For you did not receive a spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. – Romans 8:14-17
November is National Adoption Month and I feel compelled to address this month with a bit of urgency. You see I want to celebrate this month. I want to be excited over our adoption, and the adoptions of our friends. I want to rejoice over children coming home, families stepping forward and answering a call, parents becoming certified foster families, birth parents making brave and hard decisions. I want to spend the month hopeful and excited about the church caring for orphaned and abandoned children.
And I do celebrate and I do rejoice, but there are all these kiddos still waiting…
I see their faces, read their stories, hear their pleas…and they weigh on me. I carry their stories in my heart and there are so, so many. They are in our school districts, in our churches, in our communities, cities, states, countries, and abroad. There are children who are sick and close to death, and children who are healthy. Children who are born too early infants, children who are close to entering adulthood, and every age in between. Children who speak your language and those who do not. Children who have biological siblings, and children who are alone. Children who have lived on the streets, children who have lived through horrendous abuse, children who are lost in “the system”, children who are ignored or mistreated in orphanages, and children who are loved and tenderly cared for by foster families and orphanage staff.
But they all have one thing in common – they are children without something that many of us take for granted every day – a family to call their own.
We Christians can sit in our pews and we can sing our worship songs and go to Bible study we can even do our ministry, but if we are not caring for vulnerable children we are missing the point. Since you’re reading this, I probably don’t need to tell you that we have an orphan crisis in our world. And I probably don’t need to tell you that the church could literally eradicate the crisis if a few families from every church stepped up to the plate. And I probably don’t have to tell you what Jesus says about the matter…
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress… -James 1:27
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” -Matthew 9:14
Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. -Psalm 127:3
And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. -Matthew 18:5
Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless and see that they get justice. -Proverbs 31:8-9
Father to the fatherless defender of widows – this is God, whose dwelling is hold. Got sets the lonely in families. -Psalms 68:5-6
Need I go on? The question is not IF Christians should consider adoption or foster care…but the question I’d like to address today is what is stopping the church from erasing this problem? What keeps us from caring for these precious children made in the image of God, who deserve a life and a future and a family?
We’ve all heard the reasons, and I don’t mean to dismiss them. The Lord directs us to count the cost and it’s not a decision to take lightly. Please hear me when I say that I don’t think every Christian should adopt. Remember that we are all parts of the body of Christ, as described in I Corinthians 12. We can’t all be the hands on this issue. Some are feet, some are ears, some are eyes…in other words we are all called to do something – some are called to adopt or foster, others are called to preach or advocate or support or mentor or teach. We need the whole body on board.
But may I push a little bit into what I believe stops so many people from adoption or foster care? I think that many people are stuck in fear. Fear of what it will cost them financially, emotionally, spiritually. Fear of facing racial, cultural, or developmental barriers. Fear of what others might think or say. Fear of how it might affect biological children. Fear of our own capabilities as parents. Fear of loving a child we may lose. Fear of rejection. Fear of losing our sense of normalcy and safety. Fear of what it might cost our marriages. Fear of behavioral problems, health problems, birth families…and so much more.
I know because I too have lived in fear of these things. Adoption is hard and scary and messy. Before we officially began pursuing our son these fears would literally stop me in my tracks, consume my daily thoughts, and cause my heart to race. We felt as if we stood on the precipice of something huge, and we were so afraid to take the first step.
But then God spoke to my heart. He asked me to put aside my fears and consider the boy who is now my son. Imagine him sitting in his crib in an orphanage with 20 or so other children sleeping around him, He said. Imagine his need for a kidney transplant in an impoverished country. Imagine his genetic condition and the future that awaits him without a family to advocate for him. Imagine his precious heart – the heart I knit together in his mother’s womb – journeying his time on earth without a mother, father, brother, sister, aunt or uncle, grandparents, or cousins. Suddenly my fears of adoption paled in comparison to my newest fear. The fear that helped us take the first steps, and the fear that guides me now. The fear that asks the question, “what will happen if I don’t adopt this child?”
I beg you all to set your own fears aside and consider the fears of a child who may have to face the difficulties of this life without the support of a family to call his own.
And I also beg you to consider the God we serve. Might it be that our fears stem from an incomplete view of who our God is?
The God who may be calling you into the deep waters of caring for the vulnerable is inviting you to be part of His team. And as we already know, His team wins. The God we serve is trustworthy, present, available, and kind. He is gentle and gracious and His hand is always extended. He is faithful and all-powerful and all-knowing and all-wonderful. He has a plan to give you a future and a hope and His plan will prosper you, and your family. He desires to see you fulfill your calling. He wants to see you grow into the person He created you to be. He wants your life to be full of love and meaning and service and growth and lessons learned. He wants your life to be marked by compassion, and love, and mercy, and sacrifice.
He desires for you a holiness and a righteousness that comes from the type of perseverance that is necessitated by trials.
He doesn’t want the Gospel to be something you only experience on Sunday mornings. The Gospel can be experienced in your living room every day as you witness and take part in the redemption of a child once orphaned, but now grafted into your family and your heart forever.
We were not made to live in fear because we serve a God who doesn’t just tell us to do something and then wish us good luck. He is with us every step of the way, holding our hand when we need it, carrying us when we can’t stand, and maybe even giving us a little nudge when fear has got us stuck.
So, what is stopping you from becoming a family for a vulnerable child today? Why not take that first step in faith and see what God does? Have that conversation with your spouse, send that e-mail, fill out that application buried somewhere on your desk, show up to that pre-adoption meeting, reach out to that fostering momma on your Friends list. Many times we wait for God to open the door for us, but based on how I read the verses above, God has already opened the door to adoption and foster care. Maybe God will close the door and lead you down another path to benefit vulnerable children, but you may never know until you take that first step…in faith.
I once heard a speaker talk about the family albums that God has waiting for us in Heaven – full of all the things we did and the people we loved. Perhaps God’s not done filling your album. Your family portrait is beautiful, and you don’t want to miss it.
Adoption and foster care is hard. I promise that this road will be full of challenges and heartache, but please don’t let that keep you from doing it anyway. Does anything of great worth come without challenges? And what could be more worthy than a precious child; created in the image of God, loved desperately by our Heavenly Father, and embraced full-heartedly by a family – in His name.
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threat; do not be frightened’. -1 Peter 3:13-14
Alicia, a super-hero in her own right mothers three busy boys, writes blogs and encourages moms and dads to consider God’s heart toward children, His grace and forgiveness. Alongside her husband, Alicia serves passionately to aid women in need of guidance due to an unplanned pregnancy and advocate on behalf of children in need of families. Alicia holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services with a focus on Family and Marriage and a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Communication from Grove City College.