I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. (1 Samuel 1:27)
You are my beautiful girl, my daughter, the apple of my eye. I’m your daddy. Everything I have is yours, and I will always be there for you.
We just haven’t met yet.
I guess that’s part of life as an adoptive family.
I’m writing this during our family’s ‘living in limbo’ phase. We’ve been matched together as adoptive family, and we’re desperate to meet in person and be together as soon as possible. It’s a strange, unsatisfying time – a little like the ‘now-but-not-yet’ of the Christian life (don’t worry, I’ll explain that to you one day). But I guess this in-between period gives us time for some reflection. What might our life together look like? What blessings and challenges will our new-look family bring? And why are we doing this?
It’s a while since we really sat down and asked ourselves that last question: Why? But since we started telling family and friends about our plans to grow our family through adoption, that’s probably been the most common question. “Why adoption?” Most people ask in a positive, enthusiastic way, and they probably have some idea of the answer. Occasionally, people are unsure of why someone would want to adopt – usually because they just don’t have much experience with it.
One day, I assume you’ll want to ask us the same question. There will be so many questions, and we’ll work through all of them together. But that one will probably be high on the list: Why?
So I thought I’d use this frozen moment, waiting to be together, to write you a short answer. We’ll have all the time in the world to talk about this together, but here’s the cheat sheet – the proto-version of my thinking, which will evolve and grow as we live together. And I hope it will also help someone else out there – maybe someone who wants to think about adoption for themselves, or at least wants to understand why someone they know might be adopting.
In many ways, for our family the answer is Your Mother. It’s as simple as that. Liz is an extraordinary woman. The love she has for other people – my goodness! Her heart and mind have been profoundly shaped by the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, she is humble, and (like our Saviour) she puts the interests of others ahead of her own. Every day, she pours out her life in love for the people that God places around her – sometimes to her own detriment. One day, Zoë, you’ll realise that part of being a good daughter will be helping your mum say no to things. The curse of her love is the burdens she bears for other people. But mostly, that’s the way it should be. There’s no off position on the love switch, and real love should be costly.
In Liz’s case, that love has overflowed into a desire to grow her family through adoption. It’s something she’s dreamt about for many years.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that she’s the best mum in the world or anything like that. You’ll figure that out for yourself soon enough, plus there are some other pretty good mums out there. But trust me, Zoë – God has blessed you with a very, very special mum. She will love you with all her heart and protect you and fight for you and care for you with every breath that God gives her. Humanly speaking, it’s her love that has brought you into our family.
In your case, another big part of the answer is You, beautiful girl.
Months and months ago, we found out that you were eligible to be adopted. We saw your picture and we read about you. And we wanted you. We chose you. We applied to become your parents, and we were honoured and thrilled beyond belief to be chosen.
That’s not how it works for every adoptive family. Many parents don’t get to choose their adoptive children directly; a match is made for them by someone like an adoption agency. That doesn’t mean those parents love their children any less. Not at all. But in your case, it’s been an amazing joy and delight for us to look back and realise that God gave us the privilege of choosing you. And now that we’ve chosen you – or, to be more accurate, now that God has chosen you for us, and us for you – we can’t wait to welcome you into the Robson family.
By the way, the rest of your family is pretty fantastic too, if I do say so myself. You’re going to have a wonderful big sister and two awesome big brothers. (They’re all kinda crazy in their own way, but a little well-placed craziness is the spice of life.) We knew we could welcome you into our family with confidence because Jo, Will and Tom are kind and loving kids, and they’ll be your best friends and your greatest advocates. Sure, we’re all a bit nervous about what family life will look like – what the coming changes will mean for each one of us – but we’re ready (close enough, at least). We’re ready to let go of the steering wheel. We’re ready to do it together, all six of us.
So that’s our family (apart from me; I’m happy to let you figure me out on your own, or you can ask your mum what makes me tick – she seems to like me well enough, most days). But for both of us, for your mum and for me, the real fuel behind our love for you is God’s love for us.
As we read the Bible and talk about the gospel in the years ahead, one chapter that I hope we’ll return to again and again is Romans 8. It may be the greatest chapter in the whole Bible. Here’s one part of that wonderful chapter:
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the 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, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14-17)
I said before that everything I have is yours (except for maybe my West Wing DVDs – we’ll wait and see if you can be trusted with those). Well, everything God has is mine. Because of Jesus, I am a child of God, adopted into his family as a son. And even though you’re little and I’m big, the distance between you and me is nothing compared to the distance between God and me. Think of it: a holy, perfect, powerful God wanting to welcome flawed, weak, sinful me into his eternal family. Even though I was a rebel and an undeserving sinner who fell short of the glory of God, I’m now a co-heir with Jesus, my big brother. The Spirit has brought me into God’s family and testifies to me that I can call God ‘father’ – maybe even ‘daddy’.
Adoption is real. The bonds formed through adoption are just as real as any biological bonds. I know that because I know God has adopted me, and there is not one thing lacking in my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Not one. I have it all. I may not be his ‘natural born’ Son, the Son in the way that Jesus is. But I am his son, his heir, a bona fide, card-carrying member of the family of God. I once heard a sermon on these verses where the preacher said: “When it comes to God, Christians are in the will, and we’re getting it all!” And that’s true. Every Christian is part of God’s family completely and unconditionally.
And how did I get all those privileges? Through adoption.
And here’s the point: God’s decision to adopt us as his children bestows infinite value on adoption. If God decrees that an adopted child is 100% part of his eternal kingdom – every bit as much as Jesus is – then adopted children are 100% part of their adoptive families. Earthly adoption is not ‘second best’. You will share in all the blessings (such as they are) of being part of the Robson family, without limits, without barriers, without conditions. I’m fascinated by the fact that even Jesus was adopted – not by God, but by his earthly father. Joseph may not have been Jesus’ biological father, but he was his dad in every way that really mattered.
So God has shown us an other-worldly love, a love beyond all understanding. And now, part of being his people means trying to show that love to others as we have the chance. There’s one verse that often comes to my mind when I think about how we can show that love through adoption. It’s James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
God wants his people to take care of the needy, the defenseless, the vulnerable – people like you. That’s how the world is supposed to work, but obviously that’s going to look different for different people. For some, it might mean giving money to support individuals, families or agencies that do this work, or providing other kinds of practical care for those in need. But some people, including us, have the willingness and the opportunity to actually welcome orphans into their family, so they are orphans no more.
The truth is, Zoë, we’re rich. And I don’t just mean spiritually rich, although we are that. I mean we are materially wealthy – rich beyond most of the world’s reckoning. You might not feel that way after you’ve been here a while and seen us scrimp and save for things that others take for granted, but that’s small fry. On a worldwide scale, and compared to the history of humanity, we are so wealthy. We thank God for blessing us in this way, and we thank God that being wealthy means we can welcome you into our little family.
You may have spent the first part of your life living as an orphan, but while that will always be part of your story, we hope it doesn’t define who you are. For one thing, you are our daughter. You were an orphan, but that will soon be in your past. But much more than being our daughter, our highest hope and prayer for you is that you become a child of God. We long to see you give your life to Jesus, and to join us as one of God’s adopted children – heirs of God, and fellow heirs with Christ, our big brother and our Saviour, the one from whom all blessings flow.
And as far as God’s blessings go, you’re at the very top of our list.
With love and longing,