“Mom,” asks Evan, my nine-year old son, “Will we see Bubbles in heaven? Because she belonged to an evangelical family?”
My husband Andrew and I snort back our laughter and Andrew, a pastor, launches into his theological exposition on whether or not animals have souls. But Evan’s right - Bubbles was an “evangelical” bunny. In more ways than one.
“Will you adopt my bobby?”
Bubbles represents our first “adoption.”
In her book, The Child Catchers, Kathryn Joyce criticizes the growing trend of evangelical adoptions in preference for her own pro-choice stance. She accuses adoption of being an “industry driven largely by money and Western demand, justified by a misguided savior complex that blinds Americans to orphans’ existing family ties and assumes that tickets to America for a handful of children are an appropriate fix for an entire culture living in poverty”
That’s a pretty hard-hitting (and cruel) commentary on Evangelical culture. But even if adoption is a mere trend, or a bored first-world response to privilege and luxury, every child still deserves the chance to know Christ. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, whether the gospel is preached from good motives or bad, we should rejoice that the gospel is being preached. So if adoption is a new bandwagon for young evangelicals, then I guess I wear that badge of young, orphan-loving evangelical.
So one Sunday, several years back, when Laura Guzman accosted me after church with a phrase that had the word “adopt” in it, I stopped dead in my tracks. “Pardon me?”
She repeated, in her thick Spanish accent, “Will you adopt my bobby?”
“Your what???” I leaned in closer in disbelief. Did she have a baby for me? Or a secret child named Bobby, stashed away somewhere in her home?
“My bonny. You know. My rabbit.”
And so we were propelled into the world of pet ownership. We renamed the Guzman ‘bonny’ Bubbles (after my cousin’s well-loved but deceased dog) and marched to the pet store to load up on supplies.
When new parents are getting ready for their first baby, they find themselves inundated with worries over their equipment, what kind of stroller to get, what color to paint the nursery, what kind of rocking chair is best. But after they give birth, all new parents will tell you that equipment is the least of their worries.
Pet ownership, it turns out, is no different.
Taking care of a new pet rabbit may seem trivial. But God works through the trivial just as much as He does through the momentous. God honoured the naive yearnings of our hearts (for adoption and social justice) and He taught us so much through Bubbles.
First, Bubbles became one of Andrew’s classic sermon illustrations:
Bubbles was litter-box trained, so we let her roam the house like a cat. In the summer we let her outside in the backyard. At one point she got so strong that she figured out how to escape over a 4’ fence. So I would go with Evan to roam the neighborhood with hockey-stick in hand and often find her in one particular neighbor’s yard. On one of Bubbles’ such escapades, we saw her in this neighbor’s yard again and Evan climbed the fence to get her.
The neighbor saw Evan climbing, stuck her head out the back door and yelled, “Will you get your son off my fence?” My neighbor’s attitude is completely understandable. This was not the first Bubbles had escaped to their yard.
But I went home incredibly agitated and I couldn’t figure out why. After some self-reflection and prayer, I realized it wasn’t because she yelled at me and Evan. Instead, I realized that I, like the Samaritan woman, have a tender spot.
I value people’s perception of me as the nice, friendly neighbor, responsible parent and upstanding pet-owner. I gave worth to an image of myself that I hoped people would recognize and affirm. But this fragile image was tarnished by a fluffy renegade bunny and a 6-year-old monkey-boy.
So Bubbles taught my pastor-husband Andrew a thing or two about his own pride.
This escape-artist bunny ran away so many times...that she eventually got herself into some old-fashioned trouble, the bunny way. She got pregnant.
Needless to say, this opened up another Pandora’s Box of experience for us. First, a viral YouTube video (she gave birth to a litter of ten—on camera). Then, an unexpected twist came from meeting the owner of the boy-bunny who had impregnated Bubbles. She lived down the street, and she was a single mom named Maria (not her real name).
Our relationship with Maria flowered into another incredible learning opportunity. While we had been praying for adoption opportunities, we had also been asking God how we could show Christ’s love to the marginalized.
Maria comes from a different socio-economic background. Her struggles with addiction and with poverty are alien from our own. But we were able to invite her to church events and to offer her our friendship. I gave her parenting CDs and a children’s bible for her son. We lent a helping hand with prayer, with finances and through our church’s bread ministry.
We learned not to judge. We learned to be patient. And even when one day, all of Maria’s belongings appeared, scattered all over her backyard because she had been evicted, we learned not to lose heart—even though it felt like all our efforts befriending her had been wasted.
Just last month, my husband took a new job. We moved away from the church that Maria had been familiar with, and into a new ministry position. It seemed that we would lose contact with her completely.
Little did we know, after being evicted, Maria had been staying at a rehabilitation home close to one particular church. One Sunday, she decided to drop in. She knew she needed to reconnect to God. There she appeared, in the second pew from the front, on Andrew’s second Sunday—in our new church home.Maria entered our lives again.
Who knew that one little step of obedience, one little “yes” to Laura Guzman four years ago, would launch such a God-filled series of events into our normal little lives? But this is how our heavenly Father always works: from the trivial to the momentous. I’m excited to see what adventures are yet to come.
Julia Cheung is a cultural analyst and journalist of relationships, always on the lookout for stories of beautiful misfits. She lives in Vancouver BC with the loveable motley crew of her pastor husband and two preteen children. She is a bundle of antitheses, a lover of truth, a teller of tales, a too often emotional egoist and a fervently curious anti-narcissist. You can find her online at wifeinredemption.com.