My fourth son, Ozwell, lives in Zambia, Africa. While our family hasn’t legally adopted him, we’re sponsoring him and have adopted him in our hearts as part of our family. My boy was born several years ago, but I have never once held him. In fact, I didn’t even know him until recently when a wonderful ministry named Every Orphan’s Hope introduced him to us.
Parenting from Afar
The distance between my son and me has given me a deeper insight into parenting — from afar. I write to my son, I pray for him, I think of him during the day, and I imagine what he’s doing, but most days, I don’t know how the day ended for him. I have never heard his voice tell me. I have never prayed for him in his presence, yet my heart feels like I know him all the same.
“Adopting” this boy through the ministry has given me insight perhaps into God’s perspective on how I love from afar versus up close. It’s easy for me to think of myself as a perfectly loving and faithful mother, even though I don’t see his struggles or witness his disobedience. And yet I’m quick to become frustrated and judgmental with the sons who live with me during difficult days. It makes me think I love better from afar.
On the Day He Was Born
I remember where I was the day my fourth son was born. I wasn’t by his side as would be the case in a standard birth of a child. I was an unbeliever the day he came into the world. I was a self-consumed woman who certainly was not on mission to find him or love him. I didn’t know then that I would love him. I didn’t know he would be “mine.” I didn’t know he would change my heart from across an ocean. But God knew.
Claimed, Even from a “Distance”
As I look into the eyes of my boy in his photo and I see him smiling so big and bright, I don’t quite understand his smile. This child has been through incredible difficulty in his young life, which began at the same time I was pursuing all my own selfish pleasures. Yet he knows nothing of what I did. He smiles as though he knows how loved he is despite what has happened to him. He smiles because I believe he knows that he is claimed, from both near and far.
In my humanity, I guess I do love better from afar. But my Father? He loves me up close and personal, from near, far, before, beside, and behind. He sees me from all angles — all my failures, all my disobedience, and all my rejoicing. He loves me consistently, although I don’t deserve it, and so much more than I can ever, ever love my own sons.
Loving my fourth son from afar has helped me to see a gap in my up-close and personal parenting from the point of view of the One who does it so much better — with no distance at all.
Joanna Sanders is a graduate of Villanova University and Moody Theological Seminary. She’s also the founder and head writer of Colossians46.com, which provides biblical content support, writing, and editing. Joanna is the co-author and editor of the recently released, “DiscipleTrip” by Dr. Joey Cook. Joanna’s first book, “Fire Women” is scheduled for release and publication this fall. Most importantly, she is wife to Geoff and mom to three godly men-in-training. Her blog name “The Landing” comes from the account of the Ark resting on the mountain, creating a settled place — a landing — for man to start over, which echoes her new life in Christ.