The movie “Ice Age” gave one of the best examples of people completely unrelated making the decision to love each other through thick and thin. In the middle of the movie, Manny looks at Diego saying, “That’s what you do in a herd, you look out for each other.” To which Sid responds, “I don’t know about you guys but we are the weirdest herd I have ever seen.” At the end of the movie Diego mimics this exact sentiment to Manny, “That’s what you do in a herd. You watch out for each other.”
Our family has begun to refer to ourselves as ‘The Herd’. We do this for a couple different reasons. The first, because we think it’s funny. Like Sid so rightly said, “We are the weirdest herd I have ever seen.” The second, because like a herd, we look out for one another. Why do I bring this up? Because today I wanna talk about adoption.
I have had this idea in my head to write a book about life and title it, ‘Memoirs of an adopted Dad.’ My wife and I have two adopted daughters. Twin girls, Breanna and Brooklyn. I have often heard, “That’s awesome of you, I could never do that.” Some are random strangers, others close friends. What surprises me most out of this statement is just how little others think of themselves. Or, and I really hope this isn’t the case, they think much higher of me than they should.
I think adoption is something completely misunderstood by the culture today. We think it is only when the government is involved or must be an infant or child. This is completely incorrect. Adoption has nothing to do with the government if we don’t let it.
Adoption can be difficult in a way. Maybe this is why it is so scary for some people. To take a person who is possibly damaged, who likely isn’t even related, and love them as if they are your own flesh and blood. That takes a special kind of person. Or does it?
As I was growing up I developed some really strong friendships. One in particular that has never faded is Jennifer. In high school I met Jenny. We liked to hang out and joke around. One running joke was that we were really siblings. Twins as a matter of fact. Only… we have separate birthdays. Like, way longer than possible for twins. Her’s is March 17th, and mine September 19th, but we thought it hilarious to tell people about it.
After graduation we grew apart for a couple years. Mainly because she moved a few states away to (unbeknownst to me) have a child. But then one day she came back. When she did she had a two year old little boy with her. Due to some family issues, Jenny was in town with no where to go and no one to depend on. That’s when I introduced her to Dad. Almost immediately he fell in love with her and her son. It didn’t take long before he made a proclamation almost unheard of, “If you will be my daughter, I will be your father. I will be a Papa to your son. This is my covenant with you. It is my decision.”
Well, she took him up on that offer at twenty years of age. Nineteen years later, I have a brother in law, two nephews and a niece, all from this same girl that originally was just looking for a friend. Now I can tell you with all sincerity that I watched as this dear sister of mine pushed and pushed in an attempt (subconsciously) to see if Papa meant what he said. He made a promise to never forsake her no matter what she did, but made it very clear, she could walk away if she wanted to. We see as we read the scriptures this exact same thing happens between God and humanity.
God has taken you from who you were, the sin you were under, looked you dead in the face and said, “If you will be my child, I will be your Father. I will never leave you or forsake you. But you can walk away if you want. This is my covenant with you.” Jesus looks at us and says, “I will gladly be your brother and share all that is mine with you. I will be your savior and you be my brother. All you have to do is love me, know me, and follow my commandments. You can walk away if you want.” The Holy Spirit not to be forgotten says, “I will dwell within you, being the seal of God on your forehead. I’m the promise ring on your finger. Your helper through all trials and teacher to understand the Bible. You can walk away if you want to.”
Sadly, over the years I have seen my fair share of people come and go. Some took up the offer to be children yet gave up once things began to get difficult. We see this exact same thing happen in scripture. Jesus talked about it in the Gospel of Matthew. He said there was a farmer who went out to sow seeds, some fell on the path, the rocks, among the weeds, and some on good soil. He said that the ones that fell on the path, the rocks, and among the weeds would either do nothing, start to sprout and die, or start to grow and then get choked out by the world and the things in it. But the seed that fell on the good soil, that is those who hear the word of God and do something with it (Matthew 13:1-9;18-23).
Because of this; because of what we see within the pages of scripture, I have to personally live this out. Why? Because we are to do everything we’ve seen Jesus do. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph 5:1). He adopts, so I adopt. He loves, so I do my best to love. To quote Pastor Dave, “This doesn’t make me weird or special; this makes me biblically normal.”
I made that decision when it came to the twins a long time ago. They were too young to remember as they were only two years old at the time. They came to us through a family friend. We didn’t really even know their family very well, just one relative. This person asked us to watch them for a couple of days, which turned very quickly into multiple days a week and into a couple of weeks a month.
Within six months the question was brought to us, “Would you like to just adopt them? Make them your own?” The answer by that time had been a great big “YES!” But the journey to that decision was even more incredible. Within a couple weeks these little girls were battling Samantha and I over what they had decided to call us. With smiles on their faces they would call us Mommy and Daddy, even though we repeatedly corrected them. Until one day during a visitation with a lovely elderly dementia patient. She looked me dead in the eyes with the most clearity I had seen in our time together. She said, “Pastor. Children know when something is missing. These two have decided in their hearts who you are. Don’t take that from them.” Those were the words the Holy Spirit needed me to hear to make that same decision and covenant my dad had made all those years prior with Jenny. They chose us just as much as we chose them.
What does all this have to do with you? The scripture tells us that we are adopted by God as believers in Jesus. “For all who are led by the Spirit are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,” (Romans 814-17), “so you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal 4:7).
Do you understand just how important this is? When Paul wrote down these words, adoption had such a much deeper value than it does today. Today we may change a name, but we still speak of “bio family”. In Paul’s day, when you were adopted your past was erased completely. All your past debt was erased. It wasn’t just children who were adopted either, it was adults! So when people wonder how we are able to just take people in and love them like our own; to add to the herd daily; to put our hearts out there in such a way that can be torn apart, there really is only one true answer. But that of course can’t just be an easy answer.
The Holy Spirit is involved first and foremost. Yes, there is some level of gifting of the Holy Spirit to some within our family, but others have had to learn to love in this same way. Adoption, though not easy, is something anyone and everyone can do. It is by no means easy, but it is necessary. After all, my God is a God of the widow, the orphan, and the sojourner (Deuteronomy 14:29; James 1:27). I can only paraphrase this, but Francis Chan said something years ago that has stayed in my heart since, “If every Christian family in America would take on just one child, there would be no need for the foster care system.”
So I conclude with this thought again, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph 5:1). If we see Him do it, we should do it. We will revisit this more soon.