*Guest Blog by Jennifer Strange . See bio below.
“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.”
– Isaiah 30:18
It’s Advent again. This season of coming toward. This season when we remember that God came toward us, that Jesus made his home among us. This season when we remember that God will come toward us again, that Jesus will make a forever home for his brothers and sisters.
So we are always in Advent. Always toward the coming of the future King, the forever home, the finished adoption. Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Brother. We don’t want to wait any longer for the coming. Come already.
As this particular Advent season comes to a close, my husband and I approach the long-awaited finale of our third son’s adoption. Of course, he’s ours already in so many ways, having been in our care since the moment of his birth. We hesitate in no way to call him our son. But in the eyes of the law, we are merely his legal guardians, patiently anticipating the “gotcha day” when a court will declare him a Strange (poor thing) and therefore our legitimate heir just like his brothers are already by virtue of their birth.
By one calendar, we’ve been waiting for this court date for almost ten years, wanting to adopt since early in our marriage. By another calendar, we have only been waiting three years, since we didn’t start taking practical steps toward adoption until fall 2010. Of course, our first practical step was attending a conference (because we’re that kind of people), and we took many other essential practical steps after that. We could measure the wait so many different ways: nine months from start to finish of the home study, eight months from completed home study to match, one month from match to birth, three days from birth to surrender, six months and counting from surrender to finalization. But no matter where you start, there is always the waiting.
During the last six months before our match, we learned about maybe 100 different domestic adoption situations: babies due soon or children already born and needing forever families. I began making a list of those we contemplated for more than a few moments—names of people for whom we prayed specifically. The list numbers 30, each line naming a birth mother, and sometimes a birth father, and sometimes a child already in the breathing world. More than thirty real people associated with countless other real people. All in a fiery waiting room. All hoping to survive the waiting, if only as slick coals. And that’s just the one room of people we could see in a world with tens of thousand of rooms in millions of houses.
I don’t want to wait anymore. Almost 18 million children in the world have no living parent and lack appropriate care. More than 400,000 American children are in foster care right now, and nearly 60 thousand of them live in institutions or group homes rather than with families. Half that many will age out of the system without forever families, and just as many newborns are placed for adoption privately or through agencies every year in the United States. The numbers are fatiguing.
So let’s go. Let’s move. Why does the Lord wait to come and show mercy? Why doesn’t he just do it already? Isaiah 30 tells us that the Lord is a God of justice, but there is something about justice that requires waiting. Ah, Advent. We wait because he will come: he will exalt himself to show mercy. In the meantime, we groan.
Adoption journeys almost always seem longer than they should be because by the time you actually embark on one, you’re beyond ready to finish. There are papers to file, questions to answer, fingerprints to submit. And several pausing places with nothing to do but wait: you can’t make the days pass faster, and you can’t force the match. Starting only gains you the right to wait for the finish. You must wait with eager longing. “In order to arrive at what you are not / You must go through the way in which you are not,” Eliot wrote. So you groan.
We live in a broken world, and the brokenness itself calls us to action. Those who wait on God dare not turn away from the distress but must walk into the messy middle of it. Because only the adopted sons and daughters of God dare do such waiting.
The word adoption indicates movement toward choice or desire. Adoptive parents declare “mine” over a child that isn’t theirs naturally but whom they have chosen to parent, and then they look forward to how that “mine” will play out over time. That can be exciting, but it can only happen in a broken world. It’s ashes that God makes beauty out of.
Indeed, God makes that same kind of risky movement by choice when he adopts sons and daughters for himself. He makes many who do not rightly belong in his family into his legitimate children through the agency of their elder brother Jesus. He chose to love many from before the foundations of the world, and he loves them to the end with a perfect Father’s love (see Ephesians 1:3–5). That talk in the Bible about being God’s “children” is no cute metaphor: it’s an eternal reality with immediate and long-term implications.
The season of Advent confirms that for us: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4–5). Every year during the month before Christmas, we remember that the Messiah came—incarnate, God with us, “born that man no more may die; born to raise the sons of earth.” Also in the month before Christmas, we celebrate the truth that the Messiah will come again; he has not left his brothers and sisters forever but only for a time during which he is homemaking for us (John 14:3). He will bring many sons and daughters to glory (Hebrews 2:10).
But when? Sometimes I wish I knew. The world is sick and our hearts with it. We have evidence that our God is on the move: the “Abba!” cry within us, confirming our adoption (Romans 8:14; Galatians 4:6) and kindling our desire to see him face to face. But when will he appear? The Spirit reminds us to wait with patient anticipation—he will come. He will come on “gotcha day.”
Just like our third son is ours in almost every sense, so we who call ourselves the sons and daughters of God are his in almost every sense . . . pending finalization. Romans 8:19–25 tell us that all of creation—the trees, the plants, the birds, the bees—is desperate for our adoption to be complete. The creation is in labor, but not the sort that ends in childbirth; rather, the creation labors toward the cosmic gotcha day. We were saved in the hope that it is coming, but we must patiently anticipate it. No woman labors forever—her rest comes eventually. So too we children will come to rest. So too all of creation. We will have our cosmic gotcha day. We will one day come to our Father’s home, and we will abide there as his forever.
On that day, the sons and daughters of God will be revealed finally and fully as his legitimate heirs. We will have the redemption of our bodies, and all of creation will see glory. No more sin, no more sadness. No more orphans or group homes or trafficking or abuse. No more brokenness of any sort. Just glory. No wonder the nonrational creation finds a voice: the resurrection of the adopted will be a sight worth seeing. No wonder the hope of the glory to be revealed on that cosmic gotcha day makes the creation and we with it groan. As John writes, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see [our Father] as he is” (1 John 3:2).
So we are in the Advent of our Adoption. Blessed are those who wait for him.
Jennifer Strange a wife and mother of three sons—two by birth, one by adoption. Also a writer, editor, Twitterer. Her poems and essays have appeared in Rock and Sling, The Other Journal, The Southern Poetry Anthology, and the Art House America blog, which she also serves as assistant editor.
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