When it comes to our adoption as sons and daughters of God (vertical adoption), the example of an earthly (horizontal) adoption hardly does justice to our heavenly adoption. When we hear the word “adoption” we think of scrawny, starving children in Africa who are now in America with loving parents who meet their needs. Or when we hear someone say they “adopted” we think of a neglected, abused, or poor child who deserves to be adopted, cared for, and loved. This is hardly what our adoption was like.
A better description of our adoption would be to think of ourselves like Carl. At fourteen Carl was already a gang member, skin head, and thief. By sixteen, Carl had become a prostitute and accomplice to murder. He was clinically diagnosed with RAD, ADD, and Attachment Disorder. Carl is in jail and will probably be there for a very long time. Carl is the epitome of an unadoptable child. What loving, kind family would choose to bring Carl into their home and make him their son? A kind person might share the gospel with Carl. A really loving person might take the time to develop an ongoing relationship with him. But adopt him? Make him their son? Give him all the rights and privileges of belonging to their family? This is unimaginable.
And so it is with us. We belong on the “unadoptable” list. We are delinquent prostitutes, murderers, and thieves who never should have had even a glimpse of God’s kingdom. Understanding how unworthy we were to be made sons and daughters of the living God deepens our understanding of how amazing our Father’s grace really is. It helps us not wallow in shame when we see our failures, because we know that our relationship with the Lord was never about our own righteousness. It gives us infinite reason to worship our loving Father and to the Lamb that was slain for our sake!
I talked to a foster parent recently who was explaining how she doesn’t know how you can get through foster care without first tasting the love of Christ. There is so much truth to that statement! Of course, we can be thankful for evidences of God’s common grace in enabling people who are not Christians to still love children, but at the end of the day, the best place to go to see perfect love for unlovable people is the cross.
Sometimes when we parent, our children are not particularly “lovable.” What parent looks at their 2 year old throwing a tantrum on the supermarket floor and says, “Oh, how adorable! I just want to give this child some hugs and kisses?” I have worked with many teenagers who were not the most inviting people to talk with and love on. Their parents even begin to talk about feeling intimidated by them and finding themselves tempted to withdraw from their kids. Or what about difficult things that go along with attachment disorders, autism, substance exposure, and past traumatic memories?
In parenting, as in every other area of life, the best way to grow in our ability to face difficult situations with joy is by understanding two very important truths:
First, understand the goodness and greatness of God’s love!
Second, understand the darkness, evil, and depths of your sin.
If we don’t understand how corrupt, vile, wicked, and evil we were before Christ then we cannot fully appreciate the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The fact that God loved us, saved us, and adopted us loses its weight when we don’t see what we actually deserved. If we had a right view of our sin before God, then the thought that God would adopt us would be appalling to us; except, that we also understand…
God’s glorious love! If we don’t fully appreciate God’s love, grace, and forgiveness then we will never be able to relate to him as Father. Instead of joining our father for a feast in our honor like the prodigal son did, we will turn and walk back to eat with the pigs, plotting of how we are going to earn our way back into relationship with him.
This why we can love a child who is acting unlovable, because you can relate to that child! You were unlovable…BUT God loved you.
This is why we discipline our children and help them learn how to be apart of a God-fearing family, because you were unruly and defiant, BUT GOD loves you enough to discipline you.
This is why we can pursue teenagers who want to walk around with an iPod in their ears day and night, because you were an enemy of the gospel, BUT GOD made you his child.
This is why we can forgive those who deeply wrong us, because you deserve hell and condemnation, BUT GOD forgave you and you stand before him righteous, without condemnation.
Praise be to God!
The translation of Reclaiming Adoption into Amharic is now complete and has been sent off for printing (sample page below)! We are eager to see how God uses this book to equip 250 Ethiopian pastors as part of Seed Adoption‘s efforts to train Ethiopian pastors of evangelical churches from across Ethiopia this coming June. Would you please pray with us that these Ethiopian pastors will be encouraged by the good news of our adoption in Christ and that their people would be further mobilized and energized to care for Ethiopia’s orphans?
A complaint I often hear when I counsel women is that their life is hard. Sometimes it is in relation to foster care or adoption. Often it is their marriage or their children. Perhaps it is difficulty with their job, their boss, their mother-in-law. Or it could be physical illness, infertility, exhaustion, singleness, business, depression, grief, loss…and I am sure that you can add to the list with many more difficult things.
Life can devastate us. We live in a world full of sin and evil and the weight of our broken world can feel overwhelming. Too often we respond to trials as though we do not deserve them, are surprised by them, or are unable to overcome them. But adoption gives us a different perspective when life is hard.
One of the beautiful pictures that Scripture paints of our God is a loving father who will tenderly care for us during these difficult trials. I can’t fully unpack Psalm 27 in this short blog post, but I encourage you to take the time to read through that passage.
When life is hard, Psalm 27 (along with countless other Psalms!) gives us a way to direct our thoughts. Instead of self-pity, worry, or fear we are to fix our eyes on our Father and be filled praise. Psalm 27 paints a portrait of a loving Father who will take us in, even when our earthly father and mother have cast us off (v.10)! Our Father is described to us as our stronghold, our light, and our salvation (v. 1). We are told that our Father will lift up our head, place us on solid ground, and hide us in his shelter (v 5). What a vast amount of things to be thankful for during times when we are tempted to grumble and complain!
Because of our adoption, our sufferings and trials do not have to be reduced to phrases like “life is hard.” Instead, these times of suffering are opportunities to draw closer to our Father. They are times where our survival depends on worship and praise of our Father for who he is!
Without adoption, hard times in life become meaningless and purposeless. But because of our adoption, we can actually worship God in the midst of trial. These trials reveal our sin, mature our faith, and grow our relationship with our Lord. We can thank the Lord for opportunities to understand and know his grace in rich and deep ways. We can look forward, in faith, knowing that there will be a time when our Father will wipe the last tear from our eyes. We can look inside ourselves and repent of sinful attitudes, desires, and habits that often make life a lot harder then it actually is. Because of our adoption, we can seek after the Lord, we can dwell in our Father’s house, we can gaze upon the beauty of our Lord (v. 4).
Imagine what David’s pain would have looked like in Psalm 27 if there were no hope of redemption, salvation, restoration, or adoption. Thank you Lord for the privilege of being your sons and daughters! Especially when life is hard.
Please pray for the World Orphans‘ team that will be serving in Haiti April 25-30 to provide 5 days of training for over 100 Haitian church leaders (click on the image below to learn more about this trip). To kick off this week of training, I will teach on our adoption in Christ for 5 1/2 hours on Tuesday, April 26th. Pray that all who attend would be refreshed by the good news of having God as our Father and Jesus as our Elder Brother.
I have been asked many times how I can love my “adopted” children the same as my “biological” child. (side note: There are some problems with that question, but I will leave that for a future post.)
But I cannot answer that question without first reflecting on my own adoption story:
I horribly offended God by disregarding his truth and word.
I committed great offenses as I lived in open rebellion toward him by trying to follow my way instead of God’s.
God is not only the judge who could rightly punish me and pour out his anger and wrath on me. He is also the offended, the victim of my great and vast sin.
God the judge and victim came down off the bench after pardoning my horrible offense that ignited his wrath and instead chose to adopt me—at the expense of his very own “biological” (so to speak) Son —Jesus the Christ.
God’s anger and wrath were poured out on Christ and instead of that being my fate, I get to enjoy the full blessing of being a daughter of God Almighty and a co-heir with Christ.
God did not adopt me because I was a “good” person. He did not adopt me because I’m better than the really evil people in the world. He did not adopt me because I chose the right religion. He adopted me simply because he is God and loved me. All he required of me was faith and faith alone—belief and trust in his son, Jesus.
This is why I believe in adoption: Because I am an eternally adopted child of the creator of the universe.
This is why I can say with full honesty and passion that I am deeply attached to, love, would die for, lose sleep over, pray over, weep over the sin of, and care for all my children equally and the same. How I long for their souls to know my Jesus. How I long for them to experience this same adoption I experienced. How privileged I am to be the mother of such precious children, similar DNA or not.
“Our responsibility is therefore to lay aside all our anxieties and bring them to our father. Being assured of his care, leave them with him.” -Sinclair Ferguson (The Christian Life)
Marcel came home from school one day last month upset and grumpy. As I questioned him about his day, he grumbled that he did not want to talk about it. I explained to Marcel that God gave him a loving mom to care about the things that upset and bother him. I told Marcel that because he was my son, he does not have to keep his concerns hidden, but can share them with me. One of the great blessings of belonging to a family is that he is no longer responsible to carry his burdens alone. As a child, Marcel not only has the privilege of sharing his pain with his loving and wise mother, but he actually has the responsibility to share. If he chose to ignore my loving questions and keep his pain hidden, he would have been denying me the ability to mother him. It would have been disobedient, hurtful, and sinful. Sharing this with Marcel brightened his face and he spilled his guts. We had a great conversation over orange juice and granola bars and within no time Marcel bounced out of his chair ready to go play.
A few hours later, I found myself anxious about getting the kids fed and our house “clean” (meaning toys stuffed in closet and dirty dishes crammed in the oven) for our Tuesday night Bible study. As I was washing dishes and feeling anxious, I knew that I should go to the Lord and repent for worrying about the perception of others and ask his help to find joy in sharing even a messy house with my friends who would be arriving shortly, but really…I just didn’t feel like praying at the moment.
As I continued with my “to-do” list, God brought my conversation with Marcel to the front of my mind. I realized how often I treat going to the Lord with my fears, worries, and anxieties as optional. But it is not optional; I have a responsibility to turn to him. It is both a privilege of adoption and an act of obedience. When I look to God with my fears, I trust that God knows my every need before I even ask. When I cast my anxieties on God, I am exercising an unshakable faith that God cares for me. When I dwell on my problems, worry about the future, and think about all the possible negative scenarios that can come from some bad news I just heard, I deny the responsibility I have as God’s daughter and make myself the “god” of my problems. Instead of placing my hope in my loving, sovereign Father, I place my hope in my own abilities. In doing this, I am not demonstrating that God is my loving Father who adopted me through the blood of Jesus.
Understanding this truth empowers me to look to God when I begin to feel anxious. Several times these past few weeks, I noticed thoughts and emotions that showed there was anxiousness or fear in my heart. Instead of letting those thoughts fester, I was able to direct my thoughts to the fact that I have a Father that lovingly demands I turn to him for protection and guidance. Just like I do not expect my children to carry their own burdens, how much more does God expect me to give him mine!
Well, I jumped into the Rob Bell discussion (from a little different perspective). You can read my thoughts over at Zach Nielsen’s blog.
Please welcome Dennae Pierre to the T4A team! We are thrilled to serve with her at Together for Adoption for the sake of orphaned and vulnerable children everywhere. If you haven’t yet read her first two posts, let me encourage you to do so now: Adopted and Feeling Like an Orphan, But I’m Not. I also recently had the opportunity to interview Dennae and her husband, Vermon (watch it). Here’s her bio:
Dennae Pierre is a regular contributor to the T4A blog. She cares deeply about the local church growing in its understanding of gospel-centered theology and has recently enjoyed writing and speaking about adoption.
She is married to Vermon, the pastor of Roosevelt Community Church in downtown Phoenix. There she serves in urban outreach & children’s ministry. She has 3 children, two of which she was blessed to adopt.
Dennae’s background in social work gave her a burden to adopt through the foster care system. Dennae and her husband are licensed foster care parents and currently provide short-term respite care to foster children.
The beautiful thing about adoption is that it is permanent. Unchangeable. Forever. It has nothing to do with the child’s behavior, abilities, perceptions, strengths, weaknesses. It has EVERYTHING to do with the parent.
A majority of the time, our children fully embrace the reality of being our son and daughter. They have consumed our family identity and in countless funny ways show us that they are “Pierres.” I often hear Marcel explain that he loves to read because “I’m a Pierre and Pierres love to read!” Or Mya explain why she doesn’t give up as, “Pierre Women keep trying!” But there are moments, here and there, where they think back about their past and wonder, worry, imagine… They are still sorting out what it means in light of who they are now and who they will be in 5, 15, 30 years.
But what is so wonderful about adoption is that it does not matter who they identify themselves to be, because they ARE Pierres. They could be night and day different from us. They could look completely different. They could act in ways that brought “shame” to our family name. They could wish that Daddy Warbucks would have adopted them instead. They could be angry with us and not trust us. It does not change their status as our children.
When I see in very real ways how Marcel and Mya have so quickly accepted their new identity, I am reminded how slower I am at the game. I am reminded that being God’s child has nothing to do with me, my actions, or my feelings.
Days like today, I don’t “feel” like a child of God. There are those times when my devotion and love for God is all consuming of my heart, thoughts, and actions. It is like living in a vividly colorful garden after growing up in a brown desert. I can barely contain my joy for the living God who has rescued me, saved me, and made me his daughter.
And then there are days like today…
I have to remind myself, minute by minute, that life is eternal and the temporal world around me is quickly fading and passing away. I have to take my thoughts captive, reminding myself who I am and who I belong to! I have to take the time to really examine why I am doing, saying, and thinking in ways that are completely foolish in light of what Christ did on the cross for me!
And somehow, in those “normal” days, is when I am most reminded that I am adopted, loved, rescued, saved, cherished, nourished, cared for, protected by my Living God. My Savior. My King.
Thank you Lord, for never finding it “hard” to love me when I fail to love you! May we do the same to the children you’ve entrusted us to!
[See below for an explanation of this unique video trailer]
Growing an indigenous adoption movement within other countries is one of our primary T4A passions. We’ve been abel to witness God moving within the global church to see growth of a vital movement like this. Seed Adoption is one such incredible movement. Check out the Seed Adoption‘s trailer movie and prayerfully consider how you may participate. All it takes is $75 for a pastor to receive this kind of in-depth, robust, and practical training about how established churches can care for their community’s orphans. These are exciting and hopeful days. Will you join us as we seek to serve the Ethiopian church?
Also, Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father is being translated into Ethiopia’s major language, Amharic, and will be given to all 250 Ethiopian pastors who attend.
T4A is honored to be a Seed Adoption Partner.
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