“I am coming to you.”
These are odd words for Jesus to speak to the disciples while he was already in their presence while they ate together the night of the Last Supper. I am coming to you. These words must have sounded strange to the disciples. But they are a precious promise that comes from the heart of a Jesus who knows he will soon be leaving these friends whom he so dearly loves. He will leave them when he dies on the cross and then he will leave them again when he ascends into heaven. This must happen, he knows, but how can Jesus leave the dear ones he loves so much? How can he leave them alone in what will be a dangerous and scary time?
This is one of those moments where I actually really get Jesus. For you see I have said these same words, “I am coming to you.” You all may know that almost thirteen years ago we adopted a baby girl from China. And that that adoption has been one of the greatest joys of our life. But adoption is an interesting and difficult process on the front end. Because like pregnancy, you know a child is about to enter your life. You see glimpses of the child to come.
But unlike pregnancy this child is not within you, under your protection. In fact, sometimes this child is living an ocean away is a circumstance you can barely imagine. And when you think of that child that is to be yours, when you read letters about her and receive pictures of her in the mail, a strange thing begins to happen. You begin to passionately love that child. You love the child and you want to do everything in your power to care for that child . . . but this child is still an ocean away. So you go to sleep at night praying the child is well. That she is not hungry or cold or scared. That nothing will harm her. That somehow she will already know she is loved even when you cannot be with her yet. These nights as I fell asleep praying for my child an ocean away I would whisper, “I am coming to you.”
And as this love grows your patience for being separated from this child shrinks. So you do everything in your power to not leave the child orphaned. You do everything in your power to bring that child home to your loving arms. International adoptions tend to have bumps and hiccups. Our big bump was getting through immigration. We adopted not too long after the 9/11 attacks, so immigration services has really gotten strict. Even for babies.
We had submitted our paperwork, but it sat in a large pile of other requests on the desk of the agent in charge of approving international adoptees for citizenship. As weeks and months ticked on my tolerance for this bureaucratic delay ran out. I switched from calling immigration services for updates to storming this fort of red tape through the door of my senator’s office. I wrote letters explaining our situation. I made phone calls. I had meetings with his aides. I was going to camp out in that office until our senator intervened on our behalf so that we could finally bring our daughter home.
I am coming for you. I will never leave you orphaned.
After a few weeks Senator Chambliss convinced the immigration agent to move our file to the top of the pile and our paperwork was processed. We were cleared to fly to China to meet our daughter and bring her home. I will tell you the story of our daughter’s homecoming some other time, but suffice it to say I will never forget what it felt like to have this child that I had prayed for and fought for under the protection of our roof for the first time. I will never forget how good it felt to be able to care for and protect this girl I loved so very much even before I met her.
Now in some ways my story is unique, but I bet many of you have had this moment. This moment of saying, “I am coming to you. I will not leave you alone.” The moment you got a phone call your child or loved one was hurt or in need. I bet in that moment your love for them was so strong that nothing could have stopped you from rushing to them and doing anything necessary to be with them and care for them. When I hear stories of moms lifting cars off of their injured children I am never surprised. If necessary, love does whatever it has to do.
Love does whatever it has to do.
I wonder if Jesus ever said those words to himself that night in the garden or as he hung upon the cross. For surely he knew this act was the way he would be able to protect those he loved, those he had met and those he had yet to meet, forever.
In the apostles creed we talk about Jesus descending to hell after he died upon the cross. I love this image of Jesus storming the very gates of hell knowing this was the way to free US from the power of sin and death. This was the way to bring his beloveds home to his house forever.
If I could give you anything, it would be the knowledge that Jesus loves you SO VERY MUCH. More than I love my daughter and son, more than you love your significant others or grandchildren. More than we love our dogs. And that is a love so big it is hard to imagine or believe.
Jesus loves us fiercely and completely, to the point he will do whatever is necessary to come to us. To always be with us. To one day bring us home.
Jesus talks a lot about the Advocate or the Holy Spirit in John. Because of Jesus’s great love for us he could not bear to be separated from us while we live on this earth. So he asked God to send their spirit to live in us. Right here and now. So we would never have to be alone. So Jesus could be with us always. To love us, look after us, care for us. Maybe you have felt that spirit dwelling within you. In a time of crisis or just a time when you were quiet enough to hear the Spirit within.
I hope more than anything that you feel that Spirit filling you with love. God’s fierce, amazing, and unending love. For you, YOU, a very child of God. A child that brings God great pleasure. A child worth storming the gates of hell for. A child that God will one day rejoice over when we finally travel home.
Until then know that you are so very loved. And never, ever alone.
I am coming for you. I will never leave you abandoned.