I must admit that I may be an unlikely choice to pen this article. After all, my wife, Denise, and I have adopted three times. Our adoption stories include the complexities of special needs, older children, and a host of other things that time and space don’t permit me to address.
The truth is, adoption is not something that was always on my heart. In fact, quite the contrary is true. I remember the first time that Denise mentioned the notion of adoption and her sense of God’s leading in it for us. I would like to say in polite company that my mind swirled with questions. In reality, what came to mind almost instantly were objections. Strong objections. These were the kind of objections that caused me immediately to be dismissive of the notion of adoption.
Thankfully, the Lord did not leave me there. He was patient and kind as He convicted me and taught me about His heart for orphaned children and about the gospel portrait of adoption. You may be wrestling with objections as well, which is why I would like to share a few of the things that I have learned along the way that helped quiet my own objections.
1. The Cost of Adoption
The thought of adopting on a seminary professor’s salary scared me to death. Hearing the potential costs of both domestic and international adoptions, the monetary cost of an adoption was daunting. As God led me along through the questions, thankfully, I was drawn to focus on my adoption in Christ and not on the things for which I had no answer.
God, above all, understands the costs of adoption. Our adoption cost the life of Jesus. God gave more than our minds can contain. God didn’t fret over the cost of our adoption, and God is my Father. I learned through adoption to depend on Him to provide when reliance on anyone or anything else was futile. The truth was that we could not bear the cost of our adoptions (either monetarily or in many other ways), but He can. God was not asking us to go it alone. He was in it, and He provided through friends, fundraisers, unexpected financial blessings, and all manner of other ways.
2. The Unknown
In adoption, there are likely to be varying degrees of unknowns about your child, her background, or even the prospect of unexpected future challenges. Through the adoption process, I was brought face-to-face with the adopting grace of God. God knows everything about me. He knows my struggles. He knows my sin. He knows my failures. And, He knows my limitations; yet, He adopted me into His family. We may not know our children’s past or be given the comfortable illusion of being able to predict their future, but we can count on the grace of God that is available to us in Christ to give us what we need even before we need it.
3. The Difficulty of Adoption
Having adopted older children and children coming from institutions, we are no strangers to the difficulty of adoption. I would not be honest if I did not admit that adoption is hard. It is perhaps the hardest thing I have ever done, and adoption is not for everyone. Nevertheless, adoption is good. Our lives are richer because of our children, and we have been blessed with an opportunity to grow more deeply in love with them and with our Savior as a result of both the good and the difficult.
Moreover, the world of adoption is changing. We know more today about the results of trauma and neglect upon children, and how those difficulties change and challenge our children’s development. More than ever before, adoptive parents are presented with the resources and opportunities to help their children find support and healing from the scars of the past. The things we are learning about brain plasticity and the God-designed way that people are able to recover from childhood trauma through purposive, intentional, consistent support and security are awe-inspiring, and they lead us to see our Creator with more wonder. They point us to a God who is by His nature a redeemer and has called us into the ministry of reconciliation, and this reminds us of the hope that we have in Christ.
4. The Effect on the Orphan Crisis
For me, this is one of the most difficult objections to fathom, but there is a growing sentiment against adoption, particularly international adoption, because of the perceived harm it brings. For certain, we would all agree that adoption is not the best solution for every orphaned and vulnerable child in the world, and we can admit that, in the church, our conversation about the world’s orphan crisis has been too simple. Adoption is not the answer to the worldwide orphan crisis, but it is an answer. As the people of God, we must be champions for the protection of vulnerable children, for ethical adoptions, and for orphan prevention.
Wherever there is an opportunity for ministry created by suffering, there will also be people with greedy hearts who are there to profit from the suffering. The Scriptures warn us clearly in Proverbs 22:6, “He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty” (NASB). So, do we stop doing good things altogether because there are those out there with evil intent? Absolutely not! Jesus told the apostles in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” As Christ-followers engaged in adoption, this is particularly applicable to us. We must be on guard against ethical breaches, corruption, child-buying, victimization of birth families, and a host of other unspeakable evils. We must take an active role in questioning and verifying the ethical conduct of those who work on our behalf and honor Christ with our commitment to integrity.
It is true that on some level the story of every adoption is a story of brokenness. We don’t come to adoption unless something has gone awry. The story of the gospel is the story of our Father who sends His Son to enter our brokenness and restore us. Through every story of adoption, we are able to put a little taste of the kingdom of God upon the lips of a world hungry to find restoration.
Let us not be a people who ignore caution and disregard wisdom in adoption, but neither let us be a people who shrink in fear. After all, we know that God is for us through our adoption in Christ!