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Adopted for Life Review (Part Six)

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.

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Chapter 7

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.

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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.

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Chapter 8

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)

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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:

  1. Don’t allow adoption to be the defining characteristic of your child (page 191). 
  2. Handle questions about the adoption carefully (page 193).
  3. Avoid “chosen child” language and assurances with your child (page 193).
  4. “Emphasize the good providence of God in putting your family together” (page 195).
  5. Acknowledge your child’s uniqueness without isolating him or her (page 196).
  6. Find and acknowledge the natural points of commonality among your family members (page 196).
  7. Demonstrate love and respect regarding the differences between you and your child, not matter the cause of these differences (page 197).
  8. Teach them about adoption in general (page 198).
  9. Highlight your gratitude to the Lord for his work in your lives through the adoption (page 198).
  10. 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).

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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.

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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).

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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:

  1. Be honest
  2. Be as positive as possible in answering questions and sharing details.
  3. Teach children according to their maturity levels.
  4. Mirror God’s fatherhood examples.
  5. Don’t refuse to answer any question.
  6. Don’t be afraid to answer with “I don’t know” when that’s the truth.
  7. Don’t minimize evil and suffering but always reinforce God’s supremacy over evil.
  8. Don’t “rescue” birth families or others who made the decisions affecting your child, but also do not pass judgment on them.
  9. Understand that fantasies about birth countries/parents are “common and natural.”
  10. 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).

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Chapter 9

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).

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This concludes this series. Leave a comment on the blog with your thoughts!

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Adopted for Life Review (Part Five)

Three more chapters and a conclusion left to review – wish me luck! To start at the beginning, read this post.

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Chapter 6

Chapter Six – “Jim Crow in the Church Nursery: How to Think about Racial Identity, Health Concerns, and Other Uncomfortable Adoption Questions”

This chapter packs a punch. It really is a doozy.

Moore begins by recalling some other adoptive parents he and his wife encountered while in Russia. He speaks candidly about his “disgust” for the way she was interacting with the children she was considering adopting – essentially, putting them through the ringer to ensure that she was getting a “good one.” “It seemed to me that she was sizing up these children as though she was sorting through a litter or puppies or browsing through a line of secondhand refrigerators” (page 147).

Yet, Moore carefully acknowledges that there are some questions that may push you to the limit in considering your personal answers, especially when considering children who may look different than you or have different physical, emotional, or mental capabilities.

Some of these decisions are also fraught with ethical complexities. Am I a horrible person if I adopt a child of another race? What will my extended family think if I spend all this money to adopt a special-needs baby who might now live to see next Christmas? Such things bring opportunities to see the glory of our Lord Jesus. (Page 148)

Moore continues by comparing opposites: boys or girls, infants or older children, one child or a sibling set, a child who looks like me or doesn’t, and a healthy child or one with special needs. I’ll touch on the parts that spoke loudest to me.

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Newborn or Older Child?

Some decisions in adoption are made simply by “divine providence.” For example, you may not need to specify gender because you’re adopting an infant domestically and the birthmother does not know the gender of the baby in her womb when you’re matched to her. Or, you fall in love with a sweet waiting child and accept him or her despite the special needs he or she may have (with or without anyone’s prior knowledge of those needs). Moore says that regardless of the way Christian adoptive parents decide on these issues, a Christian understanding and worldview will help to encourage you through this process. “… a Christian understanding of the world sees a child’s character not as genetically determined but as shaped to a significant degree by parental discipleship and discipline” (page 149).

Knowing that, a Christian family may prefer to adopt a younger child, thus providing more time to raise that child up in the Lord. Alternately, a Christian may feel called to adopt an older child, specifically because, by the world’s standards, that child is less wanted the older he or she is, often due to the trauma of years of neglect, abuse, or loneliness.

Such trauma is not easily undone, even by parental love. The gospel, though, is more powerful than childhood trauma. After all, we know, “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). We know that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom. 5:10). (Page 150)

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Might God be calling you to adopt more than one child at a time? Moore says this decision is often determined by “mundane” factors such as space in your home for an additional bed, but he also relates the feeling of some adoptive parents who, intending to adopt more than one child eventually, see that adopting more than one child at a time is a way to be a good steward of the financial costs. Adoption is costly, and adopting more than one child does usually always raise that cost higher; but the additional expenses are rarely equal to the cost of two separate adoptions.

He allows that this very personal decision has a lot to do with parenting style, emotional and physical abilities, and, of course, God’s will. We should simply ask the Lord what he would have us do.

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Does race matter?

I will echo Moore’s thoughts as he begins this next section about race:

I can’t tell if you’re white, black, Latino, or whatever as you read this page. It doesn’t matter. Up to this point, the gospel is the gospel and adoption is adoption. But what if, as you proceed toward adoption, someone were to ask you your racial preference for your child? Should you have a preference? (Page 152).

Moore spends the next few pages discussing the thoughts surrounding transracial adoption. He discusses why this is a big issue for some in the adoption arena and even touches on America’s horrible past of segregation and discrimination. He admits though, too, that parents in the “majority” who adopt a child with a different racial heritage will likely never understand the challenges that child may face. He acknowledges that some adoptees themselves consider their transracial adoption an “abduction” that destroyed their racial heritage. It is certainly a hot-button issue.

But, like he does with essentially every other adoption issue, Moore presses through all of this to show how we can approach this issue from a Christian worldview:

Furthermore, for us, there’s the issue of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m not surprised to see secular social workers or sociologists suggesting that racial identity could be more important that familial love. As we’ve discussed earlier, in this fallen age it is “natural” to see things according to “the flesh” in that way. The gospel, though, drives us away from that kind of identity in the flesh and toward a new identity, a new family, defined by the Spirit. This new family solidarity is much less visible obvious. It doesn’t make as much sense to the natural man. It’s not based on marks in the flesh or melanin levels in the skin or carefully kept genealogies. It’s based instead on a Spirit who blows invisible where he wills, showing up in less visible characteristics such as peace, joy, love, righteousness, gentleness, kindness, self-control.

That’s why hesitancy about transracial adoption is so sad. It’s not just because some white kids could miss our on some godly black parents or vice versa. It’s because it’s one more reminder of how we are “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2), with all its pitiful divisions. […]

If you’re being led toward adoption, it may be that God will send to you a child of a similar ethnicity or skin color. It may be, though, that he will providentially direct you toward a child who looks quite different from you. If you’re not sure you can love a child with a different skin color that yours, the first step for you has nothing to do with the adoption process. Repent, and open your heart to love. (pages 156-157)

I’ll let that speak for itself, but know that if this is something you are struggling with or are worried your friends or families may struggle with, Moore has much more to say on the topic. Check it out.

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Healthy or "Special Needs?"

Moore challenges Christians to “fill the gap.” He says the question of healthy vs. “special needs” is an important one for questions. To be like Jesus, we need to be his hands and feet – we need to follow where he went. If you doubt that Jesus cared for the world’s “least of these,” well, then you should probably re-read the gospels before caring much about a review like this.

It’s not wrong to want a healthy child. I’m sure no one, upon receiving a positive pregnancy test, prays that their child be unhealthy in any way. Yet, we should search our hearts and be willing to ask God where he would have us go, and then be absolutely willing to follow. Perhaps, he’ll place a specific need on your heart. I don’t know how many adoption stories I’ve read where a family’s biological child born with needs spurred their desire to adopt more children with that same need. In fact, that’s how Reece’s Rainbow was started.

It is not necessary that you sign up particularly for a special needs child if God is calling you to adopt. But if you are not prepared to love and care for a child who is wounded or disabled, should the Lord lead you to such a situation, do not seek marriage (if you’re not married yet) or parenthood. I know that statement sounds harsh and perhaps even unkind. But being a father or a mother means caring for a child, whatever his needs and burdens. Your perfectly healthy child could be diagnosed tomorrow with leukemia. Your bicycling little toddler could crumple beneath the weight of a drunk driver’s automobile next week. You might not see how you could cope with caring for a sick or wounded child right now, though you know the Lord gives strength when it is needed. If you are unwilling, though, to prepare for such an eventuality, if it comes, then you’re not yet prepared to parent, through adoption or the more typical means. (page 161)

Moore reminds us that we all bear the image of God. There is a risk in adoption, but that risk exists whether or not you adopt. He asks, “The question is, do you trust Jesus, with their stories and with yours?” (page 165).

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As always, I’d love for you to drop a line and let me know what you think!

Adopted for Life Review (Part Four)

Making my way (slowly!) through reviewing the book, Adopted for Life by Russell D. Moore. Here are parts one, two, and three. Thanks for reading!

Chapter 5

Chapter Five – “Paperwork, Finances, and Other Threats to Personal Sanctification: How to Navigate the Practical Aspects of the Adoption Process”

Moore writes this chapter simply to provide suggestions about the logistics to Christian couples pursuing adoption. In some ways, this is a reflection on what he and his wife learned throughout their adoption process. He reminds readers that adoption is an intense spiritual battle but that the actual day-to-day process of it might be easier than you’d expect. He admits it can be quite long and tedious, but encourages readers in this area.

Basic Decisions

Domestic… Moore touches on a lot of the basics: foster care adoption, domestic infant adoption, relative adoption, adoption using an agency, adoption using a private adoption lawyer, and so on. Additionally, I was happy to see him refer to snowflake or embryo adoption. This is the adoption of tiny babies being “stored” frozen in their development, deemed “extras” at fertility clinics. Moore discusses his views that it is not unethical to adopt these tiny souls and says, “the adopting parents are no more endorsing the technologies involved than parents adopting from an unwed mother are endorsing fornication” (121).

or International… “International adoption […] has a distinctly Great Commission aspect to it. Many of the cultures from which Christian families may adopt have little or no culture of adoption. […] International adoption can be the means the Spirit uses to proclaim Christ among peoples where Christ is not yet named” (page 121). Moore sees many “pros” to international adoption but also acknowledges a few “cons:” the risk of shady operations by some agencies and in some countries; and the limited information you have about your child’s health, familial, and personal history. Additionally, he acknowledges the risk of a country closing to adoption.

Open or Closed Adoption… Moore shares his deeply felt emotions regarding seeing a photo of one of his son’s birth mother. Seeing her face brought forth many questions and emotions from within, and he recognized the importance of remembering her face for his son. “If I didn’t remember for him, she’d be lost to him” (page 125). And then,

I feel like I’m forgetting her, and I can’t do that. My memory is the only link my son has to his past. My son may never know anything more about his birth mother than what I can describe from that remembered photo, along with my gratitude to this mysterious woman for giving life to my sweet little man. That’s a weighty burden for me as a father, and it will be a unique burden for my son, perhaps, one day. (page 126)

He discusses that the decision is often already made (as was for he and his wife in adopting internationally, and is for most other internationally-formed families) and also that the terms “open” and “closed” often mean different things for different families. He discusses each decision and, as with all decisions in his book, does his best to demonstrate how one’s Christian faith might or could or maybe even should affect the decision.

Paperwork and Home Studies

“If the Lord is calling you to adopt, he’s calling you to sign your name… over and over and over again” (page 129).

Moore says that most adoptees will need an agency and discusses their role. He shares the importance of finding a good agency that you can trust, and he discusses whether or not he feels Christians should only use Christian agencies. He acknowledges that a Christian agency can be helpful – everything from being supportive of the ministry they may be providing to waiting children and birth families to having like-minded personnel to work through post-placement questions and decisions with. Even though a Christian agency might have added “benefits” for the Christian couple adopting, Moore admits that he and his wife did not use a Christian agency and that he doesn’t feel that the agency’s faith classification be the most important thing about them. He stresses that you need an agency that can get the job done – experienced and credible.

Regarding home studies, Moore discusses that adoptive parents must be honest and like-minded with their spouses. He shares a personal anecdote of his own experience and gives specific tips about how to answer a few specific questions.

Finances

Moore says (and I agree) that the issue of finances is often the biggest, first, or most overwhelming question of those interested in pursuing an adoption. He offers some perspective to adoptive parents and encourages us. “Child-rearing itself is expensive, but all kinds of people do it – because it’s a priority, and families adjust their internal economies to fit” (page 136). He discusses briefly that some couples have a conviction against any form of debt while others do not, and he addresses them separately. And he also encourages, “At a more fundamental level, it’s important to know that you don’t always have to know how God will equip you to adopt before you begin praying and planning toward adoption” (page 137).

Moore then shares another personal experience of an acquaintance who gifted Moore and his wife a large sum of money toward their adoption expenses. Moore attempted to reject the gift when his acquaintance shared a word from the Lord:

“Are you telling me you already have all the money on hand that you need for the adoption?” he asked. “It’s already paid for?” I said, “Well, no, but…” This young minister interrupted me. “Well, then, I’m sorry to be disrespectful, but this isn’t really about you,” he said. “I mean, we aren’t in a place where we can adopt right now, but we want to be a part of adoption. We think God is calling us to this. And it seems to me as though maybe you’re too, I don’t know, prideful or something to receive this.” I blinked. He looked me in the eye and said, “Maybe you just need to repent of your pride and self-confidence and just let somebody bless you” (page 139).

In a day and age and culture where we want to guard ourselves from accepting “hand-outs,” being sluggards and prone to sloth, I wanted to applaud Moore’s acquaintance here. I believe that Christ uses his body of believers to care and provide for one another and that we ought to be careful to “guard” ourselves straight out of God’s blessings or the fellowship and community we’re meant to have with our brothers and sisters.

If not everyone is called to adopt and yet all are called to be a part of adoption, then those who are adopting should be grateful for brothers and sisters who want to join in. Celebrate it! Don’t let pride hurt the body.

Waiting For The Call

Waiting is a big part of adoption. For sure, some adoptions are completed with barely any wait at all, but most are marked by seasons of waiting. Moore acknowledges the challenge of waiting, maybe even especially if you’ve arrived at the decision to adopt following a time of infertility or miscarriages. He doesn’t discount the trial that waiting can be.

Yet, he encourages that waiting is something that God asks of us in nearly any situation. “Even when God created humanity as the crown of his universe, he made Adam wait for his queen, creating anticipation for her by showing him in the world around him that ‘there was not found a helper fit for him’ (Gen. 2:20)” (pages 141-142).

There’s something about patience that God deems necessary for our life in the age to come. And so, whether through agriculture or discipleship or bodily development or eschatology or procreation, God makes us wait. And he makes us into the kind of people who can wait. We rejoice in such things, Paul tells us, because we know that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom. 5:3-4). (Page 142)

One more interesting thing Moore says in this chapter is another piece of advice that seems to fly in the face of current adoption thought – it is that regarding bonding time. Moore admits that most social workers encourage the new parents and child to stay a bit secluded from others for a period of weeks or months to help encourage healthy bonding. He allows that this might be necessary in the most dire of cases, but generally says that “such advice is misguided” (page 143).

We don’t bong in isolation from others; we bond together in community. You don’t want to overwhelm your child with new faces, but you want him or her to know that he or she is part of a larger family now of people who love him or her. You also don’t want to rob grandparents and aunts and uncles of the opportunity to be a part of your child’s life from the beginning. An arrival home from adoption is very much like a birth. There’s no shame to this. Don’t treat it clinically. Allow your loved ones to celebrate with you. (Page 143)

Conclusion

Conclusion

Moore shares this final bit of wisdom:

The most important thing for you to know about these decisions is that whatever you decide, you’re not going to wreck God’s plan for your life. Whatever your views about how God’s kingship fits with human freedom, you know as a Christian that God is at work in bringing about his good purposes for you. Your decisions fit, mysteriously, into that overall plan. Don’t worry. (page 144-145)

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Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Adopted for Life Review (Part Three)

Thanks for sticking with me as I continue to review this book. I hope someone out there in bloglandia is enjoying this. Drop me a comment to let me know!

Frankly, I’ve really enjoyed writing these posts. Information this good needs to be absorbed twice!

Part one. Part two.

Chapter4

Chapter Four – “Don’t You Want Your Own Kids? How to Know If You – or Someone You Love – Should Consider Adoption”

I read this chapter while riding home from the zoo one day shortly after Christmas. I’m grateful that it was dark outside by then because I do believe I sobbed through this entire chapter. It’s in this chapter that Moore gives the backstory to his and his wife’s journey to adoption. Their first pregnancy resulted in miscarriage: “Our baby was, in his icily clinical wording, a ‘blighted ovum” (page 86). Just like our Basil.

He recounts his emotional turmoil after this loss. They had purchased a cute little hat for baby, and he wanted to be rid of it – wanted to stuff their pain.

Time passed and, sadly, they lost two more babies to miscarriage. Just like us (no wonder I was sobbing, eh?). He shares a fear that I’m sure many couples experience when dealing with infertility or miscarriage:

I feared we were staring into an abyss of being an elderly couple all alone, like some of the people we’d known as children. Those older, childless couples didn’t really know how to speak to children, so they’d talk about the weather and how their tomato plants were doing; they started scrapbooks with pictures of their cats. I hated cats. But was that our future? (Page 86)

He recognizes that there are countless of us who are or have been or, God forbid, might one day be in his shoes. Maybe you’re hiding the fact (or not) that you really just don’t want to even have to think about adoption because you want to become a parent to a biological child.

On the other hand, maybe this isn’t you at all. Maybe you are blissfully unaware of this kind of pain because it’s not a part of your story. But you might know someone who relates to this and you wonder what to say to them. Or, finally, maybe you have dozens of biological children and still feel called to adopt.

Moore recognizes that by sharing his forthcoming opinions, he’s setting himself up to be disagreed with, and he’s okay with that. He’s simply sharing some words that he wishes someone had shared with him and his wife in their dark days of recurrent pregnancy loss.

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The first group of people he speaks to are those who are or might be infertile. He acknowledges that the grief you feel is normal and even holy. Children are a blessing, and “barrenness is part of the curse” (page 89).

I quite literally sobbed as I read his next reassurances, balm to my tender soul:

I can’t explain what the infertility means for you, but I can tell you that God is not punishing you. How do I know? If you are in Christ, your punishment was absorbed in the body of a crucified Jesus. There is no more condemnation for you (Rom. 8:1). God is discipling you, shaping you, and he often uses suffering to do so, but he isn’t punishing you. He views you within the body of his Christ, and he loves and delights in you. Whatever is happening in your life, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ (Rom. 8:31-39). If neither death nore life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come can sever you from God’s love, can the rhythms and silences of your reproductive organs do so? (Pages 89-90)

He then reminds us of Hannah and how he delights in answering our prayers. No situation is as dire as we feel it to be in the deepest, darkest moments. Hannah was heard.

When it comes to pregnancy, it seems, even more obviously than in other situations, those who ask tend to (eventually) receive, and those who seek tend to find (although perhaps not in the way they first intended). Your prayers are not accidental, after all. If you are walking in step with the Spirit, he intercedes for you, to bring your prayers into conformity with God’s will for your Christ-conformity (Rom. 8:26). This doesn’t mean that your praying for children means you’ll be granted children, but it does mean that if you’re praying for God’s will to be done and you find yourself continually seeking to pray for children, perhaps God is readying you for children. (Page 92)

It was in this section, too, that I felt a warning and conviction. Moore reminds us that this struggle, as most, can tempt us into resigning to bitterness and emotional withdrawal.

If you find yourself mistrusting God’s goodness to you or caving introspectively in on yourself or unable to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, recognize what’s happening – and that it isn’t good. […] The most perilous aspect of this is the fact that very few of your friends will call you on it. (Page 93).

Moore also speaks about the struggles of discernment that a couple dealing with infertility may encounter in the quest for a baby. He touches on IVF and other reproductive technologies. He explores some of the worldviews behind IVF, genetic screening, surrogacy, and sperm donation.

Ultimately, he address the couple dealing with all of this who is reluctant to adopt and the couple where perhaps just one spouse is reluctant. He assures that this does not make you a bad person and says simply that if God is Lord of your heart to ask Him about it. He may send you full-steam ahead, but he may also reveal to you reasons that it may not be wise for you to proceed with an adoption. Cover this issue, like all issues in your life, in prayer. God will guide you.

Another special (to me) section revolved around Moore’s discussion of this blog’s verse: Romans 8:28. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” He talks about how some shy away from speaking this Truth in to the life of a suffering believer for fear of minimizing their grief. He reminds us then that there is a poor way of reciting this verse (“Get over it”) and there is a way to speak this as a promise.

He tells of a night that some beloved mentors visited him and his wife. This man who Moore so deeply respected said, “Russell, this thing is terrible. And I don’t know why it’s happening to y’all. But I know God is good. And I know that God will do whatever it takes to conform you into the image of Christ” (page 104). Moore was so deeply impacted by the words of his mentor and friend. And frankly, I am, too.

I could seriously quote this entire section – it was so valuable to me to read, just a few weeks after our third consecutive miscarriage. I know that whatever I write to finish out this section will not do Moore’s words justice. Please, I implore you: if God is using this to speak to you, to comfort you or reassure you, grab a copy of the book and soak it in.

*****

The next group of individuals that Moore addresses regarding the “Should you adopt?” question are those with existing families. Eventually, Moore and his wife did conceive two more sons biologically. With those added blessings, they encountered more negative adoption language. The “Are they brothers?” question returned, as did a host of other questions and comments that essentially divided their boys into two groups and often elevated one “group” above the other.

He recognizes that if this is your situation – desiring to add children to your family through the blessing of adoption – that it might be an easier and yet more complex decision all at the same time.

Complexity may look like a struggle to understand if and how love may be different among your children. One woman described the struggle she had to love her step-children the way she loves her biological children and yet summed it up with this: “It’s not a weak wall […] It’s just that he’s an immensely powerful God” (page 106).

Another reason this decision is complex is that an adoption would not simply affect you and your spouse but also the children that God has already entrusted into your care. He reminds that any significant change impacts a family and encourages you that taking your family through an adoption process gives you wonderful opportunity to share the gospel with each member in your family.

Moore continues on with reassurances and cautions for the family in this situation. Again, he implores that we seek counsel and cover our situations in prayer.

*****

Stay tuned for part four of this review…

Adopted for Life Review (Part Two)

AdoptedForLife

I knew it would be difficult to wrap this book up into a blog post, but I didn’t realize it would be this hard!

If you missed part one, check it out here. To continue where we left off…

Chapter3

Chapter Three – “Joseph of Nazareth vs. Planned Parenthood: What’s at Stake When We Talk about Adoption”

l made it to this chapter right at Advent season. It worked out wonderfully because we were studying Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ birth in Sunday School, and Moore begins this chapter discussing Joseph. Needless to say, Joseph was on my mind this Christmas season more than ever before. Too often, Joseph’s role in Christ’s story is minimized. Moore points out that it shouldn’t be, that there’s so much more to him: “Joseph serves as a model to follow as we see what’s at stake in the issue of adoption. Joseph, after all, is an adoptive father” (page 59). Moore also reminds us of something vitally important: “adoption is more than charity. It’s spiritual warfare” (page 59).

Moore recalls an interaction with fellow adoptive parents who shared the story that the judge handling their child’s case in his birth country thought there was a mistake because, in the judge’s perverted mind, no one would want this darker skinned child when there were other children available for adoption. Moore recalls the disgust he felt toward a mindset that would render one child unworthy of adoption and a family simply because of the way that he looked. Then, he recalled our own nation’s past and realizes,

A similar story could be told a billion times over in virtually every human society throughout history. There seems to be an orphan-making urge amonth us, whether we see it in the slave culture of centuries past or the divorce culture of today (page 61).

He then begins to explore where this urge comes from. He recalls Pharaoh of Exodus and Herod of the Gospels and draws scary similarities. Both dictators hated God and amplified self.

“…both of them take the rage they had against Jesus in particular and directs it toward babies in general. When it’s Jesus versus the self, babies are caught in the crossfire. And it’s always that way (page 62).

He takes it a step further now, and brings this to a modern-day level. Planned Parenthood acts as the Pharaoh and Herod of today. “When they destroy ‘the least of these’ (Matt. 25:40, 45), the most vulnerable among us, they’re destroying a picture of Jesus himself […] Children also mean blessing – a perfect target for those who seek only to kill and destroy (John 10:10)” (page 64).

And yet, Moore takes this study even one more layer deeper – to the personal level. He challenges us, and himself, to see clearly the times when we’ve spoken out in disgust against Planned Parenthood and then turned to complain about our children or the children among us. If we stand in agreement with Jesus when he declares that children are a blessing, then why do we so often refuse to see and acknowledge that blessing?

There are a million reasons and ways to talk yourself or those near you out of an adoption, but Moore strongly reminds us, “The protection of children isn’t charity. It isn’t part of a political program fitting somewhere between tax cuts and gun rights or between carbon emission caps and a national service corps. It’s spiritual warfare” (page 65).

The universe is at war, and some babies and children are on the line. The old serpent is coiled right now, his tongue flicking, watching for infants and children he can consume. One night two thousand years ago, all that stood in his way was one reluctant day laborer who decided to be a father. (page 66)

There’s more to learn from Joseph than I ever realized.

AdoptedForLife2

*****

Moore goes on to discuss evangelism and children and how our attitudes to one affect our attitudes to others. He argues (and I believe, rightfully so) that celebrating children is celebrating evangelism. One is a celebration of birth and life and earthly adoption while the other is a celebration of spiritual adoption.

If the people in our congregation become other-directed instead of self-directed in the adoption of unwanted children, they are going to be other-directed instead of self-directed in their verbal witness to people in their community. One the other hand, the same self-interest that sears over the joy of birth will sear over the joy of the new birth. The numbness to earthly adoption is easily translated to numbness to spiritual adoption. But if people in our churches learn not to grumble at the blessing of minivans filled with children – some of whom don’t look anything alike – they’re going to learn not to grumble at the blessing of a congregation filling with new people, some of whom don’t look anything alike. If our churches learn to rejoice in newness of life in the church nursery, they’ll more easily rejoice at newness of life in the church baptistery, and vice versa. (Page 77)

He’s talking about our hearts here. For one, our hearts are what God is most interested in because if He has our hearts, He knows He has our actions. It’s not necessarily about adoption or birthing as many children as possible, it’s about the way we view those children and heed God’s call in our lives.

Moore states that an adoption culture is synonymous with a culture of life. They’re inseparable and completely counter-cultural. He again reminds us that adoption will touch us all differently. We will stand for a culture of life in different ways. And yet, “every believer is called to recognize Jesus in the face of his little brothers and sisters when he decides to show up in their lives, even if it interrupts everything else” (page 81).

“Think of the plight of the orphan somewhere right now out there in the world. It’s not just that she’s lonely. It’s that she has no inheritance, no future. […] Can you feel the force of such desperation? Jesus can. She’s his little sister” (page 83).

*****

Stay tuned for part three…

Adopted for Life Review

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