November 21st is National Adoption Day in America.
Some of my family’s close friends are about to adopt Lily, a young girl they have raised for the last several years. The family began fostering Lily when she was less than a year old and has been waiting four years to finally adopt her.
Lily looks completely different than her soon-to-be parents, and the parents are too old to be her birth parents. At first glance, no one would think that Lily came from the two people she calls mom and dad. But watching the love they have for Lily, you could easily be fooled.
Lily is not alone.
Last year alone more than 264,000 U.S. children entered the foster care system. Currently 100,000 children in the U.S. foster care system are waiting to be adopted.
As Christians we have a unique calling to adopt these children who do not have parents to nurture and love them. We are called to adopt, precisely because we have been adopted by the Father.
We find our identity as adopted sons (and daughters, although in the Greco-Roman world adoption as a sons carried with it distinct legal ramifications, so in a sense, both men and women are adopted as sons) in Paul’s letters to the churches in Rome, Galatia, and Ephesus.
To the Roman church, Paul writes, “[Y]ou have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15) Our adoption means that we are children of God “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” ( Romans 8:17a)
Paul follows an almost identical line of argument in his letter to the churches of Galatia. God redeemed “those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” As a result, Paul writes, we are heirs through God. ( Galatians 4:5-7)
Far from being abstract spiritual musings, our adoption as sons is a concrete reality now and for eternity. We have been adopted by the Father and we are co-heirs with Jesus.
Based on this reality, J.I. Packer even suggests that the best three-word summation of the gospel is “adoption through propitiation.” (Knowing God, 194.) Perhaps you would choose a different set of words, but we can all observe that adoption is at the center of the Gospel message.
This profound theological truth collides with a distressing physical reality in America. Hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. foster care system are waiting to be adopted. Perhaps a more sobering reality is that even though 50,000 children were adopted out of the foster care system in 2015, an acute need still exists.
The average amount of time that a child spends in foster care before being adopted is 32 months—almost three years. Children in the foster care system are placed in foster homes or other living situations, but until they are adopted, they can be moved around, lacking familial support and identity.
Many times these children find a permanent family in their foster home. More than half of children adopted with public agency involvement in 2014 were adopted by their foster parents.
If you are considering adopting a child, a wonderful way to start is through fostering children. The family I mentioned at the beginning, who is adopting Lily, didn’t set out to adopt a child. But after they cared for Lily as foster-parents for a year, they couldn’t imagine not having her as a part of their family. And now Lily is a permanent, irreplaceable part of their family.
Lily is not alone.
Millions of children share with her the experience of being welcomed into a new family. These stories are beautiful to hear and life-changing to experience.
Several years ago I found myself sitting over lunch with an elderly gentleman whom I barely knew.
In an attempt to stave off an awkward silence I asked, “Do you have any kids?”
The man—Jack was his name—began to tell me how his wife had a healthy first child. But their second child died just hours after being born, and the third baby never lived outside the womb. “So,” he explained, “We adopted two kids.”
“We’ve got three kids. I’ve always considered them my own; there’s no difference between them in my eyes.” He paused for a few seconds. “We’ve got seven grandkids, too. Funny thing is, none of them are related to me by blood.”
Jack’s biological son had adopted two kids from Korea. Jack’s adopted children had kids of their own.
Only one out of the ten people who call Jack “dad” or “granddad” got his DNA from Jack. But all of them have had their lives radically changed by his willingness to adopt, to turn the grief of losing two babies into something beautiful.
As children adopted by the Father, we should bring life and wholeness to the lives of those who do not have parents to love and nurture them. We have an opportunity to turn their brokenness into something beautiful.