I glanced over at the clock to see single digits in the early morning, once again awake and unable to sleep. Would our caterers have enough food for all the guests at Saturday night’s party? Had I selected the right dress for Sunday? Did I forget to invite anyone? Both excited and anxious, I prayed that the Lord would calm me and allow me to rest in his promises, which were more real and lasting than anything else in the upcoming weekend.
I experienced this array of emotions throughout the week, and at some point it struck me that I’d felt much of the same exactly 11 years ago, in the days leading up to my wedding. On the Saturday eve of our wedding, Rob and I celebrated with friends and family at an outdoor venue near my childhood home. We then worshiped at our church on Sunday morning, June 19, making vows as we entered the covenant of marriage in a ceremony following the service.
Once again, family and friends were gathering outdoors at our home on a Saturday evening, this time to celebrate the long-awaited adoption of David and Jada, precious children we’d fostered for over three years. On Sunday morning, June 19, we would don special outfits and once again make vows in the presence of our church family, this time proclaiming the Lord’s never-ending covenant of love with our children through baptism.
I haven’t stopped thinking about these two covenants, in God’s perfect timing proclaimed exactly eleven years apart. Thankfully, I’ve learned a thing or two in that time. Or really I should say that the Lord has been kind to reveal a critical truth I didn’t understand back then: He is in charge of keeping the covenant. He is the only one who can. Try as I might, I am not a covenant keeper. I am not able – none of us are.
This is actually good news to us as parents, because God is able, and always follows through.
He’s been true to His word from the very beginning: “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you” (Gen. 17:7). The Lord reveals His faithfulness time and again in the story of His people: from Adam to Noah to Moses to Abraham to David and then to all mankind through Jesus, God is kind to keep His covenant with people whom he chooses simply because He loves them, not because they deserve it.
As one of the offspring foreshadowed in Genesis, I inherited the covenant-breaking trait of my ancestors. Like many young brides, I was audacious enough to enter marriage thinking I would fulfill every vow I spoke to my groom. Yet in our most difficult times it is the Lord’s commitment to His covenant love that has held our marriage intact. To borrow from The Jesus Storybook Bible, God has revealed his “Never-Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love” time and again throughout our marriage, most evident in moments where both of us were failing.
Now I am able to read those words from The Jesus Storybook Bible to my precious children, with prayers that the truth of God’s great love will settle deep within their hearts. My hope is that they will one day proclaim adoption into God’s family as far more beautiful than becoming part of ours. I’m also humbly aware that, try as I might, I won’t be able to keep this covenant as a mother any better than as a wife – and that’s okay, because God can and will!
David was a tiny baby when he joined us, and there were many nights I’d rock him to sleep while singing lyrics from “I Give You To His Heart”: “Baby boy, my love will last forever / If you’re to live, I must give you up to God.” Those are the words that a modern songwriter imagined Moses’ mother sang over her baby boy when she left him to be raised by another mother. Little did she know that God would once again proclaim His covenant with the Israelite people through her son. And once again, the people would prove incapable of keeping it.
It is the prophet Jeremiah who proclaims God a faithful husband to covenant-breaking people, pointing to the hope of the new covenant: “‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will put my law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people’” (31:31-33).
Sometimes my singing over little David became garbled as I wept and pleaded with the Lord to let me keep the child whom he’d brought to our home. And while I am deeply relieved to no longer cry those particular tears, I’m not foolish enough to believe that there will not be other tears cried over these children in the future – a future much more out of my control than I’d like to believe. It is precisely because of God’s faithfulness to the covenant that I can continue, like the song says, to give my children to His heart.
It’s an incredible gift that this little boy and his sister now share my last name, but I am even more grateful that they have been baptized and declared “Children of the Covenant.”
So I pray that our failings as their parents (because we will fail them) will provide the means for our children to experience the steadfastness of God, for both of them to know that the Lord is their everything, not us. I pray that I rely on his strength so that in my weakness his grace is clearer to us all. I pray for humility to continue admitting that I’m a covenant breaker, so that I may testify about the only one who keeps the covenant, ultimately by giving up his life on a cross for his beloved. This covenant, kept by the resurrected Jesus, is the only truth upon which we can rest and hope with our children.