stardf29 continues his miniseries on the theme of adoption:
Last time, I talked about Bunny Drop and how, as an adoption story, it exemplifies the beauty in how we Christians are adopted by God to be His children, to be heir to His blessings. Another show that displays the beauty of adoption is Listen To Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! (Papa no Iu Koto o Kikinasai!, or PapaKiki for short).
The premise of this show is that 19-year-old college student Yuuta is asked by his older sister to look after her three daughters—Sora, age 14, Miu, age 10, and Hina, age 3, Sora and Miu being from her husband’s previous marriages—while she and her husband go on a trip. However, when their plane crashes and the two go missing, the girls are left with no one to care for them (Sora’s mother is dead, and Miu’s mother’s whearabouts are completely unknown). Yuuta, then, remembering how his sister took care of him when their parents died, decides to adopt the girls into his care.
While this show shares the adoption premise with Bunny Drop, PapaKiki differs in a rather significant way—a way that is a warning to anyone who still thinks that the “inheritance” we get when we are adopted into God’s family is earthly wealth.
Adopted From Comfort
In PapaKiki, after the funeral for the girls’ parents, their relatives discuss who should take care of the girls. This time, their intentions are good—they want to make sure the girls are in a good, comfortable environment—but because of various limitations, they decide the only way things could work out is to separate the girls into different households. The girls, who are all very close to each other, will have none of this, so despite protests from their relatives, when Yuuta offers to take them all into his apartment, even warning how small it is, they agree to follow him.
It most certainly is a small place; Yuuta’s apartment is a 6-tatami-mat room, which is about 12ft x 9ft in size. That may be perfectly fine for a college student living on his own, but for four people, it is definitely quite cramped. Further difficulties come from the financial difficulty of a college student supporting three children, and the lack of privacy within the room, which leads to some awkward situations, particularly involving the oldest girl. And yet, the girls do put up with it, rather than giving up and accepting being separated to live in better conditions.
Looking at this story from the “adopted from, adopted into” perspective, this story is interesting. We can consider what the girls were adopted from as the situation they would have been in: they would have been in separate households where we can presume they would have been comfortably taken care of, and what they have been adopted into is a life with many hardships, but where at least the girls are together. Is the situation they have been adopted into really better than what they were adopted from?
Bringing all this back to divine adoptive Fatherhood, there is unfortunately a very common false teaching in Christianity that says that if we are followers of Christ, we will be blessed with material wealth and a “good life”, and that hardships, suffering, and discomfort are a result of our sin. This “prosperity theology” has gained popularity in the U.S. in the 20th century, though it has existed well before then; Paul himself had many critics who claimed he was not a true apostle because he went through so much suffering.
Paul, however, refutes this theology of comfort in Romans 8:
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. – Romans 8:15-18, ESV, emphasis mine
Our adoption as God’s children does make us heir to eternal life and eternal riches in the world to come. However, with regards to our earthly lives, just like Christ suffered while he was on earth, so we should expect to endure times of hardship during our time on earth as well.
At the same time, it is good to put this earthly suffering in perspective. God does bless His children while they are on earth; it is just that many people misunderstand what form that blessing takes.
Going back to PapaKiki and the question, “Is the situation the girls have been adopted into really better than what they were adopted from?” the girls would probably say “yes”. (At least, Sora and Miu probably would; Hina might be too young to be able to give much of an answer.) After all, despite all the hardships in their current lives, the three of them are still together, which is big for them. The three of them are also close with Yuuta himself—much closer than they are with any of the other relatives that have offered to adopt them, to be sure. Add in a number of other new friends and allies that they have on their side, and overall their lives are actually quite blessed.
Likewise, the greatest blessing we have from being adopted as children of God is being able to be in the presence of our Heavenly Father, and thus experiencing a deep, fulfilling love from Him. We are also blessed with a community of fellow Christians with whom we can have a deep, fulfilling fellowship with. I do not want to make light of the importance of the latter blessing, either: our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are physical incarnations of God’s love, and God has given to us precisely because He does not want us to be only children.
There are many other blessings which God bestows upon us as gifts to His children, and I will not deny that sometimes, those blessings are material or otherwise geared towards our comfort. The various types of blessings we can have from God is a large topic that one can explore much more deeply than this blog post will. However, in the end, all those blessings come from one source: God’s love for us as His children. If we go into our new adoptive family of God expecting and wanting those other blessings more than God’s love, we will be sorely disappointed and perhaps think we were adopted into something worse than which we came. But if God’s love truly is what’s most important to us, then even if we end up living in a 9ft x 12ft room for it, we will not regret being adopted into God’s family.
As a final note, looking at both Bunny Drop and PapaKiki, it is worth noting that Rin of Bunny Drop did not question for a moment whether Daikichi was capable of taking care of her or not. Likewise, in PapaKiki, while perhaps Sora and Miu had some concerns on whether Yuuta would actually be able to take care of them, Hina had no such concerns. One might argue that Rin and Hina, being 6 and 3 respectively, are too young to really comprehend whether their adoptive caretakers could actually be caretakers.
However, in Luke 18:16-17, Jesus says that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children, and those who do not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it. He is referring to a special kind of faith that young children like Rin and Hina possess, to be able to trust wholeheartedly in their parents. Rin knew nothing of whether Daikichi could take care of her, but she knew that he was good, and based on that followed him with complete faith, and likewise with Hina towards Yuuta.
In the same manner, while we should “count the cross” and expect to undergo suffering for following God as our adoptive Father, the one thing we are not to worry about is whether He will take care of us. We simply need to know that He is good—and we can look to the Cross for proof of that—and then have faith that our Father will meet our needs.
The beautiful thing about adoption stories is that they are stories of people being adopted into a better life. Even if there are struggles along the way, the adopted children can experience love and joy in a way far greater than had they not been adopted. Whether in fiction, in real life, or looking at God’s adoption of us as His children, it is no wonder that few things warm the heart more than a good adoption story.
Frank has been one of my favorite new writers in the blogosphere, blogging about similar material as we do here on Beneath the Tangles. Go check out his writing at A Series of Miracles.