For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God … Romans 8:14-16
This past Sunday we celebrated Father’s Day and while my biological dad passed away in 2016, my stepdad is still living. My parents divorced after 10 years of marriage and four children. I was the oldest of the four and was very protective of my younger siblings. My mother went to work for the first time that I could remember and we started a round of trying out babysitters. Most of them didn’t last too long because I reported everything to mom about how mean they were to my brothers. My sister was just a baby. My dad moved out of state and I did not get to see him very often.
Can you imagine how I felt when my mother started seeing a man? I was so happy! Well, I was so mixed about it, honestly, because I had gotten an awful lot of attention from my mother during that unmarried time. I liked this new man, but I liked having my mom’s time too. I remember the first time I was alone with him. They both played musical instruments, as did his mother, who played violin, and they were all in a quartet to play for a music club. I was along with my mom for the practice and I’ll never forget listening and watching them play. It was Mozart’s Concerto for Clarinet – a tune that always takes me back to that rainy afternoon. This soon-to-be-my-stepfather played the clarinet with such skill and beauty that I was mesmerized by it. I had seen my mother play her violin often and loved it, but this time it seemed like they were in such rhythm with one another that it made perfect sense … them being there together. I was an impressed nine-year-old.
I was fairly shy and wasn’t thrilled that my mom asked if I would be okay with him taking me to my grandmother’s house where I would spend the night. But how could I say no? I remember being in his car – the fanciest car I’d ever seen. It was a Lincoln and it had buttons for everything. It was pouring down rain and the windshield wipers were moving and making a noise with a rhythm all its own – back and forth and back and forth. I didn’t know what to say, but he asked me questions about things I liked and I found I could actually talk to this man. Then he asked a question that would be something we would have in common all the rest of our days together: “Do you like ice cream?”
My heart skipped for joy. My eyes brightened up. I nodded my head and said “Yes!”
So, we drove right past my grandmother’s house and went to an ice cream drive-in for cones. That was a real bonding moment for sure! After my mom and stepdad were married one of our favorite things to do in the evenings was to load up the family in the car and go to the Dairy Queen ice cream. It was a family tradition. We all looked forward to hearing that beckoning call: “Who wants to go to The Queen?”
This man – Craig Buckner – is one of the bravest men I know. He fought in the Korean War and then he came home and fell in love with a beautiful young woman who had four children. He had never been married and he’d never been a dad but he was brave enough to take us on and to persevere through all the ups and downs that came along. He moved us to “The Farm” where we had room to roam and grow and learn.
It wasn’t always easy, I know. I’m sure he had moments of being overwhelmed with responsibility but he stuck with us like glue and loved us with a love that was true and unwavering. He and my mother had two more children, giving him a total of six kids to raise and to love. And love us he did – each one of us as his own. He did not adopt us legally, but in the ways that it counted he might as well have. We were his. We are his. He is home in so many ways, even now that the farm is sold and we can’t go back there; even now, as he has moved to another state into a house that I never lived in, when I am with him, I am home. When I hear his voice, I am home. When we remember all the good times, it takes me back home. I think I started being home and having that sense of belonging to him as my father on that rainy day, eating ice cream, so very long ago, developing a bond with something we both loved.
In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul writes that we have been given a spirit of adoption through Jesus, God’s son. We, who are not Jews (Gentiles) have been “adopted” into the family of God by the sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the cross. We who are believers have been made children of the heavenly Father. Someday we will be called home to be with him. We belong to him because God chose us as his very own.
I’m thankful for my dad – Craig Buckner – who chose me as his daughter. Who gave me a home and a sense of belonging to him. And I’m even more thankful for a heavenly Father who chose to give me an eternal home through my Savior, Jesus Christ.
You will love this song by Cindy Powell. An old hymn made new. “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is calling.” Come home.
Grace and Peace,