In a post last week, I shared the joyous theological truths that resonated with us and motivated us to pursue adopting a child. Physical adoption, on so many levels, is indeed a beautiful picture of those spiritual truths.
Our parents, Adam and Eve, were God’s children but sin separated them, and thereby us, from him and to death. In Adam all die. But the perfect Adam, Jesus, came and lived and died in our place to make a way for us to God. He initiated the process, not because we were good enough, or the right ethnicity, not because there was anything in us that he should desire us, but because he loved us. He pursued us and gave us new birth from above so we might be one of his children for all eternity with the full right of sons. (That “sons” is significant. We shouldn’t be too quick to throw daughters on there too. I’ve learned many things from our Galatians series, and that’s one of them!)
But like in every other aspect of life, the beauty of something is seen brightest and best, juxtaposed against all that was and/or might have been. Our spiritual adoption exists because sin entered the world. And so it is with physical adoption. It too exists because something went wrong along the way. But often, the hard side of adoption scares us. We don’t like to hear it.
To a child, though, what might have been isn’t so easily pushed aside and left behind. We see a bigger picture – the rescue, the restoration, the reconciliation. But he/she sees and feels the loss and the abandonment. And, so we too, need to feel his/her grief if we are to help him/her through.
An adopted child experiences the most assumed natural affection from a parental relationship being adjusted significantly and sometimes served completely. I’m not saying that parental affection wasn’t there. Often times that is the very thing that motivates an adoption plan. But unless you have felt the loss of a parent, by that parents choice, I dare say little can compare to what this change in relationship does to a child. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I lived it and felt it with one parent, and as we sat in some adoption training, I couldn’t believe how my grown up heart still flinched in pain as we worked through this topic from the adopted child’s perspective. (Tomorrow I will repost an article I wrote that was fruit from that training.)
Once again, though, I had to thank God for my past, for the loss I’d experienced, to help me – though I realize on a smaller scale – enter into our child’s sufferings. To understand the tears in the pillow and the questions from other kids and the hurts that might never go away even when wrapped in layers and layers of sacrifical love.
And that’s where our spiritual adoption differs significantly from physical adoption. Spiritually, we have the guarantee, the assurance of the Spirit in our hearts, that we shall one day be all that we should be. We will ultimately be healed and restored from all the separating and severing and scarring sin has done, because we have a perfect Father who loses none of his own and has the power and goodness to keep all of his promises.
Physical adoption is an imperfect reflection, a distant echo, a muted harmony of that perfect reality. We bring our insufficiencies to the parenting table to meet little humans with needs that we can’t even begin to satisfy. And this is where parenting an adopted child looks a whole lot like parenting in general. We set our sights high for all we want them to become and overcome, and teach and train to that end, but all our hopes for them are wrapped up in God and his power alone. Being a parent is sometimes a call to suffer. It is sometimes a call to heartbreak. It is a call to let your own reputation rise and fall with your child’s. You are connected forever for better or worse. Don’t get me wrong, parenting is also a call to joy unspeakable, but we don’t need to be told that, do we? So we imitate our Father in heaven. We imitate his sacrifice for us, through his Son, to his own hurt. We imitate his weeping for us, his service for us, his tender, empathetic care for us, and his deep love for us. We do this with all the strength he provides and sow wildly and intentionally to the Spirit, not giving up, waiting expectantly for harvest time.