This weekend, CNN brought us the story of nine-year-old Sonja Hodgin. Well, at least for the past seven years she has been Sonja Hodgin. This little girl, who’s been growing up on the Hodgin’s farm near Dickson, Tennessee since before her second birthday, calls David and Kim Hodgin “Mama” and “Daddy”. In fact they were legally her adoptive parents until her father, incarcerated on a transportation of firearms charge, cut a deal and had his sentence shortened to seven-and-a-half years. In Tennessee, if a parent’s prison sentence is over ten years, that parent automatically surrenders any custody rights to any children. When this sentence was cut in half, the custody rights, that had formerly been surrendered automatically, were restored. Thus, the little girl from Dickson, found herself, within three hours of the judges’ ruling, being whisked away, even as she cried out and begged her adoptive parents not to make her go. She traveled with her biological father, John McCaul, a man she’d never even seen before, to Omaha, to a tiny little house that she describes, as she pleads, in a recorded phone conversation, with her parents to come and get her, as “filthy and dirty.” She told her parents there was mold and there were cigarettes everywhere. (You can see Sonya here: http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/15/us/tennessee-adoption-battle/.)
My heart goes out to young Sonya. While I am thankful that our laws are protective of the rights of parents, it is difficult, at best, as I watch Kim Hodgin crying, to comprehend the depth of her sorrow. It is hard for me to think about a nine-year-old being taken from the security of the only home she has ever known. I am praying that some compromise can be made that will allow the Hodgin family to be reunited with Sonya for at least long enough to help her prepare for and transition to the new life that appears inevitable. Perhaps they may even be able to convince Mr. McCaul to allow them to finish raising his daughter. Whatever the outcome, life will not be smooth sailing for Sonya from this point.
The point of this writing, though, is not to express judgement about how this case should be resolved. Instead, draw with me some lessons about the spiritual adoption of children of God. Galatians 4:4-7 describes our own adoption process. It is what makes us part of the blessed eternal family. It gives us all the rights of lawful daughters of God.
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Have you ever thought about the fact that, in our adoptions, we were taken from the very worst conditions imaginable to live in the veritable palace of the King of Kings? Ponder the contrast between the condition of eternal damnation and darkness–hell forever with the vilest of sinners–and the place of hope and comfort we enjoy in Jesus.
Then think about this amazing phenomenon. You and I know people who have been taken back into the filth by the devil. And it IS filth. The Biblical description, in fact, of this return to the former home, has to do with eating one’s own vomit. (II Peter 2:22). It’s a much more grotesque picture than the one painted by little Sonya. While these formerly protected children are back in the filth, the adoptive father longs for their return. He sorrows for the distance between Himself and those children and for their dirty living conditions (Luke 15: 7-24).
But, in the case of the adopted children of God, no one is forcing them to stay in the dirty home. These children are choosing the grimy over the glorious, the moldy over the magnificent. It boggles the spiritual mind. Unlike Sonya, many today are seemingly happy to have left the security of the father’s adoptive home.
The tragic part of the story is this: One day, even though Sonya may never see her adoptive parents again, if she obeys God, any struggles and heartaches she experiences here will be finished and, in retrospect, will seem extremely short-lived. She will one day live in total peace and security. But those who have left the spiritual security of the Adoptive Father, will live in the vilest of filthy places for all of eternity.
Is your Adoptive Father grieving because you are gone?