The past several months have been very precious for our family as we have enjoyed the privilege of having a baby in our home while she awaits adoption. We are looking forward to many more such blessings.
This has been both an emotional and an educational season for us as a family. There have been emotional highs and lows. On the one hand, we have felt the sorrow of looking into those beautiful eyes with the knowledge that this little one had a sad introduction to the world. On the other hand, we have been overjoyed to see her respond to loving interaction with a family. And now the emotions are both joyful and sorrowful as we anticipate her moving from our home into the loving arms of a wonderful “forever family.” She will be out of our home but, of course, never out of our hearts.
This has also been a very educational time for us as we have contemplated, discussed and debated the issue of adoption. More than ever, we are convinced that adoptions by Christian families need to take place as one very practical application of gospel truth. But alongside these convictions, we have also discussed various adoption practicalities, such as how adoptive parents are to respond to awkwardly inquisitive, and even occasionally insensitive, questions such as, “Which of your children are yours?” or “What were the circumstances behind his abandonment?”
There is no doubt that before embarking on our place of safety we were not as mindful of such issues. But having now been closer to the coal face of adoption, we have become more aware of the need to be careful about how we interact both with parents and with their adopted children.
As BBC increasingly becomes a church with adoptive families, such awareness should be developed. This article is my attempt to share with you some lessons that we are learning, which I hope will help us as a wider body. Perhaps more articles will be forthcoming in the months ahead. My desire is simply to help us as a congregation to be an increasingly thoughtful “place of safety” both for children and their parents who face enough challenges as it is. I trust that nothing I say will cause unnecessary offence; however, due to an indescribable love for our recent, albeit temporary, family addition, I am burdened to share my thoughts.
One outstanding lesson we have learned is that each child who is fostered and/or adopted has a story—a sad one. Such stories should not normally be for public discussion.
Shortly after our little one came into our home, I mentioned to Jill, in front of the child, something about the circumstances that resulted in her becoming an orphan. Jill looked at me with horror and said, “Please don’t say that in front of her.” Though this precious three-month-old infant had no idea what I was saying, Jill was sensitive to the remote possibility that she might. Call it the mother hen syndrome, or paranoia if you like, but I appreciate her sensitivity in wanting to shield this precious gift of God from needless and hurtful information—at least at this stage in her life.
These children are children. And therefore, should they not be shielded from the awareness of what may have been a calloused and careless rejection by another? Or perhaps a great tragedy in their family has led to them being orphaned. In such a case, should they not be sheltered from the pain of being continually reminded of this?
No doubt, the time will come when their adoption circumstances will need to be made known to them. But of course that is the responsibility of their parents—and no one else. Perhaps one way to protect their privacy is to be careful that we do not speak about their story unless it is absolutely necessary—and perhaps never before children.
It is helpful for us to recognise that children are, well, children, and therefore they are often far more transparent than we like. The result can be unintended hurt as they share with their friend (who has been adopted) that they know their story. But actually, they do not need to know the story about how so-and-so came to be a member of another family. All that our children really need to know is that this child is a very loved and a fully-fledged member of a family. I suppose that what I am saying is that adoption should not be what defines an individual. (In fact, I am already thinking of another article that I might title, “Adopted is a Verb!” All too often we turn that word into an adjective.) The child has been adopted but he or she is now a son or daughter. End of story!
When it comes to cross-colour adoption (I am deliberately avoiding the word “racial” for every person belongs to the human race), it is obvious that the child was not born into the adoptive home. Therefore, it is clear that there is a story behind this. But again, that is a private story that should only be shared with the permission of the parents and, I believe in most cases, of the child as well. The fact that the child looks different to his parents is no secret; how we explain this to our children must be sensitive, thoughtful and appropriate. We must emphasise that the child completely belongs to the family—and his surname is wonderful evidence of that.
Let me highlight that adoption is, of course, nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, as Christians we glory in it (see Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:15)! We are made sons of God by adoption and by this adoption God views us as His very own. He accepts us just as if we are His Son (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 1:6; etc.)! It does not get any better or more privileged than this!
I believe that in the coming years BBC will gain a greater appreciation both of the biblical doctrine of adoption and of the privilege that we have to adopt. And as a result, whatever current awkwardness that we might be struggling with will be replaced with an increasing sense of normalcy. We will increasingly come to appreciate that those who were adopted are in fact special objects of love rather than unfortunate victims of tragedy and sin. Perhaps now is the time to establish such an outlook.
Those adopted are special and especially special are those who will one day experience their spiritual adoption through Christ. And when that happens, they will be quite happy to shout their story from the rooftops. But until then, let us be sensitive to protect their privacy.