Sunday, June 23, 2019

Adoption is Not the Gospel

There. I said it.   It has been  gnawing at my heart, mind and spirit for nearly a decade and I was never brave enough to put it in type and own it.  Now I am. And I will say it again.

Adoption is NOT the gospel.   The gospel is the gospel.

I am a four-time adoptive mother. I am an orphanage director. I love and support adoption and find it a beautiful picture of the growing of a family through an avenue not dictated by biology. It's an act of obedience for the families called to it. It's an adventure in "dying to self" that we might never experience any other way.

For many families, adoption is the will of God. It yields blessings too many to number. Yes! God does set the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6) and He calls us to look after orphans and widows (James 1:27)

But it is not the gospel.

Countless books, posts, summits and quotes tout "adoption is the gospel" or is as close to the gospel as a picture we could paint with our flesh here on earth. And I disagree. And I realize I'm nobody and I am disagreeing with the likes of John Piper, Russell Moore and numerous   learned scholars who could bury me in any argument any day of the week with all but one brain cell tied behind their backs.

But, folks, I don't see it. And I have adopted. I love my adopted children to the ends of the Earth.

The gospel, my friends, is the sacrificial death of a holy, perfect God on the cross for sinful, undeserving man.  The gospel is the ONLY hope for hell-bound sinners (that's all of us, by the way) to find life outside of the condemnation we all deserve. 

So where, in this list of descriptors of the gospel of Christ, does the Earthly picture of adoption show up?  Are we, the adoptive parents, the representatives of Christ? Are we saving our adopted children from a literal or theoretical "hell" when we adopt them? Are we laying down our very lives for the purpose of bringing children into our families?  It might feel like it some days but, I assure you, the act of adopting a child will not cost you your literal life. In most cases, anyway. 

And if it did, your death wouldn't pay for a single sin. Neither would mine. 

Wouldn't a more accurate picture of the gospel be we, as adoptive parents, changing places with our adopted children?  We would go live in orphanages as the fatherless and they would be ushered into our homes, no qualifiers needed. We would give up everything in our own lives and just simply hand it over to children who hate us ? Isn't that more in the range of the gospel than us bringing a beautiful child into our homes where we inadvertently get a host of benefits, not the least of which is being able to parent precious children who had no family. 

Adoption is GOOD.  Adoption is BEAUTIFUL and Adoption is HARD.  But when it is equated to the gospel, when it reduces the gospel to something even remotely reproducible by the very recipients of the pure love of God the Father, who had no sin in Him, it falls agonizingly short.  

The same scripture that calls us as Believers to "care for orphans" also calls us to "care for widows". But how many fund raisers have your friends held, how many Go Fund Me pages for the care of widows?  How many of us as Believers are rushing to bring widows into our homes? I never have. It never even crossed my mind to do that.  I wanted more children. That was at the heart of our adoption. Maybe that isn't the case for every adoptive family. But I wanted a bunch of kids. And I got them through adoption. 

Adopting my sons never felt like the gospel. It felt like what it was. Adopting sons. It was exhilarating and awesome.  It was obedience to the call on our family. But the analogy that adopting them was somehow a type of "salvation" for them or for us just felt awkward. And wrong. It's not like what Jesus did. It's what people do. We take care of each other in whatever way God tells us to. 

And where does  "adoption is the gospel" or "adoption is God's heart" leave our fellow Believers who aren't called to adopt children? Do they feel "less than"?  Do they somehow miss the full illustration of the gospel in their lives because they haven't adopted a fatherless child?  I pray they never feel that way.  I pray they understand adoption is a calling on specific families while CARING for the fatherless is a mandate for all of us who claim to belong to the great big family of God. 

Please hear my heart on this. I LOVE ADOPTION!!! I LOVE MY ADOPTED SONS and my biological children with all that I am. 
It is beautiful when the children in my orphanage are united with their forever families through adoption.  It's my heart's desire for the ones who also desire it.

But no human analogy - not adoption, not marriage, not organ donation, not soldiers dying in combat, not people selling all their worldly goods to move to the third world to open an orphanage, not any single act we can engage in can hold a candle to what Jesus did on the cross those 2,000 years ago to reconcile us to God.

That singular act of love, which needed no repeating for a new batch of sinners (unlike adoption which presents a continuous need for new families to reach out to new orphans)  and which could only be satisfactorily completed by God Himself, is final. And incomparable. 

Adoption is adoption. Worthy in it's own way.

The gospel is the gospel. Beauty beyond comprehension, sacrifice beyond replication , good news with no parallel.  

Perfect for the imperfect.  Holy for the sinful. 

Life giving and soul saving in  the only way a human soul can be. 

Adoption is not the gospel. The gospel is the gospel. 



Sunday, June 9, 2019

Remade: A Woman's Perspective on Mission Life

It has been six years since my family moved to The Philippines in service of street children. It has been an entire year since I've touched this blog and, to be honest, I had to reset the password because I had forgotten it. 

Please don't mistake the year of blog silence for "life has fallen into a predictable routine".  The only thing that is predictable here on the mission field is that nothing is.

And being a woman on the mission field, I have found, brings a unique type of challenge. We are so relational. Plus, they don't sell tampons here but that is a whole other blog post.

Looking back over my older blog posts, I see that I am nothing like her anymore. She was so optimistic. She believed that she could reach even the most distant child's heart.  Her faith was stronger than it is at this moment and she wasn't as tired. But she is so much wiser now.

 Kids have come and gone. More than 85 children have been served in some capacity in Mercy House's live-in, residential care program. The coming in is wonderful. The "going" part can be brutal.  We have said "goodbye" for happy reasons like family reunifications or adoptions. And we have said "goodbye" for devastating reasons like running away or  the need to  transfer to another place more equipped to serve a particular boy.   Every "goodbye" does something to my heart.   And, even as a four-time adoptive mother, these six years have changed my view of adoption radically. Adoption truly is NOT for every child nor is it for every family.  Some of my boys who have been adopted are struggling in the most painful ways. Some are laying waste to their adoptive families with their trauma. And we have done all we can to prepare them. Those who are thriving are the youngest and most resilient. The brokenness of the world  takes no prisoners. Everyone in it's path feels the burn to one degree or another.
In the last year, my precious mother has been diagnosed with stage 4 bone cancer, my stateside children have had struggles that are unreachable here and we have undertaken a building project that has added a lot of weight to the load we carry.

But I suspect this life isn't so different to what it would have been had we not come 8,000 miles from our home land to serve. There would still be family sicknesses, struggles and people we lose physically and emotionally as life moves forward.

The distance magnifies the helplessness but the loneliness compounds everything.  The loneliness has always been and will probably always be the strangling part.   There have been countless times of feeling like I wanted to implode from having no one to talk through the hurts with.
 And as a Follower of Christ, He should always be the One. But there are times when a girl friend with a listening ear, no judgement  and lots of  "that must be hard" is what my heart wants most.  And can not have.  A friend guaranteed to spur me on and believe in my crazy ideas. The plans that others would say are too big or too silly to walk in.   The things I want to try that are too fragile to share in case they are crushed.
So I suppose when Paul said in Philippians that everything he once held dear he now counts as loss compared to the greatness of knowing HIM, he might have   meant things would be like this. 

But the OVERWHELMING peace and joy that follow us over here are the warm blanket over the hard days.  And now that we have been at this for six years, we have literally raised several of our boys from small street children to amazing young men who, although not given a family by adoption for various reasons, have found a PLACE that is their own.  Parents who will walk with them into adulthood, however flawed we are, and pour into them what was missing for those years the street stole. 

And God has drawn our oldest son, Aaron, into the work with us and that has been a great source of joy for me.  He has kept our immediate family here healthy, an illness here beyond the norm is a great fear as we just don't have the access (or insurance) we once did. 

If you asked me "if you knew then what you know now, would you still have come?" the answer would be, I would have come SOONER.  I would have RACED headlong into the distance and loneliness and other trials I have walked here.  I would not trade a moment of this life for the comfort of my old one.  I would not miss a second of holding broken boys while they grieve in exchange for an ounce of additional "me time".   Because THIS IS LIVING for me. It is not the calling on everyone's life (and I am thankful for that because so many of you are needed to stay where you are, serve in your workplace and family and be our champions from afar).  

So, to my precious friend who is on her way over here, family in tow, ready to tackle the crisis of fatherlessness with wide-eyed optimism. . .  hurry!!  

This life will not be easy. But I expect you know this. The enemy will come at your both guns blazing in a firestorm of discouragement in hopes of sending you away defeated.  So cling to the cross! 
The pain of the mission field brings the goodness of God into clarity.  The successes in ministry remind you that it is all HIM because we are more frail and less competent than we care to admit. 

"Superwoman" is a myth.   On the field and off.