Part 2: 12 principles to help you navigate the adoption process
Read part one of this post here.
When you adventure through a process like the one my wife and I did – all adoptions are adventures and each presents its own set of unique circumstances and challenges – you learn a lot about yourself and about your marriage. Like anything else, you can either learn these lessons by personal experience or from secondary experience. From my adoption adventures, I’ve learned 12 axiomatic and theological-informed principles that I believe will help you navigate the daunting and sometimes messy journey of adoption.
We live in a fallen world.
Messy. Complicated. Depraved. We are in a Genesis 3 world. From the outset you have to realize that adoption doesn’t fit in a neat little box. You might be tempted to think, because adoption is popular and so gospel focused, that it would be all tidied up, pretty, and delivered with tissue paper and fancy packaging. It’s not. But it’s nothing to fear. God’s on your side. He is looking out for what is best and particularly he’s working things out for his glory.
Resist making adoption an idol.
Adopting can offer a quick trip down the path of idolatry. Don’t go there. The Lord will work out the particulars, trust me. Adoption is part of the gospel; God has a heart for the orphans – James 1:27. If anyone cares about your adoption process, it’s your heavenly Father who adopted you – Romans 8. You must guard your heart against idolatry and trust God with the process.
Patience is king.
Cooler heads prevail. I’m a guy who likes structure – no seriously, I like things buttoned up. As a way of ministry, I make disorderly things orderly. That’s my specialty. The adopting process messes with my world because it’s not nice and clean. However, it is good for the soul. It sanctifies. I confess, impatience is a besetting flaw in my character. The process of adopting our two sons pushed every impatient button in my body. Today I confess that is a good thing. Good for my character. Maybe more importantly, good for my future, since, for some reason, raising children and impatience are awe-inspiring bedfellows. Remember, Adoption is not for the faint of heart.
Display the gospel to everyone involved.
Be a salt-and-light Christian. When you engage in adoption, instantly you have an option to share the gospel, which in a peculiar way will require of you to be seasoned, graceful and kind. Jesus said to be “wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove.” Since it is an unnatural process (a mom and dad giving up their child) everyone involved is typically on edge. Picture the wedding day of a new bride times 10. Your sphere of influence will be massive – caseworkers, the agency, the home study, the birth parents and future grandparents and then add friends visiting the birth mother and family in the hospital. Most important, we must display the gospel in all of its self-denying grandeur. Remember this will require of you to die to yourself daily.
Pillow your head on God’s sovereignty.
The old English theologian and preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon used to say, “Pillow your head on the sovereignty of God.” It seems Spurgeon understood Proverbs 16:1-4,
The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.
We have to confess that my adoption plans and your adoption plans are in God’s hands. He directs them. And the results will accord with his will. In spite of the messiness God’s will prevails.
Get your theology in order.
Pre-determine not to get frustrated when the drama comes. Stability and rock solid faith will be required. Adopting is not for the faint of heart. You must strive to give “a soft answer because a soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov 15:1). Refuse to make your children – even your potential children – an idol. Be patient. Persevere. Although it sounds simplistic, trust God through the entire process. And to the fathers, we must lead throughout the process so that we bring theology to bear on the home and speak into the adoption process. Our wives crave and desire our leadership, especially in uncharted waters. Remember, genuine theology walks, not just talks.
Assess your family’s constitution.
Early on, you must have specific conversations addressing important questions about your family’s wherewithal to adopt. How far are you willing to go medically? What if your child is born addicted to cocaine? What if the child is handicapped? Quadriplegic? Are you willing to adopt a special needs-child? A bi-racial baby? How far you are willing to go needs to be predetermined so that at the moment of decision, you know where to stand. You need to evaluate your will, the will of your spouse, and the will of your other children.
Research your options.
There are a ton of options available to you. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses. You can pursue private adoption, foster care adoption, domestic adoption, international adoption or, in some cases, snowflake or embryo adoption. None are easy and all will require tremendous grace. Remember that all adoptions can be messy, so pursue the door God opens – the ideal on paper doesn’t always materialize.
Own the whole process.
If you’re thinking about adoption or you’re engaged in it currently, get your affairs in order. If you think buying a home has a lot of paperwork, just wait until you see the adoption process. As a general admonition, I should be able to go in your home and you take me to your single location and system where you have all your family documents, whether it’s in a safe or some kind of a notebook. All your personal affairs need to be in an easily accessible location and system, including insurance information, passport information, family history and adoption paperwork.
Pray like crazy.
You must be a family of prayer. Dependence upon Christ’s aid is crucial throughout the process. Prayer serves as a means of trusting the sovereignty of God. Robust theology drives us to prayer. When it comes to your adoption, the spiritual warfare will be intense; you don’t want to fight by mere physical means. You must be in prayer. Remember, godly men and leaders lead from their knees.
Go public with your intentions.
It’s what I call “making noise.” Private adoptions worked well for our family because I told everyone we’d take any baby and were eager to adopt. Tell everyone at your church that you’re interested in adopting. Inevitably, someone will know of someone who gets coupled with the sovereignty of God, and connect you with people – be a networker. Take advantage of social media to let people know you want to adopt. You’ll be surprised at how the Lord brings you a child.
Pursue good coaching.
One last time, adoption doesn’t fit in a neat little box. Proverbs 18:1 says that he who seeks his own way is a fool. You need a group of people around you who can give you advice and coaching. Seek out couples in your church that have adopted. They can share their experience with you and offer encouragement in the process. Also, dig deep into the growing number of resources available concerning adoption. Read everything you can get your hands on.
Dan Dumas is senior vice president for institutional administration at Southern Seminary. He is a church planter and pastor-teacher at Crossing Church in Louisville, Ky. You can connect with him on Twitter at @DanDumas, on Facebook or at DanDumas.com. This article originally appeared in A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care.
A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care
by Russell D. Moore, Ed.
The current adoption culture among Christians is a necessary and welcomed movement. Many people, however, don’t understand how the Bible directs and informs adoption. A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care, edited by Russell D. Moore, seeks to help adoptive parents and churches better think about and practice adoption.