This is the latest in a (lengthy) series of posts reviewing Russell D. Moore’s book, Adopted for Life. You can start the series here.
Chapter Seven – “It Takes a Village to Adopt a Child: How Churches Can Encourage Adoption”
Maybe the best way to introduce this chapter is with this quote:
…we must recognize that adoption isn’t an issue for individual Christian families. There’s no such thing as a “Christian family” abstracted from the church. It also is not simply as issue for an interest group within the church – the “adoption people” competing with the “homeschooling people” competing with the “Third World debt relief people” and so on.
Throughout this book, I felt that Moore provided compelling Scriptural evidence that the body of Christ should be about adoption, period. This chapter gives more ideas about how this could look for a congregation.
First off, Moore says that the pulpit must lead the way for the church. And yet, the pastor shouldn’t preach on adoption simply to raise awareness but also to show how our own salvation is the result of our adoption. “Whenever earthly things mirror heavenly realities, a preacher is needed to point from the picture to the thing pictured, showing us why we should love both” (page 170).
Moore suggests one way to do this is to revolutionize marriage sermons. By focusing on the love between two people instead of the new covenant family being created, the prayers for children and faithful parenting abilities are left absent. “Once children are seen as a blessing, and once adoption doesn’t seem strange or exotic, an adoption culture tends to flourish in gospel-anchored churches” (page 172). This section holds even more ideas for how a pastor might encourage an adoption culture within the church – everything from special prayers, baby dedications, advocacy, and certain messages preached.
Additionally, a pastor should be able to guide the congregation in the economic stewardship of adoption. Maybe one church is called to donate sums to help complete adoptions. Maybe another church has several members who want to give, support, and be a part of adoption but lack the guidance to do so.
Moore also mentions how churches can and should preach and emphasize our spiritual adoptions and says that when churches present that picture clearly, an adoption culture can more easily flourish. “Once people learn to see their brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers in ways more significant that simply the flesh, adoption just doesn’t seem so strange anymore” (page 180).
A church with a culture of adoption might be called to assist their community with adoption awareness, hosting trainings or speakers, and more. It might find ways to celebrate adoptions as fulfilling the Great Commission. It also may be deeply involved in the missional care for orphans. There are dozens of ways to support adoption and speak out for life even if God has not called you to adopt.
Chapter Eight – “Adopted Is a Past-Tense Verb: How Parents, Children, and Friends Can Think about Growing up Adopted”
In a post-Fall world, being part of a family is tough, regardless of the circumstances. […] Adoption complicates that already complicated reality even further. […] Like the event of adoption itself, these struggles can, if we have ears to hear and eyes to see, point us to the gospel that saves us. (page 190)
Belonging and Acceptance
Belonging and acceptance are issues we all deal with, having been adopted or not. Growing up offers big challenges, and discovering who God created me to be and what he wants to do with my life is a big deal! Moore claims that belonging and acceptance are also the first and biggest aspect of life after adoption. And that’s worth pointing out to – adoption is a one-time event. “His sons were adopted” not “His sons are adopted.”
He offers parents some pointers on encouraging a sense of belonging within the home:
- Don’t allow adoption to be the defining characteristic of your child (page 191).
- Handle questions about the adoption carefully (page 193).
- Avoid “chosen child” language and assurances with your child (page 193).
- “Emphasize the good providence of God in putting your family together” (page 195).
- Acknowledge your child’s uniqueness without isolating him or her (page 196).
- Find and acknowledge the natural points of commonality among your family members (page 196).
- Demonstrate love and respect regarding the differences between you and your child, not matter the cause of these differences (page 197).
- Teach them about adoption in general (page 198).
- Highlight your gratitude to the Lord for his work in your lives through the adoption (page 198).
- Mimic the fatherhood of God (page 199).
Friends and family members can be of great help to a family growing post-adoption. “They shouldn’t ask questions, especially in front of the children, about the adoption, unless it’s readily apparent why” (page 199).
Moore also provides some suggestions and insight to the individual who is growing up post-adoption, as opposed to their parents. He encourages that individual to see how his or her situation may not be all that different after all: “You may assumed that ‘regular people’ all feel perfect kinship with their families and sense a cozy feeling of belonging all the time. It’s not so” (page 200). He reminds that we all do struggle with belonging, our senses of identity, knowing where and how we fit in. And yet, Moore acknowledges that one who’s been adopted might have extra or special challenges with this aspect of life. For the next several paragraphs, he encourages that person:
If you’ve been adopted, there’s been no accident. You have the genes God wanted you to have. You have the parents God wanted you to have. You have the parents God wanted you to have. The interplay between the two makes you who you are. […] If you’re in Christ, God is preparing you to rule over the cosmos. He wants you to be who you are in Christ and to be ready for this reign. Receive God’s formation of who you are in this way with thanksgiving. (page 201).
Ultimately, Moore reminds us that ultimate acceptance and belonging cannot be found apart from God and being a member of his family.
Behavior and Discipline
Discipline can be a challenging aspect in adoption: “When you adopt, you don’t usually have time to feel like a parent before you have to start acting like one, teaching and training children as to your expectations for their behavior” (page 202). Moore encourages parents to resist the urge to be lax in discipline due to guilt felt over their child’s previous situation, and he reminds us of what God says in Hebrews 12:8-10 that our legitimacy as children of God is reinforced because of the Father’s love in correcting us.
Moore also encourages that we recognize behavior as often the result of personality. While bonding and attachment are important issues, for example, if your child isn’t super cuddly, it may be due to his or her personality and not an attachment issue.
Similar to the urge to under-discipline, Moore shares that he himself fought the urge to over-discipline his boys and blames it on a lack of patience within him. He fought to handle their immaturity and his own expectation that children in general should be well-behaved and well-adjusted. “The root of impatience in discipline is really the same as that of overindulgence. In both instances, parents want to ‘make up for lost time,’ to speed up a process that takes time” (page 206).
Dealing with the Past
Adoption is always tragic (page 208). Dealing with questions from a youngster curious about his or her past can be challenging, but Moore offers these suggestions:
- Be honest
- Be as positive as possible in answering questions and sharing details.
- Teach children according to their maturity levels.
- Mirror God’s fatherhood examples.
- Don’t refuse to answer any question.
- Don’t be afraid to answer with “I don’t know” when that’s the truth.
- Don’t minimize evil and suffering but always reinforce God’s supremacy over evil.
- Don’t “rescue” birth families or others who made the decisions affecting your child, but also do not pass judgment on them.
- Understand that fantasies about birth countries/parents are “common and natural.”
- Listen to your child and understand the real pain of abandonment.
Moore ends the chapter with this poignant paragraph:
The reality, though, is that in most ways parenting is parenting, and growing up is growing up. It’s always hard. Some unique challenges go along with adoption – challenges related to finding a sense of belonging, to discipline and discipleship, to answering questions about origins. Count these as all joy. They point all of us – not just kids who were adopted – to the gospel. The gospel welcomes us and receives us as loved children. The gospel disciplines us and prepares us for eternity as heirs. The gospel speaks truth to us and shows us our misery in Adam and our glory in Christ. The gospel shows us that we were born into death and then shows us, by free grace, that we’re adopted for life. (page 214).
Chapter Nine – “Concluding Thoughts”
For me, this was a perfect concluding chapter. In it, Moore shared that it was early morning on his son’s birthday and he was waiting in anticipation for the sound of his sons’ footsteps to trigger the day of celebration. He imagines how such a day would have felt should he not ever become a dad. He remembers the days of praying desperately for children, not knowing that his sons were already living on this earth!
As he concludes, he promises that he is praying for you, whoever you are and for whatever reason you read this book. He prays that you believe in God and allow your own spiritual adoption. He prays that you see your role in adoption.
Maybe there are abandoned children languishing right now in cribs somewhere who will be blowing out birthday candles with their new families this time next year because of your witness, your money, or your encouragement. Maybe they’ll be yours. I don’t know. Like I say, I don’t know you. But maybe you’re waiting for the sound of footsteps, too. (page 217).
This concludes this series. Leave a comment on the blog with your thoughts!