Friday, November 9, 2012
Why We Adopted
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."
John 14:18 ESV
The word has a myriad of profound and personal meanings depending on what your experiences are in life. To some it may reference the broken and discarded. To some, it may conjure images of a day of deliverance and life. To some a chance for the pitter-patter of small feet when the womb has been closed. No doubt, most associate a transition from abandonment to loving care. I’ve been struggling with what this word means to me as it has seemed to dance all over the spectrum in front of me, somewhat larger than my ability to grasp. As I increasingly feel the draw and pull of God’s will toward the international orphan crisis, adoption is continually in the forefront of my thoughts and prayers, but continually I have wrestled with this concept.
My experience with it is limited. Growing up, I had only one close friend who was adopted and her adopted family was comparatively well-to-do. Her adoptive parents could not have children so they adopted two girls. She was domestically adopted; a Caucasian girl to Caucasian parents so there were no cultural issue to contend with. She has only mentioned the matter once or twice in the near two decades I’ve known her so it really has been a non-issue, as if it were swept under the rug and were to remain there. To my knowledge she has never met her birth mother and I do not think she will ever have any ties to her genetic heritage, for she has been adopted and loved into a new one, one that is all encompassing and sufficient for her.
While growing up, I heard of other adopted children, but, again, had little real experience with them. In grade school and high school, I witnessed troubled children who attended school for a grade or two or sometimes not even a whole year as they bounced around in the foster care system. These troubled youth were always considered social outcasts, very often having behavioral problems or being completely introverted and isolated children. Some I attempted to befriend. Some seemed beyond befriending. Some were here and gone too quickly.
From this limited perspective, one can imagine how my head must have spun when my bride asked if I would consider adoption, international adoption no less. In a stable American home with a decent income and two, now healthy, children why would one purposely invite that kind of hardship into one’s life? Why would a family who already has so many challenges to raise, feed, clothe, educate, save for college and weddings, intentionally step out to incur that kind of tremendous expense and additional challenges? After all, my childhood friend had been from a “wealthy” family and her parents had only adopted because they couldn’t have their own children. That’s why families adopted, right? Adoption was to fill the voids, to heal hurting would-be parents’ aching hearts. There are so many who can’t have children, they need to adopt the orphans in the world waiting on parents.
Sounds cold doesn’t it? How many of us have rationalized along those lines of thought before? If not the orphan, then how about the hungry along the roadside with his sign, or the filthy man pushing his cart down the sidewalk with his cans and other “collectables”? “There are social services in place to help those people.” How many times have I turned the channel because I can’t stand to look at those starving children and that man’s plea for my cents a day to feed them? Make it applicable in every circumstance. What about the young man who came into the back of the church by himself that you just couldn’t quite make it back to welcome and get to know, or the young mother in the store you saw struggling with her bags and her children with no father around to help that you convinced yourself she’d be offended if you offered?
You see I made a mistake a while ago. I came from a family who is very much like most of the inhabitants of this great land…content. Here’s what I mean: the pursuit of contentment also runs deep in my blood, it is an American right. We’ve earned it. My grandparents are of the era who fought in world wars, my father is a veteran, I’m a child of technology and my kids are surrounded by it to the point they will never know a world without it. Particular to my upbringing is the desire to reach that plateau of solace: that lifestyle of getting the income, providing for the family, paying off the house, and meeting all of the bills and living comfortably without major interruption. Hard work yields just rewards. Plan for college, plan for the “normal” events of life and enjoy. This is what American Christians are called to do, right? Put extra in the offering when the missionary or evangelist preaches in our churches, even pay our tithes, but keep everything according to the Americanized plan of God’s prosperity.
Then I began to realize something. I was pursuing the creation rather than the creator. I was pursuing the things and lifestyle of this world rather than the one who created all things. I watched my bride and marveled. She has never been one to be impressed by cars, jewelry or flashy trivial things (some men are saying “where do I find one of those women?”). Her heart was never drawn to the vacation destination or the travel experience. What matters to her is a crayon artwork drawn by her kids or that I remembered her favorite flavor of sorbet is pineapple, or that she can get the jumper for our daughter at a garage sale for 25 cents when it would have cost 25 dollars retail. I saw her heart for the orphan and the outcast. It was this heart that originally drew me to her over 17 years ago.
What was my “mistake”? I began to ask God to soften my hard heart, to give me a heart for people, to help me become compassionate. What I did not realize is that true compassion is to “suffer with”. It literally means to share one’s burdens, to empathize with on more than just an intellectual level but on the level of the heart and emotion – to be so moved by the condition of another to be moved to action. I did not crow up with this compassion. Too often, when I have been hurt I have often chosen to remove and forget the individual rather than repair and rebuild.
Does this mean my childhood home was cruel or without pity? No more than most any other. We were simply content. This does not mean we were wealthy or did not struggle to pay the bills. It simply means that like most Christians, our sphere of action/interaction with others was comfortable to us and and it did not enlarge much as I grew. We turned the channel when the unpleasant truths came on. Like most Americans, we remained blissfully ignorant of the realities of the world outside of our borders. 147 Million Orphans? I don’t want to hear that number. 30,000 kids dying today from preventable diseases including starvation; don’t make me responsible for that! Everyone’s got a need. You can’t meet them all!
Adoption: back to the word. I had the pleasure of attending the Adoption and Orphan Awareness Conference this past weekend in Normal, IL. Foremost I realized I was not simply a single individual with a limited ability to change the world. I was part something much larger than myself. The hearts that were knit at that event and drawn together collectively are infinitely more effective than the sum of the individuals because of Who is drawing us - and He is working globally. My favorite quote from the weekend was “What God favors, he funds, and he favors the orphan”. Very directly, as my bride and I have started this journey of investigating adoption, more and more roadblocks and mountains seemed to be coming into view, chief among them was how we can put together the finances for this. Certainly we’ve heard many local testimonies as to how God has funded these efforts for local families, but the more we uncovered the process, the more we felt weighted down. It was this realization that God did indeed favor this for us and would see it through, would flatten all opposition, would prove faithful in every way if we will simply follow his leading in this journey that freed us.
Still, God needed to do something to change the definition of adoption in my heart. Yes I’ve seen the children, yes my heart is softened towards them and I yearn to be a tool in my maker’s hand to help feed, clothe, and provide for them. Firmly, I believe that James 1:27 encapsulates Jesus’ statement to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves” for the widows and the orphans are the most needy and very often helpless of our societies. But the full weight of adoption still eluded me until I turned to Ephesians 1:4-6 in which the Word says:
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
Then I began to think about my role in adoption. Just as I, a father who is seeking to bring a child out of death and poverty into life and health to live with me in prosperity here in the U.S., so much more did my Heavenly Father do this when he paid the ultimate cost to bring me out of death, poverty and disease into his household of life, provision, and health. The comparison cannot be measured. As much as I feel this desire growing within me, God has already achieved this with far more love than I can comprehend. Just as he is the perfect father and ultimate example for me as a father, so he is the perfect Adoptive father and ultimate example in this context as well. They are one and the same. He is the original author of adoption and knows the struggles in this process. He knows every hurdle and roadblock and can easily level them all. Ours to hold his course and obey and he will see it done.
Needless to say my bride and I are walking much taller after this weekend. We have found a new commitment to this calling, not only for our family but from other families and we have felt the shackles of self doubt and fear fall away. Much work remains. We are still required to obey, to follow, and to trust and this is not always easy. But the freedom is in knowing HE IS ABLE, even when we are not.
For more information on domestic and international adoption and orphan care visit these great sites:
Known To Me
The Forgotten Initiative
147 Million Orphans
Posted by Joshua Mikeworth