November 17, 2011

Adopting the Unadoptable

You know that feeling you get when you just know God is asking you to do something kinda difficult, and you don't know how or when you'll be able to do it, but the peace you need for the process finally rests in your heart after years of uncertainty?  We had that feeling this past Saturday, when we attended a conference called "Together for Adoption."

We didn't mean to go.  I mean, E and I have given a little thought to adoption, and always figured that the time would come someday in which we'd need to give it serious consideration, given both the theological and practical reasons for pursuing it.  But with no plans or finances or second bedroom to make it happen now, we weren't planning to go to this particular event.  Then, three weeks ago, we were asked if Thornfield would be willing to play some background music during the lunch break.  Jenna had already been planning to go, and since one of Thornfield's missions is to support mercy ministries, we agreed to play for free, and with it came complimentary tickets to the whole shindig.  We were officially going.  And what began as a gig ended as a life-altering calling.

Orphans by Thomas Kennington
It's impossible to convey all that transpired in those seven hours, but suffice it to say: God is moving hearts and souls and hands and feet toward helping the helpless and loving the unloved, sometimes unlovable.  He always has been, of course, but only in the last few years have I begun to open my own eyes to the needs of others and allowed myself to understand that God wants to use my heart, my soul, my hands and my feet to bring about His will "on the earth as it is in heaven."  Sure, I've known for ten years now that He was calling me into Ministry Proper.  It's only just now that I'm seeing the vast, organic, dirty, crazy, lovely world that is Ministry Improper, and seeing that I have a much larger role to play in that than in the other.  

Anyway, What about all this Adoption Business?, you may be wondering.  Me too.  The first speaker at the conference was Vermon Pierre, who spoke of "The God Who Adopts" from Ephesians 1.  Here's part of the Scripture he read:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved... In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

To be honest, these verses, though absolutely overflowing with the superfluously wonderful merits of God's grace, always make me a little nervous when they're about to be preached on.  It was while at Moody -- where Calvinism is the presumed doctrine of the educated believer -- that I became suspicious of the word, predestined.  To my utmost relief, Pierre didn't once focus on predestination as a calling of "the elect," but explained the word's use as it shows God's very deliberate and intentional purpose from the very beginning of creation to adopt His people.  Before the foundation of the world, it says, He chose us, to adopt us, to lavish upon us an inheritance not merely of riches but of His very presence as the Holy Spirit within us.  

What really struck me about Pierre's message, what's so remarkable about all of this, is that before God adopted us, we were unadoptable.  We were unwanted, unruly, unworthy to be children of God.  Pierre explained that when people decide to adopt, they're given, basically, a list of things to choose from in a child.  First, they get to decide definite traits, like whether they want a boy or girl, how old a child they'd like, etc.  After that form comes another with checkboxes beside other, less tangible, likely less desirable traits.  Traits such as "Likes to start fires," "Has extreme ADHD," "Has emotional baggage," "Is violent," "Has a history of scraping walls with knives," etc.  This page is often skipped entirely, as these children are often considered "unadoptable."  Now, it may be difficult for us to see ourselves as unadoptable when we compare ourselves to these children.  But if we put ourselves in their shoes, take on their experiences, memories, etc., we may find ourselves closer to their states than we're comfortable with.  And if we believe the gospel is true -- that Jesus died for us -- then we must also believe that we were each personally involved in His death, that we victimized and brutalized and killed God's Son.  

And yet, He still wants us in the family.  

And yet, He planned to use our own violence to provide salvation for us.

What a gospel!  What hope!  What a good, unbelievably good God!

But notice why He did this, this amazing adoption of the unadoptable, according to Ephesians 1: "that we would be holy and blameless before Him."  In other words, that we would be set apart, that we would be conformed to His own image by and through His Son.  That we would become more like our Heavenly Dad, extending gracious love like He does, adopting the unadoptable like He does.  

And that's why my own thoughts concerning adoption have changed from, "This is something we should really think about, Lord willing," to "This is something we should actually do, and He is."  I won't be anyone else's Holy Spirit, of course.  He leads us each according to His own will for each.  But I've become convinced, not only through this amazing Scriptural concept but also through the callings all Christians are given in James 1, in Zechariah 7, in Proverbs 31, in Isaiah 1, and in countless other verses and chapters and books in God's word, that it is every believer's direct calling to care for the helpless, and in many cases the orphan specifically.  What that looks like for each family will be different.  What that looks like for our family -- I'm nervous but excited and timid but eager to say -- will hopefully someday be a house overflowing with love for each other, adopted and non-adopted children alike.  Because, actually, we're all adopted.

father of the fatherless ... is God in His holy habitation.
{Psalm 68:5}


  1. Carrie, that is so exciting. Your post gave me chills. I am in that hypothetical place of "maybe we should adopt sometime..." but it is still very distant in my mind. And kind of terrifying. That being said, my youngest brother is adopted (he's 7), and of course he is an amazing and well-loved addition to our family. But it is still so scary to me, for a number of reasons.

    I can't wait to follow along on your journey and glean ideas from you as to how we can look after today's widows and orphans. Thank you for this great post.

  2. Oh Carrie . . . you are such a good writer, which is blessing because it allows what's in your heart to come out for us to share in! And I love your recap of the conference. It's really put a stronger sense in my heart that this may be in our future. Or rather, WILL be, though what shape it will take is yet to be seen.

  3. Beautiful! Love this post and the analogies...I am an adoptee of God, and blessed to adopt our awesome son! God is faithful..

  4. Carrie, it's so exciting to watch someone go from "wondering" to "knowing." This post was about so much more than just "thoughts about adoption" -- I love that about God's Word -- it applies to every situation simultaneously.

  5. What a wonderous journey you are both starting upon! I am excited to hear how things go. Isn't it amazing how YHWH leads us down paths that we never really expected to go...or at least...not yet?

  6. Carrie, this is so powerful. I came upon this post through Jenna's blog, and of course I am not surprised that she has a friend who is beautiful in every sense of the word. What a grace filled perspective on adoption. It's also interesting to me as a birth mom, because I learned so much about the love of God through the experience of giving a child for adoption- I was so struck by the fact that God gave his only Son freely and unconditionally as well. It is a very rich topic, and when approached with generosity of spirit there is so much room for grace to pour out. -kate