Eleven years and three hundred fifty-six days ago I saw these eyes for the very first time (you have to take into account the gotcha day). We walked into an office building and were eventually greeted by four pounds fourteen ounces of wonder that would forever change our lives. People often say to us that we must have been such a blessing to our son to do what we did through adoption, but honestly…it is so much more the other way around. Jonas is a joy. Not only did he give me the gift of being a father for the first time, but he has enriched my life with laughter, wonder, imagination, excitement, and more. But one of the gifts that he has given me that is rarely spoken about is the new eyes through which I see society and culture. I grew up in a middle class evangelical white household. Most of my relationships existed within that same paradigm. But all of a sudden I was thrown into the world of understanding what it meant to see the world through the African American experience because my son is African American.
Now that statement might seem simple at face value and a little redundant. But it is actually quite weighted. I realized it was imperative for me to educate myself more on the black experience in America throughout history. It was important for me to understand black culture and understand all of the nuances of what it means to live as a young black man in twenty-first century America because my son is black. He will be perceived and judged in ways that I have never been perceived and judged just because of the color of his skin; period. And so, because I love him, I was given a new set of eyes through which to see the world through. And honestly, this is the cruciform way of living for us Christians. We are called to lay down our lives, our experiences, our worldviews, our bias, our preconceived notions for the sake of the other. When Paul set about to describe what Christ did for us in doing this he first says, “Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.” – Philippians 2:4 And how do we watch out for each others’ interest until we know what each others’ experience is first like?
I’ve been extremely fortunate in my familial experience. I have a son who is black. I have a son who is Latino. I have a son who is mixed race. Just by the sheer makeup of my family I get to see the world differently. The way I view so much in the world has changed because of them. But this is not the case for most of you. You will have to work to find friends who are different than you (and I don’t mean that they cheer for another sports team). But it is so important that you befriend people of a different race, religion, country, etc. And that you allow the way you view the world to change because of those relationships. If you still hold to the exact same biases, preferences, and lenses that you have had all your life, then it is time to reexamine your experience for the sake of Christ. After all, we are called to lay down all of that for the sake of the kingdom. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26 So may we reexamine our relationships. May we lay down who we have been. And may we get some brand new eyes for one another, for the world and ultimately for the Kingdom of God.