The big event for our family recently was the celebration that we got to adopt our 5 year old, Grayson. It is a wonderful thing that now what Stacy and I have felt in our hearts for so long is a reality legally recognized - Grayson is our son. Praise God for this blessing!
For those who have followed with our family on this journey, you know that it has been lengthy. Specifically 1,399 days. That is how long it was from when Grayson first came to live with us until the finalization of his adoption.
And of course, more hearts than just Stacy and mine are involved, in addition to the Grayson adoptive extended family - grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins - there are his forever siblings: Vivian, Jackson, and Ian.
In fact, the inspiration for this article comes directly from reflecting on the love Grayson’s big brother has for his younger sibling. Jackson and Grayson are separated in age by just over 2 years, Jackson and Vivian will turn 8 on Jan 15 while Grayson becomes a big 6 year old on March 1st.
And for kids so close in age - sibling rivalry is a thing. Everything from competition for mom’s attention to a ready scape-goat to blame for mutual bad decisions are evidences of this phenomenon that we see on a daily basis. (Or perhaps it’d be more accurate to say “hourly” or even “minute by minute” rather than “daily”. Thank you Jesus that Stacy gets to be the one to stay at home. Ha!)
But in the midst of the squabbles, disagreements, and blame shifting there is also evidence of the love between the kids. I recently posted a short video on my facebook page of all four of our kids dancing together to the happy music that played at the end of a family movie we’d watched together. Oh, such are the moments that a parent holds onto!
Along with sibling squabbles, another aspect of childhood can often be finicky eating. Jackson epitomizes this. As Stacy and I are anticipating this year’s Thanksgiving meal, we know that in spite of a table set with turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, and sweet potatoes with toasted marshmallows the plate in front of our eldest son will be bare but for a single bread roll, no butter, and a plain microwaved hotdog. Jackson has been a very picky eater ever since he first learned the word “no”.
But one food has stood out as a favorite for this young man, one particular food has towered above all others as the most decadent of all treats - behold the wonder of Peanut Butter! Oh you blessed source of protein for my picky-eating son.
And perhaps those who work in our children’s church program can now anticipate where this story may be headed. As our church has grown, we’ve instituted a “child-check” program where parents can check in their kids and the child is given a sticker to wear that includes their name and any information the parent needs to communicate about their child to the volunteers: information such as allergies.
Every Sunday, when his mom checks Grayson into children’s church, and his badge is printed out, it communicates to everyone that this little boy is allergic to - peanuts. And not just mildly allergic, but deathly so. A simple peanut could kill our boy.
It was around age four that Jackson first learned of his kid brother’s vulnerability. After what had to have been some deep and personal contemplation, young Jack pulled his mom and dad aside and shared with us a significant decision at which he’d arrived. He confessed to us that “if it means we can keep Grayson I will give up peanut butter.”
This simple statement of sacrifice has continued to bless his father’s heart ever since it was first stated - it can even get me teary-eyed if I think on it too long. I don’t think I can overstate young Jackson’s love for this sweet and salty concoction.
Of course, as adults, we know that whether or not Jackson eats peanut butter doesn’t really impact our ability to adopt Grayson, and that there are ways to protect Grayson from peanut butter without needing to entirely remove it from the house. Through the years, we’ve been able to find means of compromise where Jackson is able to enjoy his favorite food so long as he sits at a different table while eating and washes his hands immediately afterward. (Truthfully this is not a bad practice even if there isn’t a food allergy with which to be concerned).
But comprehension of the details wasn’t what was most important; rather, what engenders joy and pride in Jackson’s father is the love such a willingness for sacrifice displays. It is so beautiful in fact that years after the offer his dad would remember it well enough to write a whole newsletter article about it.
For the past several Sundays, we have been studying 1st Peter. In this book, the Apostle Peter tell us that Heavenly Father shares how He finds joy in the relationships between us, His children. Peter writes:
"Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” 1 Peter 3:8 (NLT)
As we think of peanut butter, I think it is appropriate that “sandwiched” between the ideas of sympathizing with each other and being tenderhearted we are told to “love each other as brothers and sisters”.
How often do church squabbles, church splits, or even a loss of love for the church come from attitudes which are concerned only for the preferences and tastes of those who are already part of the family. What would have been the normal childish behavior of a four year old would have been to think along the lines of “but this was my home first, and in this home we have always loved and enjoyed peanut butter. Let the kids who don’t like it my way find a different home”.
But what Jackson did instead showed a willingness to give up what he loved, to give up his tastes and preferences, that he might open the door to the person who did not yet belong. His desire was not to protect his own, but rather to grow the family; to welcome a brother.
May we all be so childish.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
“2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” - Matthew 18:2-5 (NIV)