Adopted For Life

On April 22, 2021, we received the gift of a fourth son. Cameron James became legally and forever ours through the gift of adoption. It was a beautiful, joy-filled day as a judge made official the familial relationship we’d been living out in our hearts and home for quite some time. The day brought forth a host of different emotions for me, emotions that aren’t necessarily new but are feelings I’ve experienced to some degree throughout the entire twenty months Cameron has been in our home. Why? Because adoption is complex. It’s gift and tragedy, joy and sorrow, love and war. Adoption is beautiful and hard because it tells a story bigger than that of just one family and one child. 

It wasn’t until early in our marriage that my husband or I ever considered adoption to be much more than “plan b” for those unable to have biological children. During our time in seminary, we sat under the teaching of Dr. Russell Moore (adoptive father and author of the book “Adopted for Life”) and watched three of our closest friends adopt children. Through these means ,God began to change our hearts. We began to see that the adoption of orphaned children into families pictured God’s mission to rescue spiritually orphaned rebels through his Son and make them sons and daughters in the family of God. Stated simply, we began to understand that adoption is a visible picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And bringing children into homes where they will hear this good news proclaimed regularly is an integral part of gospel mission. Adoption boldly proclaims the lavish love of God for sinners, and this is why the powers of darkness rage against it. This is why adoption is war

As we grew our family through three biological sons in the years following seminary, adoption was always a thought in the back of our minds. Maybe one day. We weren’t sure if we would actively pursue adoption through an agency. We weren’t sure if we would foster to adopt. We weren’t even sure we would adopt at all.  We just knew that if and when the Lord showed us the path to take, we would say yes to the journey (you can read more about why we decided to say “yes” here). Around the time our third son turned three, I began to strongly sense that our family was not yet complete. I wasn’t sure if this meant we should try to have another child biologically, or if we should pursue adoption. Adam and I began to talk and pray about it. We met with a couple of adoption agencies, and we honestly didn’t feel a clear sense of the Lord’s leading in any particular direction. So, we asked God to make it clear. Lord, show us what to do. If there is a child who needs a home and a family, we’re willing to say yes, but we need you to show us. 

Not long after we began to pray this prayer with regularity, Adam had a providential encounter with an old  friend from high school who (seemingly randomly) mentioned a new baby she knew of who was potentially in need of an adoptive home. Talk about a direct answer to prayer! Without even needing to talk to me first, Adam was ready and able to say that if this child needed an adoptive family, we were ready and more than willing. Less than a month later, we met two-month-old Cameron for the first time, and less than two months later, Cameron came into our home and our care. 

I wish I could say all was smooth sailing from there, but it hasn’t been. The constant care of a young child with extra physical and emotional challenges has been both physically and emotionally taxing. The grief over the brokenness of Cameron’s birth parents’ situation has been heavy. Learning to trust the Lord in the waiting, the wondering, and the unknowns has been stretching. The legal battle has been long and grueling. I have often felt crushed under the weight of my own emotions and exhaustion. And, at the risk of sounding dramatic, I will say with honesty that the war in the spiritual realms being waged over us and this child has felt palpable at times. 

Yet, through it all, the Lord has so faithfully gone before us, and he has carried us. He has carried Cameron. In his faithfulness, he has provided for our every physical, spiritual, emotional, and financial need. In the midst of the war raging around us, oh how love has grown! And love will ultimately win because “…God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world! We just adore our Cameron with his big cheesy grin, tight squeezes and joyful babbling and humming. What a gift to hear him call us “ma-ma and da-da” and to see the joy when he greets the other boys and our dog “Yeia” (Leia) when we bring him downstairs in the morning. What a privilege to have watched him take his first hard-fought steps and to know his favorite books and songs. What grace to hear a judge legally declare him to be Cameron James Rice–our son forever–and to remember anew that, in Christ, redemption follows loss. 

Over the past twenty months, one of my frequent prayers over Cameron has been this: Lord, make him a part of our family and make him a part of yours forever. The Lord has so kindly answered the first part of this prayer, and we will continue to pray with faith for him to answer the second part. Adam and I know very well that we are not Cameron’s rescuers or his Redeemer. But we know the one who is. And we get the daily privilege of pointing him to his true Father. God the Father’s heart for orphans led him to give up Christ, his one true Son, so that we who were separated from him by sin might be received back into his family forever. By faith, we are adopted for life! May our family’s story tell this bigger and better story.

Adoption as Mission

Growing up, I never really viewed adoption {of children into a family} as a part of the Gospel mission. Honestly, I didn’t think much about adoption. I didn’t know too many families who had adopted children.

In my mind, adoption was plan B. In other words, if a couple couldn’t have children of their own, they might look into adoption. The primary motive for pursuing adoption was fulfillment for this couple who so desperately desired to be parents. Care for the orphaned child was secondary, if even considered.

I’m so thankful that God never leaves me where I happen to be {presently} in my thinking. He is constantly teaching and growing and changing me. The process of progressive sanctification is long and slow and hard, but through it, He is shaping my thinking and my living in order to make me look like Jesus.

In the last few years, my thinking has radically changed concerning the issue of adoption.

Did you know that adoption is a big deal to God? Throughout redemptive history, God has commanded His people to care for “the least of these” or those who are unable to care for themselves. God is explicit in His word: He loves the fatherless.

Psalm 68:5, “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation.”

Psalm 10:14, “But You, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand.  The victim commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless.

Deuteronomy 10:18, “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.”

Deuteronomy 14:28-30, “The Levite (priest), because he has not portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”

Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”

The promotion of and teaching about adoption as obedience to the commands of Scripture is {at best} underemphasized and {at worst} blatantly ignored in too many local churches. Our society promotes loving those who can love you in return. In our culture, people are taught to look out for number one above all else. We’re encouraged to invest in things that will bring self-fulfillment, individual benefit and personal glory.

And the scary thing is, this mentality has crept into the Church.

But this isn’t Christ-like thinking or behavior. Through study of His earthly ministry as portrayed in the gospels, it is evident that Jesus did not bless and love only those who could bless and love in return. He didn’t care for others because they could bring Him some sort of personal benefit. In fact, he chose the most simple, ordinary and unlikely men to be his closest followers. He healed the sick and the blind and the physically weak. Jesus’ love for the “least of the these” was motivated by a heart of compassion {Matt 9:36, Matt 14:14, Mark 6:34, Mark 8:2, Luke 7:13, Luke 10:33}. Jesus loved the orphan, the widow, the sick and impoverished because His Father God loved these. He loved them because, like all humans beings, they were creations of Almighty God, carefully woven together by His hand and created in His image. As such they were creatures of dignity and great worth.

In James 1:27, genuine Christianity is qualified by a love for the least of these: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” 

In his commentary on this verse, John MacArthur says: “James picks two synonymous adjectives to define the most spotless kind of religious faith–that which is measured by compassionate love. Those without parents or husbands were and are an especially needy segment of the church. Since they are usually unable to reciprocate in any way, caring for them clearly demonstrates true, sacrificial, Christian love.

This is not the world’s way. This is not our culture’s way. But this is God’s way. Thus, it is to be the Christian’s way. Christians are called to biblical thinking and living when it comes to adoption and orphan care {and all issues of life for that matter}. Adoption is to be more than plan B because it is more than plan B to God. While {obviously} God has not ordained that every Christian family adopt, his will is made more than clear in His word: ALL Christians are to be about caring for the least of these. This includes the orphan. There are many ways of participating in orphan care. For some, this means adopting orphans into their own family. For others it means financially supporting {or, if able, completely financing} adoptions for those who feel God’s leading to adopt a child but need help {Most couples don’t have an extra 20 to 30 thousand dollars lying around…this is where the Church comes in! This is what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus} For others, this may mean speaking and teaching and writing about the importance of adoption for Christians. Orphan care for some may mean getting an adoption ministry started at your church. Many Christians {as I did not so long ago} desperately need to have this biblical mandate taught and emphasized in the local church so that it is not overlooked and disobeyed.

God is clear. His children are to care for the fatherless. Christ is clear. We are to go into all the world and make disciples. This includes bringing fatherless children into a home where they will hear the Gospel of Christ taught. Through this, they will come to know not only an earthly father, but also {prayerfully} come to know their Heavenly Father through Christ.

Adoption is Gospel mission.

{My systematic theology professor [who is the Dean of the school of theology at Southern and was also our pastor for 3 years] has been influential in helping me to think about adoption biblically. He and his wife adopted two boys from Russia and he authored the book Adopted For Life relating the adoption of his boys to our adoption in Christ. His most recent blog post Pat Robertson vs. Spirit of Adoption is excellent—a must read!