For My Son

This whole winter, I’ve been tanning. I know the possible health risks, and the way tanning could prematurely age my skin. My skin does take to UV amazingly well, though, with it’s slight olive tone. After all, my name is Jacinto Hernandez, so should all else fail, making a living picking onions out in the fields should at least be an option for me. Normally, I don’t care about keeping my skin bronzed when it’s cold, but this year was different. No, I did not make a resolution to be more vain. In fact, I didn’t do it for me at all. Why did I do it?

For my son.

Sing it, girl!

Sing it, girl!

If that sounds weird to you, it should. How can one tan for a child, exactly? Well, there’s a boy I know. Sorry, every time I think those words, I hear Whitney Houston from the crazy hair extension days in the mid-80′s sing in my head.

There’s a boy I know. He’s the one I dream of. Uh-huh.

Okay, back to my story. There’s a boy. And for almost nine months, we’ve been trying to adopt him. And now, it’s finally happened. Let’s just say he’s somewhat darker that we are. Like cinnamon. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not like a horde of pale Norsemen, or pasty freckled redheads. We all come from 50% Latin stock. But we’re not… like cinnamon. However, I can be, or very close to it with just a little consistent UV. So, in the hopes that he might feel a tiny bit less like an outsider when he joined our family, I’ve been standing in a tanning booth once a week.

For my son.

The tanning is something that I intentionally set out to do with the end-game in mind for the benefit of a little boy. What’s crazy is that it’s not even close to all that I’ve done in preparation for adopting this boy. And that’s where it gets weird. You see, everything else I’ve done in my life to get me ready for this moment was not intentionally done for that purpose – and yet I’ve been steadily building toward it my entire life.

Twenty years ago, I decided I wanted to be an artist. It’s what I loved doing, and I certainly had some decent natural ability in that arena. While in college I started working as a freelance illustrator in the comic book, fantasy art, and architectural fields, and continued along that path after I finished school. And I still work as such to this day, along with doing freelance graphic design work. It’s the kind of work I wanted to do, so I chose to pursue it. When my family started multiplying, my job gave me the flexibility to be involved in the everyday goings-on with my kids. I’ve been there to every step of the way, and it’s all been possible because of my decision to be an artist. I chose this path. I exerted my free will.

Or so I thought.

A little over four years ago, my wife and I attended an adoption expo at a local church after feeling that God had laid adoption on our hearts. While there, we attended an informational meeting put on by a ministry called Project 1:27, named after the bible verse James 1:27. From what we heard there, we were drawn to the idea of a domestic adoption from the local foster care and adoption services. So that began a many year effort of attending training courses and priceless adoption education classes and seminars, completing questionnaires, surveys, interviews, background checks, and home-studies. Finally, we completed our certification with the county.

And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Discouraged after almost a year with no phone call regarding a potential match, we questioned what we were doing, and very seriously considered not renewing our certification for another year.

Then, early last August, I felt a nudge to look on the website for the Adoption Exchange. So I did; I saw a cinnamon-skinned little boy smiling back at me, eyes squinting into the bright sun. His brief description gave me much more than a pause. This little guy was a good artist, loved superheroes, and needed an active and involved father. And then, revelation:

Every decision I had ever made in my life led me to this moment. God made me exactly who I am today for a very specific reason.

For my son.

But I was in control, wasn’t I? Of my actions, yes. Of their purpose, no. Swallowing that reality is a very humbling pie, indeed. For all of my egocentricity, I could see what I was doing, but not the greater why of my actions; I could not see the forest for the trees. I am but a character in the story, not the author. My choices were my choices, but the greater purpose of them was hidden from me. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that my blindness was voluntary – I certainly never sought that information throughout my life.

I think that we, as a collective, have a tendency to ask “why” when misfortune has a seat at our table, and we search for the higher meaning in our pain and suffering. We crave an explanation for setbacks and misery:

God, why am I no good at this?

God, why have I lost my job?

God, why is the cancer back?

God, why did my husband leave me?

Why this failure?

What are you trying to tell me?

Why me?

Oddly enough though, we don’t do the same when fortune shines upon us. Which makes absolutely no sense, because if we believe that suffering has a higher purpose from God, surely thriving must also have as important a purpose, if not an even higher one. And yet, we somehow choose to believe, out of our unending hubris, that those blessings were somehow overdue. In our misery, we seek support from above and from others, perhaps in the hopes of diluting our pain. But good fortune? We try to hoard it, thank you very much. Have you ever heard these questions asked?

Why dear God, why?

Why dear God, why?

God, why have you given me this talent?

God, why am I so wealthy?

God, why am I in good health?

God, why is my marriage so strong?

Why this success?

What are you trying to tell me, Lord?

Why me?

Maybe it’s that we wouldn’t like the answer we’d get. Because I can guarantee you, it wouldn’t be so we can buy the newest iStatus Device. Or maybe we don’t ask because we know we couldn’t possibly handle the answer we’d get. I know I couldn’t have handled the answer twenty years ago.

God, why have you given me a love for comic books, and a talent for art? Why have you blessed me with abundant patience and a yearning for a wife and children?

So you would be the perfect adoptive father for my son in twenty years.

Had I heard that, I guarantee you that my twenty-year-old self would have reacted just like Moses:

“Lord, you’ve got the wrong guy!”

I wouldn’t have believed that I could serve a purpose like that, and honestly, the knowledge of that responsibility might have crushed me under its weight. After all, at twenty, I was busy with college, watching reruns of the Dukes of Hazzard with my roommate, and thinking about every cute female with a firm backside I saw throughout the day – not necessarily in that order. Or… maybe it would have inspired me and shaken me out of that vapid existence. Who knows? It’s irrelevant now because I didn’t ask His purpose back then.

God, why have you brought a single mother into my life to be my wife, and taught me how to love a child that is biologically no relation to me?

So you would be the perfect adoptive father for my son in fifteen years.

“Lord, you’ve got the wrong guy!”

At the time, I was just concerned with being the best husband I could be to my new wife and the best father I could be to my new son. Could I have handled that news then? Probably not, as I was so in the thick of becoming an instant parent to a third grader that I simply could not have appreciated how I was gaining such valuable parenting experience for God’s purpose in the future. My purpose, at the time, was firmly set in the present, with no thought given to how God was shaping me for another chapter of my life.

God, why have you prompted me to go freelance, making less money, but working from home with an incredibly flexible schedule?

So you would be the perfect adoptive father for my son in ten years.

“Lord, you’ve got the wrong guy!”

I was just making a career move because I couldn’t handle taking our little girl to daycare anymore. I could be a huge benefit to my wife while she was getting her Masters degree, and a huge benefit to our kids by being around and available almost all of the time. The thought that our home life could be an ideal situation for a little boy who needed extra time and attention from the strong male presence in his life never entered into my thinking. I just lived my life and made my decisions for me and my family in our current situation.

But the realization that we likely would not have been matched with our new little guy if just one thing about my life had been different, truly opened my eyes to how God uses us to do His greater work without us even knowing it. I think maybe it is time to start seeking His purpose and meaning in every way he has shaped our lives, not just the struggles.

From now on, every new little change in me and my life will bring with it the question of “What’s this about, God?” He has shaped each one of us with unique talents and gifts and experiences, not with the intention of us hoarding the benefits of them, but using them to bless others. To live out the love of Jesus in this world. So when we ask “Lord, why have you made me who I am?,” no matter your specific purpose, His answer will undoubtedly sound something like this:

For my son.

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