I was his father.  He was my son.  But at the time, we were just learning each other.

I was in Ethiopia getting ready to bring my son home from the orphanage.  We had many obstacles in his life to combat, but we really had faith that God was going to do some special things in his life.

When I called home to tell Amanda about our first encounters, I told her of how Eli was so handsome, funny, and energetic.  I told her that the nannies called him the “bus driver,” because all the bus drivers in Ethiopia were short, fat, and assertive.  Not sure if that was a good thing at the time or not.

She then asked if there was anything else that she needed to know.

Well, there was on thing for which she needed to prepare herself.

Eli had an issue with sharing.  It was obvious.  This was going to be his hardest thing socially for him to overcome.  He had never possessed anything of his own, and he was in an orphanage with kids his age who could all walk and yet he could not.  So kids would take toys from him and run away and he could never get them back.

Yet, somehow, he was able to take toys from other kids as well even when he could only scoot.

The picture above is when I took a toy from him that he had taken from another child.  He had stolen it out of her hands, she was crying, and since he was my son, I wasn’t going to let that happen.

A picture says a thousand words.  He was not happy with his father.

Had I had waited for him to stop being selfish before I made him my son, he would still be stuck in the orphanage.

If I would have waited for him to play nice, get healthy, and start walking before he could become an Agnew, he would have never made it home.

I went into the dirty orphanage, picked him up in his state, and I made him an Agnew.  He would forever be my son.

It had nothing to do with his performance or potential.  He was mine from that day and forevermore.

But once he became an Agnew, things had to change.  Once he became and Agnew, he had to start living like an Agnew.  Selfishness was not tolerated.  Stealing was not allowed.  When he became my son, discipline and instruction started to take place at a healthy pace.

And that’s our story.  God brought us into the family the way we were.  We didn’t need to clean up our act.  We couldn’t clean up our act.  He loved us the way we were and we didn’t have to change anything to become his sons and daughters.  That’s grace.

But once we become his, we had to start acting like his.  It’s not sinless perfection, but it is spiritual progression.  Through the Spirit’s help, we start displaying the family traits.  We begin to live in a manner worthy of our calling.  We begin to “get it honest” when people see our Heavenly Father in us.

Realize this today: your performance will never earn God’s love, but once you have God’s love, your performance should begin to change.

You realize that God made you a son or a daughter, and you are happy to change things to make him proud.

That’s Christian sanctification.  He loved you the way you were, but his love is going to continue to change you to make you what you should be.

3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Grace and truth.

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.