Dave and Emma had been married for a handful of years and already had two active children to show for it. They were happy, and life was as smooth-sailing as it could be with two toddlers underfoot. Yet at the back of their minds, they both remembered a conversation they’d had before they had said, “I do.”
“I’d love to adopt one day,” Emma had mused aloud to Dave one sunny afternoon as they sat in peak-hour traffic.
“Really? Me too,” Dave affirmed.
Pleasantly surprised, Emma pushed gently, ““Even if we already had biological children?”
“Yes, I could do that,” he’d replied, half-concentrating on the road.
Now, four years later, the topic re-surfaced. “Now?” Emma thought to herself. “Now, when our budget is already stretched with two kids in nappies day and night?” But she and her husband shared a common foundation – they both trusted in an all-sovereign God, One whose timing was always perfect. They began to pray about it, and even began the application process at a local Christian adoption agency. But life meandered on its way, day after day, like a gentle, winding river. Then one day, they heard: A teen mom had chosen their profile as the parents she wanted for her newborn son. In just six days, they would become a family of five.
Countless emotions elbowed at each other, fighting for a place in the spotlight – excitement, fear, apprehension, joy. Then nerves prevailed, and questions pelted their minds like a hard, relentless rain: “What would he look like? How would the other kids respond to having a new brother? How would we feel about him? How would our extended family react to the sudden addition?”
Emma decided to use the limited time she had to enlist the advice of experienced friends. One morning after a church function, she found herself side-by-side washing dishes with an adoptive mother in their congregation. She articulated her qualms as best she could to her new confidante, who reassured her that she, too, had experienced similar misgivings before their own adopted children had come home.
The words that this kind, gentle woman spoke to Emma over soapsuds and dishtowels stuck with her for years to come. “As we understood God’s love for us and our own adoption in Christ, adopting children became a no-brainer! Our mental barriers to adoption were removed and it became an outworking of what we believe – ‘We love because He first loved us’ (1 John 4:19) and Ephesians 5:5-6 – ‘In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One he loves.’” The truth and conviction of scripture washed over Emma like warm water cleansing a clouded glass. Suddenly she could clearly see God’s big picture when it came to adoption.
The unspoken fears
The woman at the sink continued, confessing that she, too, had wrestled with similar fears about her adopted children. Then she concluded, “Ultimately, we realised that God would have prepared this child for us from before conception – because that’s how sovereign He is! So we needed to trust that He had the child picked for us and wouldn’t give us anything we couldn’t trust and depend on Him for. Also, there were no guarantees that our biological children would be perfect -they may well have inherited some biological imperfections from us. In the same way, our children by adoption may not have our genetic physical impediments like needing glasses or having eczema! We would love and care for whoever God gave us.”
God Himself had adopted Emma into His eternal family, on the pure basis of His amazing grace, and not because of anything whatsoever that she had done to earn or deserve it. He hadn’t chosen her or set His love upon her because she was loveable – she knew in her heart of hearts that Romans 5:8 was true: “…God demonstrated His own love for us in this – that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Yet what would it take for Emma and Dave to set aside their nervousness about the future to wholeheartedly imitate the sacrifice that God had made for them? Was it even possible? Again, another portion of scripture popped into Emma’s mind as she weighed out the pros and cons: ‘…with God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26).
Moulding and shaping
Feeling as though they were indeed making the right decision, Emma decided to phone one more friend, who had very recently welcomed a one-year-old boy into her home in addition to their two other biological children. When Emma asked how it was going, the friend replied honestly, “We have felt God’s sovereignty in so many details helping to reassure us that the boy we have is just the boy God wanted us to have, which has given us the strength to cope with the early challenges and up-and-down emotions. By the grace of God, our feelings are slowly but surely catching up with our commitment!”
As soon as Emma shared the news with her friend about their decision to adopt, her friend was ecstatic, but she did offer this advice: “Remember that God is our heavenly Father who has good purposes for our lives, to make us more like Jesus – trust His sovereign hand and be willing to be moulded!” Upon hanging up the phone, Emma felt as though she was ready for whatever God had planned for their family.
The next day, Dave landed in a similar conversation with another dad, while pushing kids simultaneously on the park swings. The topic again turned to the unknowns, and the Christian man with whom Dave was conversing laid it out, plain and simple. “Look,” he said frankly. “It’s not your sense of noble duty to society that’s going to get you out of bed at two o’clock in the morning when the kid is crying after a bad dream. It has to be – it can only be – for the sake of the gospel.”
Dave considered these words of advice thoughtfully, grateful for the wealth of experience of another Christian brother who had already walked the densely crowded path that lay before him. But what if it turned out to be a disaster? What if it was all just a big mistake? No, they had to do it. After all, they had the privilege of having Christ in their hearts and in their homes. It would be selfish to keep Him to themselves. But surely they could rather just volunteer their time at an orphanage every Saturday? Surely that would make a difference, right? It would make a difference, but as another parent had reminded them, “discipleship takes place in the home.” How could they pass up this opportunity to live out the love of Christ on a daily basis to a child who might not otherwise be exposed to the gospel?
Part of the family
Four days later, through no small feat of God’s provision, they met their new son for the first time. Both Emma and Dave were overwhelmed by the way they felt when they held their new baby in their arms for the first time. A few days later, Dave confided to Emma, “It felt the same as it did when I first held the other two kids after they were born!” “For me, too!” Emma agreed. The early weeks were difficult, but the Lord was gracious. Dave and Emma were amazed by the way their church family rallied around them during this time, providing an abundance of supplies, resources and support. The moms and tots group which Emma was a part of even threw them a surprise “Welcome Party,” in lieu of a regular baby shower. There were numerous challenges, and Emma found that she had to rely on the Lord’s grace more than ever before – and yet the blessings outweighed the trials.
Months later, Emma stumbled upon a wonderful book called Adopted for Life by Russell Moore. In the first chapter of the book, Emma read, “Not everyone is called to adopt. No one wants parents who adopt children out of the same sense of duty with which they may give to the building fund for the new church gymnasium. But all of us have a stake in the adoption issue, because Jesus does. He is the one who tells us his Father is also ‘Father to the fatherless’ (Ps. 68:5). He is the one who insists on calling ‘the least of these’ His ‘brothers’ (Matt. 25:40) and who tells us that the first time we hear His voice, He will be asking us if we did the same.”
Emma closed the book and considered all of the people who had poured into their own lives before, during and after the adoption process. Without a second thought, she realised, “Yes. Adoption is something that everyone can support and be a part of, whether they actually adopt or not.”
Author note: This article is comprised of a compilation of experiences and quotes from several real-life adoptive families in South Africa.
This article was published in Radiant’s Jan/Feb 2013 issue. Read the sidebars, including what couple Aaron and Nichole Marshall learnt about God through the adoption of their son Zurich from Ethiopia, on page 21.