Optional Adoption

So far, we’ve spoken much about adoption as a support to those we know who have adopted or are considering it already. We expect that there are others reading this, but so far, we’ve not said much about them. You might be surprised how often we hear comments like, “It’s so great that you all adopted those kids” or “I can’t imagine ever doing anything like adopting” or “You all are so brave to adopt”.

I promise you it didn’t feel like bravery to us. Around the time we were in the thick of the adoption process, Bill read a book called Rich in Love: When God Rescues Messy People about a family who had birthed/fostered/adopted 32 children. This part stuck out in particular:

People have asked how we could have made such serious decisions about children so quickly over the phone, without praying about whether we should let more kids come into our home. When God says, “Don’t murder or steal,” I don’t have to pray about whether I should be involved in those things, because I already know his will. In the same way, God says in his Word that we should take care of the widows and orphans. I don’t have to pray to know if this is his will because he already told me it is. He wants us to do it. Period. And Domingo and I felt that as long as God kept bringing us kids, and we had room, we would keep taking them in.

It was never about bravery, just obedience.

“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”(Isaiah 1:17)

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says… Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:22, 27)

So why did our churches so blindly keep ignoring the weak and needy, the orphans and widows? Why were we ignoring them? Why are you?

You know why: Your life is hard. You have small children. You both work. You’re can’t afford it.* You’re already dealing with special needs in your family. You don’t have your crap together. You’re unorganized, impatient, sick, disabled, anxious. Maybe you even just adopted.

And yet if any of you, in the same situation you’re in now, saw a child you didn’t know about to be hit by a car, none of those things would hinder you making your best effort to barrel the child out of the way to save their life. You wouldn’t pray about it first, ask your friends, read a book, have a long meeting with your spouse, research on the internet. You would run straight into traffic, not caring how much it might hurt you.

But when we have time to think, we become a faithless people.

Most of you who read this blog live in North America. That most likely puts you in the 1% bracket of the wealthiest people in the world. But with most wealth comes the most entitlement. We’re so wealthy we whine when we get paper-cuts and recheck our finger a dozen times throughout the day to see the wound again and feel sorry for ourselves. We don’t have to do the hungry thing, the exposed-to-elements thing, and we don’t have to do the “my child was just beheaded by ISIS” thing.

Many of you have truly suffered. Honestly, you’re probably the ones who are most likely to do bold stuff like adopting and fostering and opening homes to the dirty and unwanted. But the rest of us? We’re just running scared, worshiping ease and comfort, completely acting as though we have never heard a word Jesus said. We think this life is it, and we’ll ignore whoever we have to, like widows and orphans, in order to make it great.

“We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22b)

I’m sure my frustration is coming through my writing. I’m frustrated that I’m with you in your hesitancy. We keep talking about whether or not to adopt again–and it sounds impossible. My life has been so out-of-control since adopting the first time. One of my children doesn’t really care for me at all and acts as though her life goal is to defy me. I don’t get breaks anymore because I have to keep such a close watch to protect all of them. I never have a clue what I’m doing and fear constantly. I’ve been more anxious than ever. And all I can ever do–ever–is see what a failure I am. Please, God, don’t ask me to do this again!

But He already has. In His Word. And who am I to say no to the creator of everything, the salvation of my undeserving soul, the only one worthy to be glorified, the one who has faithfully promised to work out everything for my good even though I was once his enemy?

How could we adopt again? How could we adopt in the first place? Because he adopted me. The way my life is affected is irrelevant.

I have nothing to say about what your story should look like. God wrote each of our stories to be different. Maybe you should adopt over and over for the rest of your life until you die, maybe you should only adopt once, maybe you shouldn’t adopt at all. Maybe you should foster. Maybe you should open your home to the lonely kid who always seems a little hungry and a little smelly.

Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum you probably should allow yourself to be pushed far past what you’re thinking right now. Certainly not because I’m telling you to. I’m simply trying to remind you of the hard truth I’d rather ignore, too.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says… Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:22, 27)

*We have a post coming on how to adopt basically for free.

Here are all the posts in our adoption series:

  1. Getting Real About Adoption
  2. Loving the Unlovable
  3. Sin in the Adopted Child
  4. Support for the Adoptive Parent
  5. Broken-Hearted Parents
  6. Some Clarifying Thoughts on Our Adoption
  7. Examining Adoption Resources (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 1)
  8. Normal and Healthy? (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 2)
  9. A Matter of Foundations (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 3)
  10. The Sins of Neurology  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 4)
  11. Idol Swapping  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 5)
  12. Setting the Course  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 6)
  13. Another Way Forward (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 7)
  14. The Therapy Our Children Need
  15. Who Are You Calling Normal?
  16. Optional Adoption
  17. How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)
  18. What About “Those” Kids?
  19. Trying to Make Them Lovable

Looking Beyond the Bricks

To start, let me give you an example of a guy that totally misses the point and is horribly guilty of what I talked about in the last post.  (Be warned that while this guy is seriously preaching this, it’s painfully funny and also just plain painful.  And no, that’s not Foxy.)

In a sense, my last post was a bit autobiographical, because I wanted to tell the process, the story, of how I get from there to here.  And not just because I want to tell stories, but because I’ve found story to be far more important than I ever imagined.  You see, I grew up seeing the Bible as a source of rules and principles to live by.   After college, I learned that it’s far more than that–it’s literature that needs to be mined as such.  I should understand genre and context and authorship to get the full scope of what each book of the Bible is trying to say.

The thing is, I don’t disagree with either of these ways of viewing the Bible: it does have rules and it is a work of literature.  But neither was…enough.  Because the Bible can’t be reduced to rules or literature.  It is the narrative about our redeemer and how he has slowly revealed himself to his people and to the whole world.  To say it differently, it’s a story.  One big story with lots of small stories that all feed back into the one big story.  Both views I had before always fell short in viewing the Bible as something to go to when I needed something, when I was trying to figure something out.  I viewed the Bible selfishly and used it selfishly, childishly.

I’m not sure I’ve reached adulthood, but I am growing up to see the Bible as something way outside of and far bigger than me.  And it doesn’t need me to interpret it or understand it or do anything to it.  In all it’s weirdness and surprises, it’s exactly what it should be.  And now my job as a disciple of Jesus is to view and read and use the Bible as the source that helps me understand by the Spirit who my King is, what he’s like, what he wants, what he did, what he said, what I am because of him, what he offers to a dying world.

And that’s the overriding idea I want to bring to the Bible and particularly so with this blog.  I say overriding, because it’s not the only thing.  Of these three levels (the sound bite, the whole letter/speech/book, and the entire story of God), which one is the most important for how we read the Bible and let it inform us today? Sorry, folks, but it’s all of them. The part informs the whole and the whole informs the part. It’s not about which way, but how to integrate the different approaches.  And I want the story of God to hang over how I understand the components.

And why is that so hard?  This is probably obvious, but it’s because the Bible is long, old, diverse, multicultural, multilingual, and just downright confusing.  It’s so, so much easier to just know a verse or maybe even a chapter or an entire book (probably a shorter one, like, ya know, 3 John or something).  And God is infinitely infinite, unfathomable in all that he is.  And besides, it’s easy to focus so much on the Bible that we love the Bible itself instead of our God whom the Bible is all about.

To be frank, I think this is really, really hard. Court and I are constantly wrestling through how best to do this.

But I bring it up because we’ll use the Bible all the frickin’ time to help understand the things we’re talking about. Sometimes we’ll focus on a sentence or a paragraph, understanding how that fits into the greater whole. Other times we’ll come at it the other way, focusing on the whole stream of thought through the Bible without landing in a particular chapter or verse. Many people I’ve had contact with (in recent years even) would feel a little uneasy with that. But I hope we can demonstrate how this is not only workable, but good. And right. I never want us to be guilty of parading our One Big Theme Verse™ to explain anything and everything.  We also never want to be accused of generalizing so much that nobody can tell why we believe what we believe.  We invite you to interact with us as we do this, whichever way we go. We very well may need to be corrected. But I wanted to lay this out as a guiding principle before someone starts charging us with “where in the Bible does it say that?” or the such.

One final note: Reading the Oz books to find out how to lay yellow bricks is inane not just because it’s not what the book is about, but because the book never even attempts to help the reader understand the best way to do that. Sometimes the Bible just has nothing to say about buying an iPhone or what skinny jeans say about someone (hello, Jonas Brothers) or whether one should live in the suburbs. Sometimes we can take principles and inferences to help us work through issues that aren’t clearly laid out. But sometimes–get ready for it–sometimes, it’s just not there. And that’s okay. Sometimes we make decisions by faith knowing that there’s not a moral high ground. And trying to appeal to the Bible for these things not only gets one into dangerous waters (cuz you starting making laws out of things that aren’t laws), but you usually end up dragging others into your new land of faux laws. Those would be the burdens that get laid on others’ shoulders.

_______________________

If you want some resources for this, here are some I highly recommend (and yes, I’ve actually read all of them):

According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy

The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight

The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm

My personal favorite for all ages: The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

An excerpt:

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose), they get afraid and run away. At times, they’re downright mean.

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne-everything-to rescues the ones he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is-it’s true.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling on Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in the puzzle-the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.