“I can hardly breathe,” I told my wife. And I meant it.
We were in an old elevator headed to the third floor of a battered women’s shelter in downtown Taipei just seconds before meeting our two new daughters. They were 5 ½ and 3 ½ and were just as nervous as we were.
The social workers blandly announced to the girls, “here’s your mama, and here’s your papa.” They handed us a bag of clothes that did not fit and sent us on our way.
No fan fare, no celebration, no instructions. It was one of the greatest days of our life. It was also the culmination of years of conviction, hard work, bureaucracy, patience (impatience!), and prayer. The most common question we heard through the whole process was, “Don’t you already have kids?”
What they meant was, “why would you adopt when you can obviously have kids biologically?” We had three biological children but it never crossed our mind that we should not add to our family through the gift of adoption. Here are the factors that were the driving force behind our decision to adopt.
We are committed to life. For our entire marriage we have supported many pro life causes. But we always felt that if we were going to encourage unwed girls to give birth to their babies, then Christians should be in line to be ready to adopt those who would be given up. It was our way of “putting our money where our mouth was.”
We are committed to the helpless and disadvantaged. James (1:27) makes it clear that one of the evidences of our faith is how we respond to the “affliction” of widows and orphans. Taking care of these two groups is time consuming, messy, and sacrificial. But it is a central part of the Christian life. We wanted to make sure that our family was heavily invested in this important admonition.
We are committed to biblical manhood. Men are called to lead, provide, and protect (Gen. 1-2, Eph. 5, I Kings 2:1-9, 1 Pet. 3, Col. 3). This is a fundamental teaching of the Bible and it does not merely pertain to the four walls of one’s home. Men should be looking for those who need protection and provision. There are fatherless children all over the world. Every year I meet women who are burdened for adoption but their husbands won’t budge. It’s usually something about retirement, college costs, or they are finally able to afford that boat they always wanted. In our home, the men lead and sacrificially give of themselves for the good of others.
We are committed to Gospel-centeredness. The doctrine of adoption is at the heart of the Gospel. We are born outside of Christ, but it is through Christ that we receive “the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom. 8:15) Physical adoption is a daily living picture of this spiritual reality. It is a constant reminder to our family and others of the grace and mercy of God and His love for the lost and care for the fatherless.
We are committed to the nations. Not everyone is called to international adoption but the result is a reminder of God’s love for every “nation and tribe and language and people.” (Rev. 14:6). Every week the Lord adds people to his church and tells you and I to love them. They may not look like us, smell like us, have the same socio-economic background as us, or talk like us. But that’s the beauty of the Gospel. Twice we have brought into our home children from another country and told our other kids, “they don’t talk like you or look like you, but here’s another one, love them.” It has been one of the biggest blessings in the whole process for us and has dramatically shaped our view of the whole world.
Maybe the next big decision in your life will involve a vacation house or a boat or a car that you don’t need. Maybe it will involve trying to sock away even more money for that early retirement you have been hoping for. It might even involve contributing to a monument or building with your name on it. Or just maybe it will involve an old elevator in another country with your mind in a whirl, your heart racing, adrenaline rushing, and your lungs struggling inexplicably for their next breath. And in making that decision, it might not even cross your mind that you already have kids.
Randy Stinson is the Dean of the School of Church Ministries and the Vice President for Academic Innovation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He also serves as the Senior Fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (www.cbmw.org).