Today is Adoption Day at Blandford UMC. You’re adopted, I’m adopted. Everyone in this room is adopted. Now, some of you were adopted by earthly parents who chose you to be part of their family. That is just… awesome.
But some of you may not know that you were adopted by God. Wait, what? Some of you are asking what I’m talking about because you fell asleep during the scripture and missed the important parts.
Yes, you say, I get that Jesus died on the cross for me, and I’m forgiven of my sins because a) he was innocent and died anyway, and b) he rose again. Happy Easter! Right?
But here’s a quick recap: those who are led by the Holy Spirit of God are actually adopted into God’s family. That means that initially we were orphaned – by sin and by the fact that most of us are not, were not, born Jewish. The Jews were the people that God had made a covenant with in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit, thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection, means that all of the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, etc., all of those things he promised them – are true for us.
Paul makes the point in 8:15 that the Holy Spirit isn’t there to chain us down or make us afraid of what God would do, but that the Spirit causes our adoption to be complete.
Can you imagine what it’s like to not have a home? Can you imagine what it’s like to not know who will take care of you or who will cook your next meal?
It’s hard for me to imagine because since I was a little boy, I’ve known that my mom and dad love me. They still treat me like I am their little boy sometime. “Go to bed early! Dress up for that meeting! Make sure and tell Joanne and the boys such and such!” Some of you are laughing – your parents never stop being your parents! But mine also tell me that they love me, and that I matter, and pick me up emotionally when life punches me in the face.
I’m thirty-seven years old, but I still know that I am loved by my mom and dad.
So, I have to look at life in a different context to see what it’s like to be a child needing adoption. I mean, I know I’m sinful and that I can’t be saved without the grace of Jesus, but adoption? Adoption, I don’t quite get. So, where can I look?
Well, you know me, I’ve explored movies about adoption. We’ll watch Annie (2014) later today, but I want something that’s a true story, that “tells it like it is.”
Just in the last two months, I’ve seen two movies about adoption. The first one is a documentary called The Drop Box, the story of a pastor in South Korea who knew that mothers were abandoning their babies on the street – because they didn’t know how to take care of them. Some of the moms hadn’t wanted to be mothers in the first place, some of them had the decision made for them by someone else. But they were throwing these babies away.
A pastor named Lee realized he had to do something. He’d heard about this older tradition of “foundling wheels,” where parents could leave their children anonymously in a wheel in the center of town and hope that someone would take them in. So he created a two-way compartment in the wall of his church – like the drive through window at the bank – where people could leave their babies, and Lee’s family would care for them. Kids with disabilities, kids that can’t be afforded – Lee’s church now takes them in and claims them.
Then, there’s the story of Christina Noble. She grew up in Ireland in the 1940s, lost her mom, lost her dad to alcoholism, and ended up on the street caring for her siblings. The church took responsibility for her, but didn’t treat her well. She grew to marry a man who took her as his wife but treated her like property. And yet, in dreams, God kept showing her a vision of these children in need in Vietnam. I won’t spoil the movie for you – it comes out May 8 – but Noble uses her own hurt from being abandoned to make sure these other children aren’t forgotten.
Adoption. Wow. Just wow. It’s hard for us to consider the tenderness that it would require to open your home to a stranger, not just to feed them a meal or let them stay for an hour, but to make them your family? Some of us are considering the family we “put up with” by blood… And some of you are shaking your heads: “Jacob, those are just movies. People in Hollywood make stuff up all of the time.”
Lovely, skeptics, I’m ready for you! I went to Facebook and asked my friends to share their stories.
So I read your post about adoption stories so here goes….
Way back when, I was young and stupid and dated a guy older than me, I found myself a pregnant teenager. We ignored it for a long time and didn’t tell anyone. It seemed like one of those things that you see in the movies or that doesn’t happen to you. I knew we were young and I was nowhere near prepared to be a parent.
I talked to my parents about it and my doctor knew a couple that had been trying to have a baby for years but couldn’t. We met them and I just knew.
We have stayed in touch over the years and they send me pictures and letters and I have done the same. He is actually in college now (how crazy is that?) and reached out to me on Facebook, so we stay in touch.
Although this wasn’t the most ideal of situations at the time, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I was able to give a family the baby they longed for, and my family became closer than ever.
A friend shared her husband’s story:
My husband was removed from his birth home at the age of two, after being hospitalized due to abuse that included multiple broken bones. He was in foster care with his adoptive parents for the next two years while social services kept tabs on his birth parents. It was determined that it was best for him to be permanently removed and adopted. His adoptive parents were Christians and adopted him through the United Methodist Children’s Home in Detroit. As a child, youth and young adult he would try his parents faith and patience at times.
For example when Jason was four, on the day he was adopted, his dad had a damaged toe. Jason was walking on the curb and his dad was walking on the ground. Jason jumped off the curb and landed on his dad’s foot. Jason thought it was funny his dad saw stars. (And may have had some buyer’s remorse.) His dad still flinches when he tells the story.
As a youth he was very active in his local youth group and the district youth group. He loved it. At the age of eighteen, he joined the Navy. He rebelled against his parents, church and God but always had the little voice in the back of his head.
When he was twenty-one, his biological parents contacted the adoption agency and asked to meet him. He agreed because he learned he had two biological sisters he’d never met. He has a relationship with both of those sisters still today at age thirty-nine. Due to some boundary issues with his biological parents he has not remained in relationship with them. He has five adoptive siblings and two biological siblings with whom he has a great relationship. My husband attributes the man he is today to his parents and their love, faith and patience. (Lots and lots of patience…)
It doesn’t always work out the way you want it to, but the process is still rewarding. A friend of mine and his wife have been fostering, and wrote this together to share:
Karen came to us when she was around eight weeks old. She had been with another foster parent since she left the hospital. We were excited to welcome her to our home. Our six-year-old took to her right away wanting to help out.
Over that first summer she went on about eight or nine camping trips, a trip to annual conference and seems to be one of us so much that people said, “I think she looks more like Tim.” We were at first hopeful that she would be able to be reunited with her birth mother and father. The number one goal in foster care is reunification. Over time that became less of an option. At one point we were hopeful that we would be able to adopt and were thrilled with that prospect. I should back up and say that we are dual licensed as foster and adoptive parents.
After things really tanked with the birth parents, we found out an Aunt across state lines had petitioned for custody when Karen was born. So the plan was eventually shifted that she would take Karen. into care along with her older brother. We were supportive of that, but at the same time told we could petition for custody if we wanted to. We wrestled with that and decided it was best for Karen. to be with her brother and to stay in her biological family hoping that both her and her brother could help bring healing to the entire family, also legally the aunt had the best claim and if we petitioned we would burn any future relationship with the aunt. We kept trying to think what was best for Karen, not us and our family.
Karen transitions this Friday to her aunt for good. Karen has been a part of our family for just over a year. We were the witnesses to her first time rolling over, her first solid foods, the first night she slept straight through. Her first steps, her laughter that filled our home. She snuggled on our shoulders when she was tired or upset. We have shared all those experiences together. Many say, “how can you let her go? Doesn’t it hurt?”
Well yes, it hurts and just plain out sucks! We have cried many tears and will cry many more over the next weeks. But as Audrey has said, “Life is too short to guard your heart.” What I think she meant by that was if it didn’t hurt we didn’t fully open up ourselves to love the child in our care as one of our own. Fostering has taught me to really live in the moment and treasure them as they come, the good, the bad, the funny and even the stinky diaper ones.
If there was any message I would want the people of god to hear about fostering it would simply be, pray for the children in foster care, for the parents both foster and biological and the social workers. Fostering can be messy work.
I’ve interacted with Karen and her family of a year-and-a-half. I know she is loved by them, and they will continue to pray for her.
Another person wrote:
I am adopted! I really don’t have too many stories but I remember a girl told me once, ‘your momma didn’t want you.’ I said, ‘No, my momma chose me out of a room full of little babies. You’re momma is stuck with you!’
Unfortunately, my friend was the one who got the spanking. But she went on to say:
Adoption seems to be a lot of preachers families. We have know several in our years of Baptist and Methodist pastor groups. God always knows who to give these kids to! We are SPECIAL!
A pastor shared:
Years ago, I helped a girl in our youth ministry give her child up for adoption. Then she left the church. Two years later, a woman introduced herself to my wife at a church event. She adopted the child and lives around the corner from the church. The birth mother had read applications from all over Canada and ended up picking one around the corner. We’ve become quite close actually. I almost cried. I don’t cry. I don’t think she knew where they lived when she picked them.
All of those people knew that family was necessary – whether they were adopted, adopting, or giving up their child. They knew that family mattered.
I hope you know today, that no matter what has been said or done to you, you have a purpose, you matter. You are a child of God, blessed with talents and gifts to share with others, to bless the world. And you are loved.
As children of God, and followers of Jesus, we are brought in, Paul says, into an “adoption to sonship.” There’s no mistaking the power of the words he’s using. We are family to God and to each other. We belong.
Paul takes it a step further and says that we get to call the God of the universe, Abba, or Daddy. And like a Daddy, like God the Father, God knows your name.
God signed off on your adoption because Jesus’ name was on the form. You were created in the image of God and adopted into the family because Jesus closed the deal.
…. so what are you going to do about it?
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 1:27
We’ve got an obligation, friends. There are kids being abandoned today in cities around the world … and in our own neighborhoods. There are young parents who need comfort and support in how to make the best decision about their child. There are communities where the children have been neglected. And they are all the children of God, just like you and me.
I hope today, that you’ll consider what you personally are going to do to make a difference.
Maybe God has been calling you to adopt.
Maybe God is calling you to foster a child or children.
Maybe God is using this to help you love and cherish your children, or your spouse, or yourself, better.
Maybe you’re supposed to volunteer or give financially to an organization like United Methodist Family Services.
Maybe you’re supposed to pray that God would give you a vision like Christina Noble that keeps you up at night until you do something about it.
Maybe today, as a new beginning, you need to realize that you are a child of God, adopted by the life of Jesus, and meant for God’s glory.
Thank God for all that works toward the good!
Thank you, Daddy.