Adoption is the Gospel in My Living Room
“Mommy, my friend asked me today if it made me sad that I’m adopted... why do people think adoption is a bad thing? I remember the day I got adopted. It was the happiest day of my life!”
A number of years ago I arrived at my daughter's school to pick her up and saw her sitting on a bench in the carpark with a little boy in her class. When she got into the car she asked me this question. She was eight years old at the time. Jada Grace has never identified with orphans or lost or abandoned children. She completely sees herself, and always has, as a full-blown Mun-Gavin. She identifies with children in happy families, with girls who are big sisters, with kids who like to joke and laugh, with pastor's kids, with children who love Jesus, with ballet dancers. For her, it was as if life began when she found the home in which she belonged.
She was 'born' into our family as a four-year-old. In those early years she would sometimes poignantly express that she wished she was small enough to crawl inside my tummy and be born from my body. But she knew that some children grow in our tummies, and some children grow in our hearts, and she was satisfied that whichever way she came, she was here and she belonged.
When a child is adopted, an amended birth certificate is issued which replaces the birth parents’ names with those of the adoptive parents, and the child’s name given at birth with the new name (if this is being changed). Legally the child is recorded as 'born to' his or her new parents. Jada Grace might not have been able to crawl back into my tummy as a little girl and be born again, but legally it was as if she had done just that.
Let's take a different tack for a moment and tackle a theological question that I have had for some time. This has nothing to do with adoption (I thought), but was a topic in the Bible which I found confusing.
A Sinful Heritage
My question was around God's mathematical balancing ability. The verse below speaks about one man (namely Adam) bringing sin into the world, and one man (Jesus) being sufficient atonement for every man's sin.
“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:18-19
My question was this: I get how through one man we were all condemned - because it wasn't only Adam that sinned. Adam became a sinner, and then began to seed all mankind, and so it makes sense to me that we are all born sinful and are all condemned. We're not so much punished for Adam's sin as we are for our own, but it was thanks to him that we were all born with a propensity to sin. So far the math's adds up. But on the other side of the equation we now have to balance out every man's sin. It's not just Adam's anymore, we've all added heaps to the sin side of the equation so how will one sacrifice be enough? Surely millions of men have to die to pay for all that sin?
A New Birth
And then the other day it struck me. It's not an equation at all! It's a new beginning all together.
Romans 6: 3-8 "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him."
Physically, it may not be possible to be born again, but spiritually we can do just that. Physically, Jada Grace could not be born again, but legally, adoption amounts to the same thing.
In the letter to the Romans we are told that we are born into the bloodline of Adam. It’s not a very desirable bloodline, as it’s wrought with sin and rebellion and shame. These things are in our family tree - I’m sure, like me, you don’t have to look all the way back to Adam to find them! As sons of Adam, we have no hope. We're literally born as sinful beings. But the offer from Jesus is to sacrifice that life, give it up completely, literally die as you go under the water in baptism... and then as you are raised up, you have a new blood line, you are a new creature. Your family tree is very short - God is your direct Father - and very wide - Jesus and all his followers are your siblings.
Jada Grace understood that more than many people who have been adopted, both in the legal sense and in the spiritual sense. She understood that it was as if she had never been *Lily Nongena*. She was dead to her first family. She was cut off from her first bloodline. She had been given up. And now she was born again.
Every adoption movie seems to be the same. Desperate circumstances force the parent and child apart, life throws them both curve balls, but deep down they know that once they find each other, all will be okay. They battle against great odds and are eventually reunited in a happily ever after ending. We all shed a tear as we imagine being separated from the parents or children that we love and how poignant it would be the moment we found each other again.
But the Bible's version of adoption is different. It is about new beginnings, and second chances. It is about dying to our old lives and about rebirth. It is wiping the slate clean.
This is what I explained to Jada Grace that day when she asked my why people thought she would be sad to be adopted: When people think about adoption, they imagine you’re losing this. This real family, real love. Adoption was the moment you found this, not the proof that you’d lost this.
What then of the mother who hopes to be reunited with the child she has given up? Or the adopted child that longs to find her first parents? Honestly? In God even that is possible. Have we given up our right to it? Yes, I think so. Does that mean he can't restore? Categorically, No. With God all things are possible. He calls things that are not as if they were. He speaks to dead bones and they come to life. He promises us that if we hope in him, we will not be put to shame.
At the end of the day, we know that all our children-whether natural born, or heart-rendingly given up, or happily adopted-will only find their true, forever home when they are adopted again-when God is their immediate bloodline. By His grace, we may end up reconciling as their siblings in Christ.
But, to bring it back from that disclaimer, I hope that Jada Grace's story gives each of you hope: no matter who you are, no matter what you've done, no matter who you were born to or raised by, when you choose to identify with Christ in His death and to give up being a son of Adam, you get to be reborn into a new family as a new creature, and no matter if you are four years old, or fifty-four, you get to totally embrace and identify with your new family as a son of God. That's rebirth. That's adoption.