Adoption is a picture of the gospel, and Christians should seriously consider it.
“The court grants your petition for adoption.”
Those were the glorious words we heard from the judge last Thursday at the Larimer County Justice Center. Typically, an adoption is not legally finalized until at least six months after the child is placed in a home. Our daughter, Abigail Violet, had come into our home about eight months ago, and last week was her big finalization day. Abby is now officially and irrevocably a Ritter.
The court hearing was the final step in what was about a three-year process for our family — a process that touched our hearts in a profound way. Of course, there’s something that always happens to people when they are touched deeply: They evangelize. They can’t help but speak and try to persuade others. And perhaps this is a good time to evangelize.
Two Sundays ago was Sanctity of Life Sunday. We ran a post last week on why it’s essential for Christians to continue to champion the pro-life cause. But I believe that our campaign for life is much more effective when we not only speak against the evils of abortion but speak for the wonders of adoption. For some of us, that may even mean adopting a child ourselves.
When considering adoption, I realize that most of us have reservations that often derail the thought process before it even gets going. And some of us have never even considered it. The thought is that adoption is Plan B for those who are unable to have children. If everything goes right, it doesn’t need to be a consideration. And for those who do struggle with infertility, it is often the final option after all others have been exhausted.
But should this be the case? Are our reservations justifiable? Let’s evaluate a few common reasons for not seriously considering adoption and ask if such reservations are warranted.
“I’m really excited to have my own children.”
This is a normal and God-designed desire. My wife, Christy, and I had three biological children before adopting, so I get it. We all have this natural desire to reproduce other little people that look like us. Still, when it comes to comparing adopted children and biological children, we need to make sure we’re thinking about it rightly, especially because it relates to the nature of the gospel itself.
The gospel, after all, is clearly a message about an adoption process. We often speak of the gospel in terms of justification, as well we should, but let’s remember that much of the glory of the gospel is in the reality that we have been adopted into the family of our heavenly Father (Romans 8, Galatians 4, Ephesians 1). Too often, “adoption” is neglected from our salvation vocabulary, but it should be right in the center. If it were, we could better understand certain truths about physical adoption because of the spiritual reality it’s meant to reflect.
When we read the New Testament, particularly Paul’s epistles, we see a fight to preserve the gospel by making sure there is no difference between those “naturally” born into God’s family and those “unnaturally” born. Paul passionately defends the truth that God has “broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” so that all believers, whether Jew or Gentile, are “members of the household of God” (Ephesians 4:14-19).
The truth is the same regarding physical adoption. When God adopted you into his family, you became “his own.” There was no difference. You are not a second-class child. In the same way (and I can testify from personal experience), an adopted child will not feel like a consolation prize. He or she will capture your heart just as much and will become fully yours. The absence of your DNA does not make a difference. God adopts and fully loves those who were not naturally born to him and we can do the same. We must be willing to ask ourselves if our desire for only biological children is really justifiable given our spiritual heritage.
“Isn’t adoption really difficult?”
Yes. The adoption process is full of challenges. Nearly every story I’ve heard involves a good measure of pain and disappointment. That’s to be expected. If adoption really is one of the clearest pictures of the gospel on earth, if God desires to place orphans in families and give justice to the fatherless (Psalm 82:3), and if we truly do have an enemy that wants to frustrate and warp God’s designs, than adoption will be a battle. But let us not shy away from the battle. Satan certainly wins when we’re unwilling to do things that are hard. While we shouldn’t be naïve to the difficulties, we should also guard against being unrealistically pessimistic. Adoption isn’t solely about being enduring pain. It’s a glorious process and you will experience unimaginable joy.
“What about health risks?”
When adopting, you never know what kind of long-term issues could accompany a child. There are plenty of stories about adopted children with enormous emotional and psychological difficulties, not to mention physical disabilities. Those possibilities should be weighed and it’s not wrong to decide against taking certain risks. Even after we entered the adoption process, Christy and I made some hard decisions about what needs we would be willing to take on in a child.
Nevertheless, we should be careful about hedging our bets too much when it comes to shaping our families. It is true that adopted children can come with significant challenges, but so could biological children. “Our own” children do not guarantee perfect health or behavior. We should be wary of trying too hard to guarantee ourselves perfect children. Besides, receiving a child with “special needs” only enhances the picture of the gospel. You and I had some pretty serious deficiencies when God adopted us, and we continue to deal with them. We all have attachment disorder. But our heavenly Father chose to take us with all our deficiencies. Being willing to take on imperfections is an example that the world desperately needs to see.
“Isn’t adoption extraordinarily expensive?”
Yes. It is very expensive and unexpected costs have a habit of accumulating during the process. But a few things should be mentioned.
First, it’s worth it. What else are you going to spend your money on? At the end of your life, you want to look back and be content with the way you invested your money, and adoption is one of the best investments there is.
Secondly, help is available. Christy and I received two sizable grants that alleviated a lot of financial strain. Summitview even has a small adoption fund. After the finalization of the adoption, there’s also a substantial tax deduction available.
And finally, God has a way of providing in incredible ways. I believe he loves adoption and loves to show his power to meet financial needs in unexpected ways. If you’ve been told many adoption stories at all, you’ve probably heard amazing stories about God’s provision. There are big costs, but we have a big God.
“If I’m able to have biological children, am I taking a child from those who cannot?”
There is not a lack of children needing a home. There is a reason why the foster system exists in this country and why orphanages exist in other countries. There may be a lack of “perfect” children, but there’s not a lack of children all around the world who desperately need a family. Furthermore, if we fostered a culture where adoption was not abnormal, perhaps prospective birth mothers would see it as a more viable option and choose to give their children life. Perhaps your own adoption could serve to help create that culture. At different points in history, Christians have been known as the ones that took in orphans and made them their own. Let’s be known for this again.
“I am only considering adoption because of struggles with infertility. Can I honestly embrace adoption when I’m only considering it because circumstances brought me here?”
Infertility is an incredibly heavy burden to bear, and for those who have never experienced it, it’s difficult to imagine the feelings of loss and injustice that accompany it. Such grief cannot easily be exchanged for excitement about adoption. It can also be difficult to be enthusiastic about adoption when it wasn’t exactly a choice.
There are two things to keep in mind. First, it’s completely appropriate to feel grief from infertility, but the presence of grief does not need to invalidate a decision to adopt. I believe that grief and excitement can, and in many cases should, exist simultaneously. Our circumstances in this world are genuinely difficult and should be recognized as such, but God’s ability to create redemptive opportunities on the other side of difficult circumstances should also be recognized. My own mother was unable to have children, and she still feels the sting from it. It hasn’t gone away. But the joy of adoption is there, too. The grief didn’t restrict her.
Secondly, we should remember that the Bible is full of stories of people who were initially reluctant to take on a role before they were thrust into it. That’s part of the human story. God uses circumstances to open our eyes to possibilities we wouldn’t have previously considered. We all need leading. Just because you didn’t initiate the decision doesn’t make it invalid.
Adoption is not for everybody. Circumstances, time and money can all legitimately deter couples from adopting. We should also be careful not to see things like adoption as having the ability to secure acceptance before God and man. Adoption is a picture of the gospel, not the gospel itself. But still, it is a picture of the gospel, and a fantastic one at that. Perhaps that’s why James describes pure religion as having a special concern for orphans (James 1:27). We were all orphans and God adopted us. It would only make sense that pure religion imitates God.
So I would like to challenge you: Will you seriously and prayerfully consider adopting? If there’s even a flicker of interest in your mind, please let me know. I would love to talk to you about it, as would many other Summitview couples who have adopted. And if you’d like a resource to read, I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of Russell Moore’s Adopted for Life.
As we fight for the sanctity of life, let’s not only fight against the termination of the unborn, but for the preservation of the born.