As a foster and adoptive mother, I am always happy to come across articles on adoption. Megan Hill’s thoughts on whether or not adoption should be considered a cause communicated to me her desire for her children to know that they are loved and wanted by her. I can say a hearty “amen” as an adoptive mother who never wants my children to think of themselves as a cause. There is much to agree about with Megan, so throughout this article I desire not to pit her ideas about adoption against ours, but rather to show how her viewpoint scratches the surface and why Together for Adoption feels it is necessary to go deeper.
We have children because we want them. That is an easy way to describe the prospect by which people begin to have a family, but is it enough to stop there? As thoughtful Christians, we must ask ourselves, why do we want children?
The first few pages of the Bible show us that procreation is very much a part of God’s mission. God entrusted Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the earth with image-bearers. These image-bearers were to spread the image of God all over the face of this earth. Why? Not primarily to meet the instinctual need of Eve to nurture a child, although that was a result. It was not primarily to secure Adam’s family line, although that happened as well. The primary reason was to spread God’s name throughout the earth.
From the beginning, there has always been something very missional about having children. We certainly don’t think God called our first parents to “be fruitful and multiply” so they could “rescue” a few children. This mission was broader, wider, and deeper. Our children, biological or not, are part of the mission God’s entrusted to us.
This is a piece of the backdrop that hangs behind the word “Adoption” for us. When Together for Adoption speaks of “Adoption” we are talking about something specific and distinct. We are not talking about adopting orphans. We do not believe that adoption is about embracing a diverse kingdom or fulfilling our duty to the needy. The word “Adoption” in Together for Adoption refers to the doctrine of adoption. We believe adoption is all about salvation. Adoption is a wonderful way to describe the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dan Cruver, the founder of Together for Adoption, says it wonderfully, “I don’t know if you have ever thought about it like this, but God is an adoptive Father. Jesus, our Elder Brother, is God the Father’s eternal, only-begotten, natural Son. We believers are His sons through adoption. This identity is fundamental to who we are. As adopted sons, we enjoy all the rights and privileges of the relationship that God the Father enjoys with his eternal Son. To be God’s sons through adoption means that we are co-heirs with Jesus. This is an amazing reality and an eternal privilege! We will forever be God’s sons through the miracle of adoption.”
All of this, I am sure we agree on, but let me explain why this matters when it comes to orphan care. Of course families who adopt must want and love children, but much more is needed if we are (on a macro level) to meet the needs of the hundreds of millions of orphaned and vulnerable children and (on a micro level) to unselfishly love and care for the children in our individual homes in a way that provides answers and healing to their painful losses.
On a macro level, our message is not just for people who are currently involved in orphan care. We believe it is necessary to remind the church of the doctrine of their adoption precisely to awaken their minds to the idea of loving some of the most vulnerable children in our world. We are convinced that our message is necessary because the global orphan crisis is massive and unacceptable. 130+ million orphaned and vulnerable children will never get their physical and emotional needs met without the Church taking extreme action. What should motivate the Church to social action? Every single time, it needs to be the gospel. If we remove the gospel as the main motivation for the church to take action, we are left with individuals being motivated out of works righteousness.
The worldwide orphan crisis cannot be solved by Americans adopting children. Together for Adoption has never suggested that every Christian needs to “adopt” children or even that every orphaned or vulnerable child needs to be adopted. Roughly 130,000 children are adopted in the United States each year. That is a miniscule drop in the bucket of the 130 plus million children orphaned or at risk of being orphaned. Families “wanting children” is necessary, but not enough to solve the world orphan crisis. We need a movement of believers who will not rest until the suffering cry of orphans is answered. If we want that type of movement to happen within the worldwide Church and to happen in a way that brings great glory to God, then it must be motivated out of the good and wonderful work Christ did for us, not from our own desires.
We need Christians in impoverished nations to care for orphans. We host our conferences in places like Haiti and Nicaragua because the only way many orphaned and vulnerable children will ever get their needs met is through an indigenous foster care and adoption movement. What will call, empower, and sustain a family already living in poverty to welcome their nephew or niece to their table? Only the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
We need Christians to work to prevent orphans. Systemic changes in the foster care system, addressing poverty, HIV/AIDS, and malaria, and finding creative ways to come around a single mom to truly be her family are a few of many the ways orphan prevention can happen. This can only happen in a way that brings glory to God and truly meets the needs of these individuals through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We need churches full of people who understand what it means to have been adopted into the family of God so that they support, encourage, and walk with families who adopt children. Adoptive moms often say that they do not feel understood or loved by their church members’ callous or heartless comments in relation to their adopted children. The theology of adoption rightly taught and applied will create a Christian culture where that does not happen.
Those are just a few of the countless examples of why, on a macro level, our message is necessary. However, on a micro level, there are innumerable examples as well. As Megan Hill wrote in her blog post the adoption-blogging world well documents that adoption is not an easy task. It is well known that there are difficulties and pain involved. It should never be romanticized. I became involved with Together for Adoption after speaking to multiple couples who had decided to disrupt their foster care placements. Since then, I have spoken with families who have dissolved their adoptions. Many of the women I speak with are depressed and crushed under the weight of their children’s extreme needs.
Dissolution of adoption should never happen. Christians need to be equipped to endure with joy the suffering involved with a difficult foster care placement until that child can be reunited with their biological family or placed with a forever family. The theology of adoption can equip Christians to have a persevering love with difficult children who resist our love.
There is a great need for children to be adopted that are older or who have special needs. Many of us may be called to welcome in a teenager at the cost of our own desires for healthy babies. The gospel, in particular the doctrine of adoption, equips Christians to make self-denying choices like these. It equips us to make these choices not as a part of a personal crusade to save the world one child at a time, but as a part of God’s mission to display his love and glory to everyone, especially the most vulnerable.
We must have a love that is so unique, so counter-cultural that we are able to love children that the world does not want, the kind of children that the world would deem undesirable and unlovable. This unique love can only come after drinking from the well of God’s love for his Son, which, by the wonderful grace of adoption, has been poured out to us.
Lastly, I would like to briefly speak to the infertility issue. Infertility is a great loss and terrible suffering for so many. Anyone who has walked the painful road of infertility will tell you that adoption cannot solve that problem. Being able to adopt a child into your family is a blessing in and of itself. I have heard countless women express to me how thankful they are for their adoptive children and how they hope their child never thinks that they adopted them because they were infertile. As Megan Hill rightly says, we adopt our children because we want them, because we loved them. But it goes beyond that. We adopt them because they needed us and not because we need them.
Parenting never goes well with biological or adoptive children when we seek our children to meet a need within us. Rather, we make the sacrifices we do, joyfully, to raise our children out of an overflow of what God has done for us. Of course, we can agree that our children bless us. Children are a sanctifying grace from the Lord. Our children are a wonderful gift, but that gift must always remain in the place God intended it to be. A gift that points us to the wonderful gift giver who meets all our wants and desires with himself, our Father God.
Adopting simply to meet our own desire for a child also minimizes the pain and loss that child experiences. The loss of their biological family is a loss that happened only as a result of our broken and sinful world. How thankful I am to be my children’s mother. And yet, I weep every time I pray for their biological mother who is unable to be their mama. I adopted my children to meet their deep, desperate need for a mother, which means they experienced a deep and painful loss. As their mother, I wish I could protect them from the pain of the loss of their biological family. I wish when we had our “why?” discussions I could make it as simple as “because I wanted children.” But that would not answer the hurting cry of their heart that knows this is not the way it was meant to be.
Instead, I give my children a larger story in which they can live in as I paint a picture for them of our God who deeply understands their loss. I show them our God who experienced even greater loss; the loss of his only begotten Son and that terrible and horrific loss was the greatest act of love this universe has ever known. It is the very loss that restored me into a relationship with God. The God who adopted me into his family through the sweet blood of Jesus is the same God that has filled me with a deep love for them.
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