But I must say, of all the gifts I have given and received, none compares to how I spent this Valentine's Day. While the memory of other February 14s may slip my mind, I will never forget Valentine's Day 2011.
This year my family and I traveled halfway around the world to celebrate the day. Departing from Nashville, we flew to Chicago, caught a connecting flight in Seoul, Korea, then on to Beijing and finally arrived in Xi'an, China.
I must admit I cannot take credit for this idea. In fact, it was roughly this time last year that the Lord invited our family to join Him in a special "Valentine's Day" assignment in China -- a plan from God for us that we could never have foreseen or imagined.
God had a precious little boy living in China that needed a family. As crazy as it sounded at the outset, it was God's plan that we adopt him and bring him back to the United States as a member of our family.
So on this Valentine's Day we found ourselves surrounded by family, Chinese government officials, travel guides, interpreters, nannies and a dozen other children waiting to be adopted, among others. Squeezed tightly in a government office, we signed page after page of official papers to become the parents of Josiah James Harper.
A translator interviewed my wife and me, asking numerous and sometimes odd-sounding questions, such as why we would want to adopt this child. Why wouldn't we, we thought? We were asked to promise never to harm or abandon him -- a commitment we could easily make. Fingerprints were taken, as well as a footprint of Josiah. After signing the papers with a notary official at our side and completing the extensive questioning, we were finally finished. Josiah James was our son.
The meeting lasted less than an hour, but God's assignment had been 12 months in the making. What an awesome privilege to receive and complete God's "Josiah James" assignment.
The more time I spend with our little guy, the more I understand why God brought us this way. His plan is clear. God has especially great things in store for our son just like He had for the Josiah we read about in 2 Chronicles 34. What an honor for us as a family.
As I think about this Valentine's Day, I also recall Joseph. He was not the biological father of Jesus but was invited by God to take Jesus into his life and family. God's plan was for Jesus to have an earthly father and mother in Joseph and Mary. This special couple had the privilege of joining God to provide for and care for Jesus until He was old enough to start His earthly ministry.
I also have been reminded about Moses and how God protected him while he was young because he had a special assignment just for him. The story of Samuel came to mind as well and how his mother Hannah entrusted him to Eli until he was old enough to start his ministry. What a picture of God's love.
Of all the dates on the calendar, God showered His love on our family Feb. 14, 2011, in the person of little Josiah James Harper. Every Valentine's Day in the future, we will remember God's unique gift of love to us. We are confident that God has great things in store for this little boy.
As we moved along in this journey, we sensed God telling us, "Look and be amazed. You will be astounded at what I am about to do. For I am going to do something in your own lifetime that you will have to see to believe."
We have looked and been amazed and astounded as we witnessed firsthand the wonderworking shaped by the hand of God. We expected to be the ones blessing Josiah, our 2-year-old son, yet it is Josiah James Harper who has quickly proven to be a profound blessing to us.
God has done a great work in our midst, and we are humbled and grateful as He pours out His love on our family. Truth be told, before this Valentine's Day we never expected we would be the recipients of God's abiding love through a toddler.
Harold Harper is executive vice president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net