Five years ago today I became a dad for the first time.
Well, actually… that’s not exactly true. I was already a dad, I just didn’t know it.
Eli is my firstborn. My eldest child. My son. But I didn’t know him until he was two and a half. We met at a baseball field. He was sitting on his momma’s hip as they walked past the concessions stand. And I knew the moment I met them that we were connected. I couldn’t get them off my mind.
Eventually I asked his mom out for a date. We spent hours in the coffee shop talking over a book we’d both been reading. Eli had made a train out of all the unused chairs in the shop and was the proud conductor. I marveled at him. I’d never met anyone so special. This little boy who had trouble saying my name was slowly changing my life — both of us unaware.
I learned that Eli’s “genetic contributor” had bailed out very early on. By this point I was already head-over-heels for Eli and his mom. But I remember standing in the shower one morning and I began to hear God whispering to me as if he were letting me in on a secret he’d been keeping for some time. It was like a new awakening. Eli was my son.
I remember asking Kelley to marry me. The next day, Kelley and I asked Eli if I could be his daddy.
He said yes.
And from that day forward, I was his dad. But we wanted to make it official. To see my name in the box on his birth certificate that read ‘father’. Friends told us to just let things lie quietly. “Don’t rock the boat,” they’d say. “He’s made no attempt to contact his son. Don’t stir things up and put yourself in a place where you could potentially lose the life you’re enjoying now.”
There was truth in what they were saying. It was hard not to listen to them sometimes but we knew God was asking us to trust Him for something better. We filed the appropriate papers. Sent them through the process.
And we waited.
Until one day, we got the news we’d been praying for. We set a court date. I don’t remember all of the details of that day. But here are some highlights. The judge asked me why I wanted to adopt Eli. I just began to weep and simply said, “Because he’s my son and I love him.” I’m not sure I actually got all those words out through the tears but the judge stopped me and said, “That’s all I need to hear. I was adopted when I was Eli’s age. I see in front of me a home where this boy will be loved.” Then he called to Eli to come sit where the judge had been sitting. He handed over the gavel to Eli and let him call for the declaration. Moments later, what had been true in our hearts was now evidenced on paper.
Eli is my son.
See, I was a dad long before I knew it. I was Eli’s dad. I wouldn’t meet him for a couple of years. The night Eli was born was, for me, very routine. I’d been wanting and praying for a wife. For a family. And that day seemed like any other day. But what God was working under the surface was something spectacular. He was answering my prayers.