Consider yourself sucked in. I hope I have grabbed your attention with the headline. No, it is not an actual headline, but perhaps it should be. As Melissa and I continue to wait for the call from Ethiopia to visit and meet our three new daughters for the first time, I have been considering and wrestling with adoption in how it relates to the Gospel.
In adoption lingo, saying that a potential adoptive child has “special needs” can have a wide variety of different meanings and insinuations. It can range from an African American infant in a certain part of the U.S. being “hard to place”, to a child with fetal alcohol syndrome on the other side of the world. It could be a little boy with down-syndrome, or a three sibling set from Ethiopia who might be split up if a family doesn’t emerge to adopt all three. The truth is that all adopted children have their own gamut of “special needs.” The simple fact that they are without a family is a huge “special need”.
A couple of weeks ago a friend (whose family has also adopted) mentioned to me that adoption is “not as much about the children, as it is about the Gospel.” This caught me off guard and caused me to think about what adoption is and what it isn’t. When an adoption takes place, the children do not initiate the process. Very rarely, if ever, does the adopted child have any say in who chooses them. Similarly, when spiritual adoption takes place, the recipient has very little to do with the transaction. They are not even able take the spiritual initiative. How could we? The Word is very clear about our own “special needs” before we were claimed. We had a certificate of debt against us (Col 2:14), we were dead in our sins (Eph 2:1), we were children of wrath (Col 2:3), separated and cut off from God (Col 1:21), and completely blinded from the things of God (Romans 1:21-23). In that state we had no means of initiating a relationship with God. Moreover, we were hostile towards God (James 4:1-4), slaves to our sin (John 8:34), and lovers of darkness (John 3:19-20). Genesis 8:21 says we were evil from our youth, which I believe means from our very first breath.
However, there is good news. God saw our “special needs” and He initiated our adoption. He saw us unable on our own to leave the confines of where we were. He saw us as humanly unlovable, and yet He loved us completely. He rescued us and gave us new life.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-10
He brought us into His household (Eph 2:19), and now we have a share in the inheritance of that household (Col 1:12-14). Understanding the immensity of our spiritual adoption is the only way we can have a proper motivation for adopting others. We love because we were loved. We forgive because we are forgiven. We adopt and support adoption because we were adopted.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us inthe Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Ephesians 1:3-10
I will admit, when we first began down the road of adoption my thinking was skewed. It is very easy these days to romanticize adoption; to think about future family photos, Christmases, and adorable, very grateful adopted children who are so thankful for what their super-parents did for them. I am guilty of that kind of thinking. However, I now realize those sentimentalized ideas, while not inherently wrong, will not sustain us in the near future. Sure, we are going to have great and fun times ahead with our six children, but it is also beginning to sink in that things are getting ready to get very tough. What can we count on to get us through? It can only be the Gospel.
I found the following on an adoption blog. It is an excerpt from a book by Dr. Russell Moore entitled “Adopted for Life”. I have not read it, but I certainly plan to soon.
“Imagine for a moment that you’re adopting a child. As you meet with the social worker in the last stage of the process, you’re told that this 12-year-old has been in and out of psychotherapy since he was three. He persists in burning things, and attempting repeatedly to skin animals alive. He “acts out sexually,” the social worker says, although she doesn’t really fill you in on what that means. She continues with a little family history. This boy’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather all had histories of violence, ranging from spousal abuse to serial murder. Each of them ended their own lives. Think for a minute. Would you want this child? If you did adopt him, wouldn’t you watch nervously as he played with your other children? Would you watch him nervously as he looks at the knife on the kitchen table? Would you leave the room as he watched a movie on TV with your daughter, with the lights out?”
Then Dr. Moore writes:
“Well he’s you. And he’s me. That’s what the Gospel is telling us.”
The distance between where we were, and where God is, was much greater than an ocean or a disease. It was sin. The distance between us and God that sin caused cannot be traveled by plane or by boat. And the debt that sin costs cannot be paid with $20,000-$80,000.
Let me finish with a cost comparison……adoption is costly. Earthly adoption can be very, very expensive. But compared to the cost of my own spiritual adoption, $20,000-$80,000 is…nothing. My adoption cost the Father His very Son; His firstborn. If you have children, try to imagine for a moment paying for an earthly adoption with your oldest child. It is inconceivable to me to do that. Yet that is what God did for me. The following is from the same blog I mentioned earlier…..I can’t write it any better.
“It’s important to realize, then, that we adopt not because we are rescuers. No, we adopt because we are the rescued. And in this way, the Gospel uniquely portrays, compels, and ultimately sustains adoption.”
Friends and family, when things get hard for The Snow Bunch, please remind me over and over about the Gospel. It alone is what will hold our family together through the tough times ahead.