My family of six is preparing to become a family of seven in a few months. Our preparation for this transition does not include baby showers and cribs; it involves a home study, fingerprint processing, and several lawyers. We are growing our family through international adoption.
Two years ago I was on my first trip to East Africa through 127 Worldwide, a North Carolina-based orphan advocacy ministry. God used my time of loving the fatherless in Kenya and Uganda to radically change my life’s trajectory. On my last day in Uganda, I met Gracious, the girl I hope to call daughter soon. God caused our paths to intersect on that unsuspecting day across the globe. What started as our family financially supporting her education has developed into our family adopting her.
A Deeper Understanding
Since I carried and delivered our other four children, we are learning so much through this adoption process. God is showing me His heart for orphans and growing my affections to reflect His. He is giving me a deeper understanding of my own adoption through Christ. I’m learning how the process of adoption of our daughter mirrors my own adoption by God.
1. She’s not seeking us; we’re seeking her.
The day I met Gracious, she did nothing to get my attention. All the children with her were running up to our team, smiling, and speaking rapidly in a language I couldn’t understand. Gracious kept her distance and watched us warily. I watched her, too. She was far too skinny, and hopelessness clung to her. I was desperate for her to want to interact with me as much as I wanted to interact with her.
Eventually, I got her to come sit by me. She never said a word as I held her hand. My heart broke for this sad little girl. After a brief visit, it was time for our team to go. Leaving her that day was painful. I wept for a child that I had known for less than an hour. God was changing my heart.
Following that meeting, my husband and I began to make inquiries about adopting her. The initiative was completely ours. We wanted to adopt her because we loved her, not because of anything she had to offer us.
Likewise, my heavenly Father sought me out, not the other way around (John 15:16). Ephesians 1:5 teaches, “He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” God adopts us because it pleases Him, not because of anything we’ve done to please Him.
2. We want her to be part of our family.
Gracious has never known the love of a mother tucking her in at night. She’s never known the protection of a father. We want her to be a Britton. We want to hear her vote along with the rest of our kids on their choice for family movie night. When we hang Christmas stockings, we want to hang one with her name embroidered on it. When we take a family portrait, we want her to be in the middle of us. We want to offer her all the rights and privileges that go along with being our child.
In the same way, God has made us His children fully. Romans 8:17 says that since we’re His children, we’re “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” He’s brought us into His family. He has given us a seat at His table. Our inheritance is from Him, and our identity is rooted in belonging to Him.
3. We want all of her.
While we expect to enjoy all of her smiles and her vivaciousness, we know that she will come to us with emotional baggage as well. She’s known abandonment, hunger, sorrow, fear, sickness, and neglect. She’s experienced darkness that we may never know about. But her baggage doesn’t scare us away. We want all of her, including that baggage. We want her problems to be our problems.
Gracious has some serious health concerns, but they will become our concerns. We want to take care of her. We will likely spend a lot of our initial time with her under the care of doctors. Adjusting from one culture to another will be hard for her and could cause problems. But we want all of her, not just the happy and easy parts.
Jesus wants all of us, too. In Matthew 22:37, He says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He’s not satisfied with occupying some of our spaces; He wants them all. He’s not scared of our darkness; He illuminates it (Ps. 18:28). Our God is jealous for every part of us (Ex. 34:14). He doesn’t want us to hold anything back from Him.
4. Getting her is costly.
Adoption costs a lot of time and money. It involves writing checks with lots of zeroes on them. It involves months, possibly even years, of waiting. Piles of paperwork and meetings with caseworkers and lawyers are necessary. Setbacks and changing laws are inevitable. Critics are everywhere. There is nothing easy about adopting.
When I struggle with the difficulty of the process, I look to my heavenly Father and remember the great cost to Him to secure my adoption. The cost of my adoption into God’s family was the life of His only Son. Nothing I’m required to give in adopting Gracious compares to what God gave for me. Walking through this process has grown my appreciation for His generosity. My gratitude motivates me to give generously.
5. It can’t be undone.
Once the judge transfers legal custody to us, Gracious is ours. She will have a new identity as our daughter. She’ll take our last name. This can’t be undone. We can’t give her back because caring for her is harder than we thought. She can’t quit being a Britton because she misses her old way of life. Her adoption will be final and legally binding.
Likewise, my adoption is sealed by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13–14 says, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” No one can snatch me out of my Father’s hand (John 10:29). He has made me His forever.
6. Because we’ve been adopted, we want to adopt.
Our theology has motivated us to pursue adoption. In his book Adopted for Life, Russell Moore says:
When we adopt—and when we encourage a culture of adoption in our churches and communities—we’re picturing something that’s true about our God. We, like Jesus, see what our Father is doing and do likewise (John 5:19). And what our Father is doing, it turns out, is fighting for orphans, making them sons and daughters.
We’re doing what our Father does. We’re doing what’s been done for us.
It’s All Worth It
There are many well-written articles and books on this topic for further study. My thoughts are not meant to be exhaustive, but rather a mother’s observations of the mingling of the divine and the ordinary. As difficult as the adoption process is, it’s worth it. It’s our joy to obey God’s good command to care for orphans (James 1:27). We want to welcome this orphan into our family as we have been welcomed into the family of God.
What about you? If you are a believer, you’ve been adopted into the family of God. How will you respond to the grace that has been shown to you?