Easter weekend 2012. This time of the year we remember the death of Jesus Christ by crucifixion, and his Resurrection three days later. What love! What joy! That Christ loves us enough to take upon himself every sin we have, and will commit, upon himself. So we can be with him, our maker, in Heaven for ever!
It had to think hard before writing this article, but I guess, being Easter, I decided to take the risk and do something I was reluctant to do in the past - but felt it was something I always wanted to do for a long time - to open up and to reveal that no matter how dark our lives has been in the past, God is in control. God is sovereign, therefore I have nothing to fear what other people may think. God loves me as I am.
I flown the nest in 1976, then aged 23. To me, I thought that was old, because I had friends attending our church fellowship who had graduated from their universities and colleges, having left home at 18 years of age. I guess I envied their independence, to be free from the restricting house rules imposed by my Italian parents. Rules such as not to stay up too late. Then the want of the freedom to go out in the evenings to paint the town red, and not be asked either one of those dreadful questions:
Where have you been last night? Or What did you get up to last night? Or even, What time did you get home last night?
To be asked such questions in my early twenties while knowing that students younger than myself were greeted by an empty apartment or college room co-occupied by one or two fellow students really got up my goat! This might have been the start of my feelings of inferior complex, that I was not trusted by my parents for the reason, as I believed then, that I was rubbish at school. In fact, I clearly remember my Dad back then telling me in so many words that these students have proven worthy of their greater independence at a younger age. Massive arguments broke out as a result. In 1976 I found it a joy that I was given a bedsit accommodation by the Council which was the necessary launch pad to start out on a life of my own.
It was after a long while after moving out that I began to feel closer to my parents with a greater warmth. But being single, I still kept them at a distance. At least our loud disagreements began to be the thing of the past.
Being single, even on my own, had mixed blessings. True, I was able to stay up until two in the morning and no one would bat an eyelid. Ditto if I suddenly decided to go away for a couple of days, and in the 1980s, this was a frequent occasion. As a competitive triathlete, many a Saturday night was spent at a hotel in the location where the event would be staged early the following morning, as the Sunday roads would be considerably free of traffic. Then not to mention my backpacking days, where I traveled solo across Western Europe, then to Israel, Canada, the USA, Singapore and Australia. The things I can do as a single person. This is testimony that God had his protective hand on me by pure grace. I did not have to work to receive it.
But being single also had its downsides. I found relationships with the opposite sex very difficult, if not impossible. I lacked confidence, I had a speech impediment, I was into a manual occupation - something our middle-class church girls, as it looked, wouldn't be seen dead with. I was also a loner, not good with team work, and enjoyed reading rather than play footie with the boys (as many of my church friends of my age did).
But that is precisely where God stepped in. After conversion to Christ, one of my greatest joys is studying the Bible. I also poured into books written by trustworthy authors to help me get a better grips with the Bible. The end result was my love for Israel, the nation and its people, and the prophetic plans God has for them.
Then in 1998 I found Alex, my future wife. I was already 47 at the time. We married ten months later during the Autumn of 1999. My first daughter was born in 2001, three years later, my second daughter was born in 2004.
But in the months to follow, we found parenting very difficult. The Health Visitor (who calls at the home of every parents of newborns here in the UK for the first couple of months) noticed this and she was very concerned, and called Social Services. To cut a long story short, after months of assessments, it was decided that our two daughters were to be adopted.
We were devastated, and I felt shame and embarrassment. I only told my family and those at church. During one service, I broke down and wept aloud publicly. But my faith in God never wavered. In fact, if there was a time I felt that I desperately need God in my life, it was then. Although I hang my head in shame, I knew that my two daughters would be in a better environment at their adoptive parent's home, and better provided for than we could have provided.
One morning, while pouring through the prophet Jeremiah, I came across these verses:
This is what the Lord says:
"A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
for her children are no more."
This is what the LORD says:
"Restrain your voice from weeping
and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,"
declares the LORD.
"They will return from the land of the enemy.
For there is hope for your future,"
declares the LORD.
"Your children will return to their own land."
Of course, the literal meaning of this passage is that after all the Jews had been exiled from their homeland by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, God promises their safe return. But Matthew also quote part of this text as referral to the slaughter of the innocents by King Herod, after being let down by the Wise Men. Obviously, the grieving mothers in Bethlehem will never get their kids back - not in this life anyway.
But reading this myself, I strongly felt God speaking directly to me. I believed. One day, God will return my daughters "from the land of the enemy." The "enemy" are not the adoptive parents of my daughters - they are treating them well and they are well provided for. The "enemy" refers to the Social Worker who had them snatched out of their beds at three in the morning, with not a sliver of compassion or sympathy for my hysterical wife and grieving grandparents.
The loss of our children has been very grievous for both of us, but seven years on, I'm happy to tell you that Alex and I enjoy a strong, robust marriage. We are just two of us, living in the quietness of our home, while knowing that God is in full control. Knowledge of his sovereignty is the key to Eternal Security. Security in him in this life as well as the in the promise of the next.
But what was the basic cause of all this trauma? The assessments showed that we both have Asperger's Syndrome, or "assie." It is a form of Autism. Several mysteries are answered straight away. First the way my parents looked on and treated me while I was still at home (since married, my parents and I are now very close). Then why the girls at our church did not find me compatible. And the inability for team work, including footie with the boys. But what could be surprising result of the assessment is that I also have above-average IQ. Both my wife and I have "assie". This could be the truth behind our robust marriage, despite the loss of our daughters.
The key to this article is Romans 8:28, which reads:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Let us quote the rest of the chapter, for want of such brilliant words:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
What then, can we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring to any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is it that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There you have it. How great is our God!
Wishing you all a very happy Easter.