Adoption: “law to bring (a person) into a specific relationship, esp. to take (another’s child) as one’s own child” (World English Dictionary at Dictionary.com). “the giving to any one the name and place and privileges of a son who is not a son by birth” (Bible Dictionary at Dictionary.com).
It is a wonderful thing that people are speaking out for adoption. In fact, many famous people are promoting adoption as a viable way to assist the world’s needy children. You may remember Dave Thomas, founder of the Wendy’s hamburger chain, who was a tireless promoter of the advantages of adoption, as he, himself, was adopted as a baby.
Just recently, Patricia Heaton, star of Everybody Loves Raymond, and current star of The Middle, stepped up to publicize a program called Reece’s Rainbow, a ministry that promotes the adoption of Down Syndrome children. Although the problem may not be as bad in the United States, in many countries children born with Downs are placed in orphanages where they receive little love and care. Ms. Heaton, a Presbyterian, agreed to donate up to $10,000, one dollar for each person who “follows” the ministry on Twitter. Interested in the ministry? You can find them on the internet.
My own family has several fulfilling experiences with adoption. In fact, it seems that, as far back as I can remember, someone in my family was taking in and caring for another person. Not every one of those was “adoption” per se; nevertheless, mom’s parents and my parents were always taking someone “under their wings” and caring for them, whether it was the elderly widow down the street, or the old man who lived in the housekeeping apartment at the back of the house.
Then there are the most examples most endearing to my heart: my brother, and my nephews. You see, I grew up with a big brother who I cherish—even though he tormented me when we were kids! Of course, I constantly tried to be as good as him, so I guess I was just as bad.
Early in their marriage, my mother was told she would never be able to have children. Perhaps in answer to prayer, my aunt left her infant son with them, and from then on my brother with a different last name was a their son. Mom went on to give birth to three girls, and although they were unable to adopt him as a child, Frank was always her first. Frank was always my brother. The name didn’t matter. Following the family example, both of my sisters have adopted sons who were either given up by or removed from their birth parents, and the story continues.
Family, in its strictest terms, runs according to blood line, but throughout the history of humankind adoption has been an important part of extending a culture or family line. Whether in a family where the couple was unable to conceive, or when there was no son to carry on the family name, adoption has been the vehicle for preserving that line. Adoption occurs when someone who has power, or influence, or the means to care for someone, takes another individual with no means or ability into his or her own family, becoming a son or daughter, an heir. But you might wonder why you would need to be adopted.
You see, when we were lost, with no power and no ability to care for ourselves, God sent his Son, Jesus, to us. We were marked by our sin and could not be “good enough” to restore ourselves to God. We needed a Savior. Not only did Jesus die on the Cross to forgive our sins, it was God’s will that by that justification we become part of a larger family, one not characterized by earthly flesh or blood line, but by the blood of Christ. The apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4-6 that, “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
I’m reminded of movies by Shirley Temple and the story of Little Orphan Annie, when the girls were in orphanages where they were unloved and uncared for. They had no parents to care for them, and the happy ending came when a long-lost parent appeared or, in Annie’s case, when someone chose to love them. God chose us to be adopted in to the family of God, not because of our looks, our talents, our goodness, or our family line, but because of what God loves us. When we answered the call to faith, we entered in to an amazing relationship that is based not in our fallibility, but in God’s perfect love.
“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families” (Psalms 68:5-6). We have received love from God, undeserved and freely, and because we are now God’s children, it is imperative that we reach out beyond ourselves, beyond our own families, to help another know the love of Christ. Look around you. It won’t be long before you will see someone who needs to know that they are loved, that they can be part of a family, too.
Back to where I started. In our world and in our own country there are hundreds of thousands of children who are waiting to be loved, hoping to be cherished. Whether because of a “defect” in the child or in the parents, these children need someone with the heart of God to reach out to them, to love them. Some are in the foster system, some are ready to be adopted, and some just need a Big Brother or Big Sister to help them find their way. Please consider reaching out to those around you, whether firsthand, or by supporting the organizations that are doing this work of the heart. Pass it on!
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church