit for royalty. Taken in as a son by a man named Joseph, who shared no genetic connection to him.
It probably wasn't the grand entrance they'd expected.
But it was, indeed, the fulfillment of His promise.
And it's here, in this baby's birth, I can find great comfort in genealogies, because when I open to the first page of the New Testament, to Matthew's first chapter, I find another account of names.
Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, etc. etc.
I'm tempted to see things the same way again. But this time, it's different. It's the genealogy of Jesus, traced back through the line of his ADOPTIVE father, Joseph.
Did you hear that? Jesus' genealogy wasn't traced back through a blood lineage. It was through adoption!
What a beautiful reminder to those of us who have never known the pains and joys of childbirth: Families are not only formed by blood.
Adoption isn't an afterthought, or a second best plan. Adoption is at the very heart of God's Plan A, both for His son, and for us as well.
He shows us these long lists of names, and we who trust in His promises today become adopted into that family, His family, no matter what our genetics might say.
Here's something else...
Genealogies don't have disclaimers. There's no asterisk next to Jesus' name that says, "Well, this one was adopted," or "this one was from a different ethnicity so he's not really in the family line..."
I think about the genealogy of my own extended family, and it would read "so-and-so begat so-and-so," right on down the line until my mother had me. All natural born children. And if I'm being honest, I'm tempted to think that next to my name in the family tree, there should be an asterisk next to my children:
Lest someone might think that they were really in our family line.....
But you know what? The beautiful thing is, there is NO disclaimer.
NO difference between those who bore their babies and those who did not.
My children are now every bit a part of my genealogy as everyone else's babies are theirs. Their birth certificates don't have an asterisk. It doesn't say a THING about adoption. On their birth certificates, I am listed as their mother, Marc is listed as their father. No difference. I love that.
Being a mother or a father is way more than simply giving birth.
Thank you, sweet Jesus. Thank you for showing us in these genealogies what family truly is. Thank you for being an adoptee that my children can relate to. Thank you for showing me that I am just as much apart of Your plan, even though I didn't "beget" anybody.
And to those who continue to wait and long for your own genealogy to continue, we cry along with you in this Advent season:
Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free
from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee.