The light of fatherhood shines at Christmas

Categorized as 12/21/09 Goshen News column

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” With these words, Isaiah, that prophet of old, announced the news that would change the world forever.

Now, just in time for this high and holy season foretold by the prophet, comes a true story that I am delighted to share with you. Like the nativity, this story, too, centers around the birth of a baby boy.

He came on a warm summer day in the month of June. Though he was not welcomed in a stable by the lowing of the cattle, he, like the babe of long ago, was born to a mother of humble means and status. Unlike that child, this baby was delivered prematurely at the gestational age of 24 weeks.

He was barely a handful, weighing 1 pound 8 ounces, and he measured the length of a ruler. And so began his struggle for survival.

It’s a proven fact that human touch and interaction is essential to an infant’s development. When this basic need is unmet, they often fail to thrive. Some of them die. If this is true for healthy children, you can imagine, can’t you, how critical it is for babies in crisis? Which is what makes this part of the story so heartbreaking.

You see, from the beginning, this little fellow had no earthly father to claim him. The one who was named, disavowed his paternity and would have nothing to do with the child. In an act that betrays everything that fatherhood was meant to be, he abandoned his son, leaving him to his fate.

By a miracle, the infant continued to live. Buoyed by the efforts of the skilled doctors and nurses, along with visits from his mother, he fought on. And then.

For reasons that can never be understood by anyone with a true maternal heart, his mother abandoned him, too. She simply quit coming.

Day after day, week after week, this tiny scrap of humanity struggled to survive. Alone and forsaken, he lay in his bassinette with no earthly parents to speak his name or touch his cheek or whisper a prayer.

Ah, but there was One who had not forgotten him. In tender love, Father God gathered this tiny mite into His arms and set about caring for him. First, He sent a kind, elderly woman, a volunteer, to hold and rock him for two hours every day. Then, in what was surely no mere coincidence, a father and mother with Jesus’ heart for “the least of these” received a phone call about the baby boy.

That father is my brother, Terry, and that mother is his wife, Natalie. Together, they decided, after much prayer, to say ‘yes’ to God and to receive Brady Cole into their family.

When I asked Terry what made them open their hearts and home to Brady, he replied, “James says that pure and undefiled religion is to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and He has given us a perfect opportunity to be faithful in that regard.” Their desire, he said, was “to make a difference one life at a time.”

He said that with Brady’s “vulnerability and absolute helplessness, and the fact that he has so many things going against him, I was afraid they would have difficulty finding a home for him.

“The fact that he was abandoned and left at the hospital weighed heavily on my heart. I did not want him to have to experience that abandonment for the rest of his life…but for him to experience the unconditional love that we all so freely experience every day because of the grace of our Heavenly Father.”

I asked him what his hopes and dreams and prayers are for Brady. He answered, “My prayer is that Enoch’s epitaph (he walked with God) would be true for Brady’s life. He doesn’t have to do anything flashy or great to impress me. As long as he is faithful to God, I will be pleased.

“One of my prayers is that he will be a man of gentle strength; a man of strong character, but gentle in spirit. And of course, I dream about the day he will follow me into the woods, learning to love the outdoors and the sport of hunting. If he is more enthralled with pianos and art, then I guess I will learn music and selflessness.”

He concluded, “I understand when fathers say they would do whatever they could within their power for their children and am beginning to get a glimpse of how desperately God wants to care for us and how desperately He wants us to come to Him with our needs rather than being so self-sufficient.”

And there it is. The story of Christmas is really a story of fatherhood. It’s the first chapter in a glorious narrative about the pursuit of fallen mankind by Father God. This is the light of Christmas, that we have not been abandoned. We are not alone. We have not been left comfortless. We have a Father.

From our family to yours, a very Merry Christmas.

As this goes to press, Terry and Natalie are actively pursuing Brady’s adoption. He is dearly loved by them and by his two-year-old sister, Ashlyn, whose own adoption story was joyfully recounted last year.

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