We didn’t know then, in sweltering, exotic Seoul, what we know now, fourteen years later. We didn’t know how profoundly our views of the world and God would change. Adoption is an intensely Christian concept, though countless numbers of non-believers have adopted it. It is a Christian doctrine and practice shot through with grace and redemption. But what makes adoption such a spiritual endeavor?
My pastor, an adoptive father of three, loves to preach on this topic. From him, I learned that the early church modeled adoption: in the Roman Empire in the first century AD, infanticide was rampant, as it was easier and safer (for the mother) than abortion. Babies (mostly girls) were brought to the outskirts of the city, where they would die of exposure or be killed by animals. The early Christians rose up, rescuing and adopting the babies in droves. According to theologian Gene Veith, in a blog called “How Christianity Conquered Pagan Culture,” early Christ-followers “expressed their opposition to infanticide by rescuing the abandoned children of Rome and raising them as their own—an enormously self-sacrificial act at a time when resources were limited and survival was in doubt.”
My pastor was the one who described God as an adopting Father, not just an adoptive father. God didn’t just adopt one or two kids. He has adopted millions of us in the past and continues to adopt new children every day. It is part of his loving, pursuing character to find new beloveds to care for and call His own. This action is ongoing, enduring, and open ended. He is always adopting, ever embracing us.
We can learn so much about God’s heart through understanding adoption. My own understanding of God has grown far deeper because of my adoption and our subsequent adopting experience. The Father’s devotion abounds as he brings us out of our past circumstances, enfolds us as his own children and protects us, even unto his own death. We will always be sons and daughters of the King. Our identity rests in his safekeeping. His adoption of us defines us as cherished, safe, and kept.
Through adoption, we understand as never before the depth and constancy of God’s love. Like we pursued Phoebe through adoption and claim her as our own deeply loved child, our Father pursues us, claims us, and never turns his back on us. As strongly as we are committed to our daughter, God’s commitment to us is infinitely stronger, an unbreakable covenant more durable than death.
Adoption shows us that God loves all of us the same.I’m so glad I have the chance, as both a biological mom and an adoptive one, to compare the way I feel about my boys and the way I feel about my girl. Because now I know for sure there is no difference. Adopting teaches us anew that God delights in, sings over, and cares tenderly for each of his children in the same way. As believers, we are all adopted, and therefore, nothing can separate us from his love.
As God is the helper of the orphan, so we can be through adoption: God promises shelter, help, and resources for those who cannot protect themselves. He invites us into this sacred work of helping orphans through feeding them, caring about their lives, and righting their wrongs. He calls us to defend and support them as he himself does. “The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless,” (esv) it says in Psalm 146:9. Adoption won’t solve the global orphan crisis, but it will solve one orphan’s crisis. His eye is on the sparrow, and ours can be too.