Not from the Flesh but from the Heart
When the stork first arrived for our family, he didn't come to the hospital – he landed at Los Angeles International Airport. Instead of feathers, he had the long metal wings of a Boeing 727.
The arrival of a child in a family usually brings excitement and always brings change, and that was true for Joanie and me as we awaited the little baby from Korea who became Laura Elizabeth, our oldest daughter.
Adoption was a choice of love for us, as it is for thousands of other couples and single persons, both in the United States and in other countries. It may begin as love for the picture or description of a child living thousands of miles away, but it quickly becomes love for the child himself or herself, as day-to-day caring bonds parent and child.
Since Joanie and I have been blessed by both adopted (Christopher and Laura) and natural children (Jessica and Joshua), we have also been blessed with a greater picture of our heavenly Father. Let me share what we've learned.
Our covenant-making God likes to work through families. He makes promises to parents and to their children (Genesis 17:7; Acts 2:39). Jesus demonstrates God's delight in children in Mark 10:13-16 – the joy in families that Psalms 127 and 128 describe. Therefore, barrenness brought grief (Genesis 16:4; 30:1; 1 Samuel 1:2; Jeremiah 10:20; 31:15). Couples without the ability to have children biologically and families that desire to grow and share their lives, can look at adoption as one of the ways in which God puts in families those who are alone:
A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely.Psalm 68:5-6, NASB
Adoption is the act of bringing a child who has not been born within a family to a place of full equality with any other children who have been born within it. It means establishing a new legal relationship where none existed before and terminating previously existing legal relationships.
By adoption, too, each Christian receives his or her own new status before God. He sets us in his family, ends our relationship with Satan, and gives us a new relationship with himself. All of us begin our lives apart from God, being dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1; cf. w. 11-12), but the grace of God brings us near through the blood of Christ (v. 13). That is adoption. We were strangers to the household of God, yet he makes us his children! God predestines us to adoption as sons (Ephesians 1:5), gives us the Holy Spirit so we can truly say, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15), and promises the final enjoyment of our adoption in the resurrection of our bodies (Romans 8:23).
What a wonderful thing our heavenly adoption is! This is what our Larger Catechism says about adoption in Question 74:
Adoption is an act of the free grace of God, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, whereby all those that are justified are received into the number of his children, have his name put upon them, the Spirit of his Son given to them, are under his fatherly care and dispensations, admitted to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God, made heirs of all the promises, and fellow-heirs with Christ in glory.
What privileges we have as God's children!
If we learn from the Bible how God views us as his adopted children, it changes forever how we view the adoption process used in our families. For example, God doesn't regard us as "second-class" children because we are adopted, and therefore no adopted child should ever be made to feel ashamed because he or she is adopted. It is easy to fall into the trap of giving preferential treatment to one's biological children, but that is not God's way, for he certainly means it when he says that we are his children. Joanie and I have four children, and even though they came into our family in different ways, there is nothing that can diminish the fact that we are parents to all four.
An adopted child has every right to the family name and inheritance, for his identification with his adoptive family is total – just as we receive the name of Jesus Christ, God's true Child, and cannot be denied our heavenly inheritance, even though we are made sons and daughters solely by grace. An adopted child can say "Mommy" and "Daddy" in just the same way that we say "Abba! Father!" to our heavenly Father. And just as God wants us to know that we are really part of his family, so every adoptive parent must long for each child to feel that he or she really belongs in his or her new home.
But being a parent involves guidance and discipline, too, and if we are God's children, we must receive the fatherly chastening that all his children receive (Hebrews 12:5-10). Sometimes a parent feels that discipline should be withheld from an adopted child, lest the child feel unloved. But God disciplines us because we are his children (Hebrews 12:8), and so real adoption means not only love but also discipline lovingly given.
There is sometimes a danger that a couple will adopt a child simply to meet their own needs. If that child turns out to be less than perfect, then love is withdrawn. We can all thank our Redeemer that he does not cast us off because of our sinful imperfection. There are an enormous number of children, often from other countries, who have special needs and who need homes. These children may have birth defects, may be mentally retarded, or may be racially mixed. Christian couples need to prayerfully consider what kinds of needs they can handle. As Christians we can be open to a wide variety of adoptive situations because we ourselves know the One who loves us in spite of our imperfections, failures, and sin.
Joanie and I were so taken with Laura that we immediately began proceedings to adopt our oldest son, Christopher. And we learned that adoption holds all the joys, sorrows, inconveniences, and delights that come to anyone who becomes a parent. God has now blessed our lives with two more children, Jessica and Joshua. They are four young lives that we have a part in, four unique and interesting young people – four children who are all ours.
A Favorite Poem about Adoption Reminds Us of that:
Not flesh of my flesh,
Not bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn't grow under my heart,
You grew in it.
Adoption has taught us that the Lord has done something wonderful. He has, through his only begotten Son, truly and eternally made us his own children. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer, is not ashamed to call us his brethren (Hebrews 2:11) because we have been adopted by God.