I really cannot say enough good things about this book.
If you’re curious about how God views adoption…
If you’re searching for deeper understanding of your place in God’s family…
If you’ve dealt with infertility or loss…
If you are prayerfully considering adoption (or if your spouse is, and you’re the hold-out)…
If you are committed to adoption but aren’t sure how to navigate the decisions: special needs or healthy; international or domestic; infant, toddler, or older child; resembles your physical features or not…
If you are a pastor who desires to lead your congregation deeper into the heart of God…
If a close friend or family member is adopting, and you want insight on how to welcome a new child into your family through adoption…
Read this book.
Even if we weren’t pursuing adoption, I would still have been blessed by Russell D. Moore’s words. His premises are deeply grounded in the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Chapter One – “Adoption, Jesus, and You: Why You Should Read This Book, Especially If You Don’t Want To”
Moore begins by introducing us to his sons, Benjamin and Timothy. A little bit about who they are now followed by flashbacks to their first meeting. This is both their story and not.
As Moore says, “Whenever I told people I was working on a book on adoption, they’d often say something along the lines of, ‘Great. So, is the book about the doctrine of adoption or, you know, real adoption?’ (page 17).”
Moore explains that adoption is both gospel and mission. It is gospel because it tells “us about our identity, our inheritance, and our mission as sons of God.” It is mission because it gives “us our purpose in this age as the people of Christ (page 18).”
Basically, you can’t have it one way without the other. Adoption is cut short – too shallow – without understanding its gospel and its mission. And that is what Moore sets out to show us. He’s not interested in teaching you the ins and outs of adoption. Instead, he wants to speak to every. single. person. and explain to them why they should care about adoption. The pastor, the elderly couple, the single person, the young married honeymooners, and yes, the couples struggling with infertility. The man who struggles to consider adoption and the woman who would much rather those pink lines just finally show up so they can move on with their lives (page 19).
Chapter Two – “Are They Brothers?: What Some Rude Questions about Adoption Taught Me about the Gospel of Christ”
Moore begins this chapter by exploring negative adoption language and what he feels our word choices reveal about our understanding of our own adoptions into God’s family. He draws ties to Jewish Christians who struggled to understand that Gentile believers were extended the same grace they were. This paragraph especially touched me:
I guess that’s what bothered me so much about the “are they brothers?” question. There was almost a note of implied pity – as though, if they were biologically brothers, well, then at least they’d have each other. The query seemed to be asking, “Is this a real family or just legal fiction?” The question seemed to render them orphans again (page 26).
I will be honest. It was paragraphs like that one that seriously showed my how perverted my own worldview is. I’d like to think of myself as an adoption advocate; I try to understand. I want to be sensitive. But, I still have so very much to learn about the way God sees me. As much as anything, I learned about myself – a real member of God’s family.
He also speaks of “identity crises” that adoptees may experience and relates that to the soul-searching that we all do. What am I here for? Who will I live for? The question of identity is huge for us all. Biblically, the issue of identity is covered over and over again in the New Testament. Flee from the former. Redemption. Turn around. Don’t return to your former ways. It’s all about identity.
Moore continues with this issue explaining what an identity in Christ means. Like, what it really means.
I haven’t had any adoption training. I have just read many blog posts and a few books about adoption. I’ve spoken with those who are much closer to adoption than I. But, I am pretty sure that Moore declares a few things that are somewhat counter current adoption trends/thinking. In this chapter, after carefully explaining who we are as believers in God’s family and how adoption creates something new, he says, “As Maria and I went through the adoption process, we were encouraged by everyone from social workers to family friends to ‘teach the children about their cultural heritage.’ (page 36).”
If you’ve read much about international adoption, you’ve surely seen this come up often – whether it is encouragement to cook an ethnic meal or learn words in a foreign language, many (most?) adoptive parents want to teach their children about their birth countries. Moore claims that he and his wife have certainly taught their boys about their cultural heritage. But, it’s not what you might expect:
We teach them about their heritage, yes, but their heritage as Mississippians. They hear, then, about their great-grandfather, a faithful Baptist pastor from Tippah County. […] They learn about their great-great-grandfather who worked hard raising cotton but couldn’t overcome his drinking.
Yes, I’ll read Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy to them one day, I suppose, but not with the same intensity with which I’ll read to them William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. […] When we sit at the table for our holiday meals, they don’t eat borscht. They eat what we eat – red beans and rice or fried catfish or shrimp risotto. The share our lives, and our story. They belong here. They are Moores now, with all that entails (page 36).
Again, I think he makes an interesting point. I honestly don’t think it’s wrong to teach a child who was adopted about where they came from, but what Moore is saying is that our past doesn’t define us. Adoption makes something new. Definitely something to ponder.
Similarly, he touches on the issue of names. His boys retained no part of their former Russian names; he and his wife were quite intentional about that. He suggests that an American name (or Canadian or whatever style of name you would use for a biological child) speaks belonging into a child’s life. A child adopted by an American family is no longer a foreigner. That child belongs. He continues in this vein relating the importance of names in the Bible. God often changed names to symbolize his covenant or adoption of an individual: Abram to Abraham; Sarai to Sarah; Saul to Paul, etc.
This following passage left me with tears flowing:
If you’re in Christ, he’s given you a new name (Rev. 2:17), a name you’ve never heard and that wouldn’t make sense to you right now. It would be like yelling “Timothy Moore” in the halls of an orphanage when he was an infant. But you’ll get used to it. […]
More important that your name, however, is hearing it called out by One you’ve come to know, or rather who has come to know you. When you see him for the first time face-to-face, when your legal adoption is full realized, the Spirit within you will cry out, “Abba! Father!” And you’ll hear another voice, louder than all the others, cry out the same thing. You’ll turn to see him, the Messiah of Israel, the Emperor of the universe, Jesus of Nazareth. And you’ll call him “brother” (page 42-43).
This chapter sure packed an emotional punch for me. It just might have been the reason why I kept needing to set the book down for a breather. Each new thought hit me with such insight and understanding. I cried often. And just as often, I grabbed whoever was nearest (usually Chris) and read sections aloud through my tears.
Moore has one more powerful topic to discuss in this chapter: “Our Adopted Inheritance.” He begins this section by retelling what is commonly known as “Gotcha Day” – the day he and his wife picked up their boys from the orphanage and left. He talks about the formalities of dressing the boys in their new outfits, final farewells with the orphanage staff, and taking their boys who’d existed primarily in their cribs out into the sunlight. Benjamin and Timothy had never ridden in a car before, and it wasn’t long before Moore “noticed that they were shaking and reaching back to the orphanage in the distance” (page 43).
He started to reassure the boys about the wonders of where they were headed and how much better – fuller – life would be for them now, filled with family and fun, comfort and security. “But all they knew was the orphanage. It was squalid, but they had no other reference point. It was home” (page 46).
Moore recognized himself in his boys that day. As believers, we have an inheritance that is greater than anything we might imagine. Our inheritance is bound up in who our Father is, not given to us because of ourselves. And yet, we struggle to leave our “orphanages” behind. We can’t grasp the greatness of what’s to come because we know only this. As Moore puts it, “We must learn to be children, not orphans” (page 48). We mustn’t cling to the “slave nostalgia” that defines our former selves. We must turn to the cross and be reminded of our own adoptions, pressing ahead to our inheritance and leaving fear and sin behind.
We must cry out for our Abba.
This is clearly quite long already, and I will definitely have to make this a series of posts, but I have to end with Moore’s final paragraph in chapter 2:
Our adoption is about more than just belonging. Our adoption is about the day when the graces of this planet will be emptied, when the great assembly of Christ’s church will be gathered before the Judgment Seat. On that day, the accusing principalities and powers will probably look once more at us – former murderers and fornicators and idolaters, formerly uncircumcised in flesh or in heart – and they may ask one more time, “So are they brothers?” The hope of adopted children like my sons – and like me – is that the voice that once thundered over the Jordan will respond, one last time, “They are now” (page 57).
Stay tuned for part two…