What strikes me most as I reread this chapter, is not so much God’s promise to Abram of countless descendants, as much as the thought that , in this narrative, it seems that descendants must be from his biological line. Abram has potential adoptees but none of these meet his desire. “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.”
Most people, it seems, have an innate desire to have children of their own. I have shared with many childless persons who indicate that their childlessness was not their desire. But I have also known persons who wanted to have absolutely no children! And so we know that this desire is not universal among human beings.
I wanted to have my own children, too. I bore first a daughter and then a son. And long after, I was gifted with another son who is not biologically related to me. It helped me to understand how persons before me were able to accept, to claim, and to love children whom they had adopted as if they were their very own. It was something that I learned after the fact. I was not among the many (or the few) who saw it quite normative from the start, to love another child as they would their very own. I have no idea of knowing if my response would have been the same had I borne no children before that.
It seems to me, upon reflection, that the persons who feel that way from day one, are very special people. If we had more of them, there would be far less uncared for children.
I know that sometimes in the Bible, bloodlines take unclear turns, for example in the genealogy of Jesus whose father Joseph is not his biological father. That should make it easier for us to understand that even if God promised Abram his own son, the Lord also expects us to accept other children as we do our very own.
Whose child is this? I ask,
A child you’ve never known?
Is it too great a task: to love him as your own?
With food and shelter, tender care,
A healing touch and clothes to wear:
With outstretched arms, will you be there
Each child is God’s child, yours, and mine
You are a gift of love divine
Whose child is this? I see
A child you’ve always known,
How strange it is to me –
You’ve left her all alone!
In summer, autumn, winter spring,
You never thought –
What shall I bring to make her lonely spirit sin?
Whose child is this, who cries
and stumbles in the street,
who trembles as he tries to walk on swollen feet?
Will no one take his hand and say,
“Come home with me where you may stay:
I’ll bathe your feet, the pain allay.”
“Whose child” I ask, “is this,
Who lives in wealth and ease,
Who never feels a kiss and parents cannot please?’
Her angry words cry out,
“I yearn to find the love my heart would learn!”
Will she be forced such love to earn?
Whose child is this? – black,
Red, white, yellow, bronze, or brown,
Born without racists’ dread or prejudicial frown
Why teach a child hate, violence, greed,
And violate the Maker’s creed? –
Through love, God’s love, the world is freed!
Once Jesus said, “Let all
the children come to me.”
If you would heed this call, like Jesus you must be
Let all the children come to you –
The least, the last, vast numbers few.
Our Savior bids you love them too