Adoptive parents are often asked to describe their experiences with relationships, attachment, fears, struggles, joys, and rewards. Curiosity leads many to wonder about the adoption journey, however, a commonly overlooked question is “What do we learn about God in adoption?”
Prior to adopting our three children, I also, had never asked myself this question. Only as I became an adoptive father of two sons (adopted at age 4 and 21 months) and a daughter (adopted at 17 months) did I ever consider what it might feel like or what it might teach me about God the Father. Reflecting on this after I had become an adoptive father has led me to understand three important truths about God, our adoptive Father.
God the Father Sacrificed Much to Make Me an Heir
When I think of adoption the word ‘sacrifice’ comes to mind because raising kids from hard places is simply hard. It’s a roller-coaster of emotions we weren’t fully prepared for. It’s about giving of yourself physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, financially… the list goes on. However, our human sacrifices pales in comparison with the sacrifice that God made in order to call us His children. Ephesians 1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
As I began to feel the strain and pain that these sacrifices come with, I started to see a small glimpse of God’s love for me. God willingly gave up all of heaven’s riches and glory in order that I might gain sonship in Christ. Much like my kids’ experience in adoption, God rescued me and granted me the opportunity to live life in a new way – loved.
God the Father Loves Me Unconditionally
Time and time again scripture pointed me to the conclusion that God’s love is unconditional, yet I never realized fully what this word implied. I knew theoretically or theologically that God’s love is unconditional since he loved me before I was worthy of love (Romans 5:8). However, only in adopting my children did I experience this fully.
In a brief interaction with my oldest son, maybe two years ago, I learned a little glimpse of God’s heart as my adoptive Father. Our family was sitting for dinner one night and my son was using a fork with his non-dominant hand to eat the green peas off of his plate. In order to avoid the impending mess, I remember simply saying “If you don’t want to make a mess, you could use your right hand or you could try a spoon” His immediate shout of disdain will be ever etched in my mind “I don’t want your help! I don’t need you!” As we transitioned as a family, these types of situations occurred regularly, but this one stuck in my mind because I remember reflecting on my own attitude thinking, “I’m not angry, I’m not upset, I just wanted to help him do it better”. Instantly, my rude inner voice said “Fine then, don’t. Go ahead and do it your way.”
That is when I realized how my own actions had hurt God the Father. How often in my life had I shouted those painful words back to God? “I don’t want you! I don’t need you!” I was then able to take it one step further. I didn’t just realize that I often treated God this way, but I realized the unconditional love of God. God responds to us with arms outstretched, patiently waiting until we are ready. My human response was quite the opposite, shutting down the communication and conversation abruptly and harshly. God takes our mess and our attitude and loves us anyway.
God the Father Shows Me His Mercy through His Patience
Parenting by all accounts is exhausting and trying, a patience-testing journey. Countless times in my parenting I found myself impatient and merciless or lacking empathy. As an adoptive Dad, my heart was so far from the image of God I was meant to represent. Psalm 103:8 says, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
At times, my world seemed to be falling apart and the only words I could think of were negative or words pierced with sarcasm and anger. It is in these times, I remember afresh the mercy and patience shown me by my adoptive Father (God).
Is It Worth It?
In adopting me, God the Father has made me His heir. The riches of Heaven are mine in Christ! He sacrificed much, even His own son, that I might be reconciled. In adopting me, God the Father demonstrates his unconditional love for me, a sinner, now clean – redeemed. In adopting me, God the Father, displays to an impatient, selfish world what it means to be mercifully patient.
The journey of adoption is not only about my kids and our family, the journey has also been a means of understanding God, our adoptive Father. As I learn about the Father, I can’t help but ask questions regarding my parenting: Am I patient and merciful? Is my love really unconditional? Is the sacrifice ultimately worth it?
As I attempt to answer these questions I am reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians 4:19 which says, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”