60 minutes, 469 words

Last semester, I entered a writing contest at my university. Contestants were given a topic–“Behind the Scenes”–and 60 minutes to write. Until I received a copy of my essay this week, I couldn’t  remember what I wrote. Something about family. Either way, this is what came out of my pencil–and, somehow, this is the essay that won. 

Behind the Scenes

Eight minutes had passed. Then, forty-five. An hour. That bit they say about watched pots?

It’s so painfully cliché that I hate to acknowledge the truth in it. But I’d been waiting twenty years for that phone call.

Every minute dragged me along with it. I tried walking around outside, cell phone in hand, but it took too much energy to figure out where to go. I’d been waiting twenty years for that phone call. So I sat down and kept vigil.

When the phone in my hand finally buzzed, I almost dropped it. Awkwardly catching it before it hit the ground, I hit a button. Put it to my ear. And forgot the script. What does one say when answering the phone? What does one say when talking to Mother for the first time?

There’s something about adoption. You see a family. Mom, dad; kids. A dog. A picket fence, if you’re lucky. Everyone knows their part and sticks mostly to the lines they’ve been given; well-ordered stage movement creates a logical flow of events that contribute to the effective communication of a story. Maybe it’s straightforward and easy to follow. Maybe it keeps you guessing. Maybe it makes you cry—but there it is, and people are watching that ordinary drama of every day. That’s family.

But there’s something different about adoption. Often the players don’t even know when the curtain is up. What exactly is stage left, anyway? Is this a rehearsal or the real deal? There’s something beautiful about adoption, a putting-together of pieces that belong as surely as a newborn belongs in the lap of the mother who bore the child. The most stunning demonstration of God’s love to man, far from an ordinary drama.

Someone knew the script, and whatever looked like back-stage before reversed, but it was beautiful.

It’s the ultimate picture of love: Christ dying, that I could be counted one of His children. I’ve known the lines to that old, old story for some time. “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God…” –but who really knows adoption until you’ve seen what goes on when the curtain is drawn?

I waited twenty years for that phone call, but it taught me more about Christ’s love than it did about a mother’s. Twenty years, and I learned what adoption feels like without a script. Twenty years, and looking into the faces of brothers, family I never knew I had—looking and seeing more than eyes and noses shaped just like mine.

Like the gospel story, it’s messier, more involved than anything you’d expect to see on a stage. More beautiful, too.

God spent an eternity planning the most vital adoption anyone would ever know. Not an ordinary drama.

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