Days ago my eyes rested on my 8 and 11-year-old sons wedged into a chair built for one, a book in each set of hands, and a fleece blanket over their collective lap. I smiled and thought to myself, “I cannot imagine those two without each other.” They share a room, are best friends, and know precisely how to provoke each other to the greatest heights of aggravation and hilarity. What most made me pause on that rainy Wednesday was the sudden realization that only God in His sovereignty could have put these two together. How else could a child, born in China and raised for two years in an orphanage, be snuggled into that chair in my family room with his American-born big brother? My throat tightens up just thinking about it.
But so often I don’t think about it at all. The more time that passes, the more I have settled into our family’s story, and it just feels normal to me. I have two Chinese children. I know I traveled to China twice to bring them home, but sometimes I can’t believe my husband and I really did that. It seems a lifetime ago, and we have all changed and grown so much. But then I look at those children who look nothing like me, but whom I love completely, and I know that indeed, God has woven adoption into the Williams family tapestry.
Recently I listened as my friend, also an adoptive mom, attempted to explain to friends from a middle-eastern culture how she came to have three Chinese children. It was very perplexing to them, as their culture does not have a paradigm for adoption. Neither did the Jewish culture of New Testament times. But Paul, a Roman citizen, recognized parallels between the Roman practice of adoption and God’s choosing us to join His family through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
In the books of Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, Paul paints a picture of believers as being chosen by God from the foundations of the world. Adoption in Rome was always a choice by the new father, and an adopted child was always a wanted child.
In love he predestined us for adoption
to himself as sons through Jesus Christ,
according to the purpose of his will…Ephesians 1:5
The act of Roman adoption was irrevocable, could not be undone. The adopted child became a permanent member of his new family with a new name and full rights as a son. Paul sought to give believers security by drawing the parallel that we, too, are permanent members of our new family. The Holy Spirit testifies to our new identity as a child of God, and it cannot be undone!
…the Spirit you received brought about
your adoption to sonship.
And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit
that we are God’s children.Romans 8:15-16
Where I struggle a bit with the adoption metaphor is that my being brought into God’s family is all good. It is miraculous and undeserved, and having a new heart and spirit put in me is what I am most thankful for in life. I am filled with awe when I reflect on my status as a beloved daughter of the King, and no part of me would ever want to go back to my old life. But my adopted children were brought into my family because of a tragic loss, and no matter how happy and loved they are with us, they are missing something precious and significant. I never want to minimize or forget that they had a life, however brief, with others who loved them too.
I don’t know the exact reasons my children’s first moms couldn’t keep them, but I know it had something to do with the brokenness of this world. When my daughter was four she asked, “If I didn’t come from your tummy, why am I in this family?” I don’t remember the answer I gave five years ago. I was caught off-guard, thinking I had more time before her young mind could articulate such big questions. But I know the answer I would give today: God is taking the broken things of this world and making something beautiful. I do not say this tritely. I say it in reverence for the mystery of God’s sovereignty in redeeming all things for His children’s good and His glory. The God who welcomed this broken sinner into His family and led her halfway across the world to her children, will also take the hard and broken parts of my children’s lives and redeem them, giving beauty for ashes.
Adoption puts God’s sovereignty on display in a tangible and beautiful way. I’m currently listening to my daughter chatter in her pretend play and she’s asking if she can give me a tour of the Lego Friends Glitz and Glam salon she built. Though it’s been eight years since we brought her home, I am having one of those misty-eyed moments when I marvel that she is here in my living room. Only God could have orchestrated all of the details that knit our unique family together, bringing us to this sweet, ordinary moment. He is a perfect Father.
Kara is the wife of 20+ years to Caleb and the mother of 5, including 2 through the miracle of adoption. She and her family live on 8 acres, raising cows, goats, chickens, and turkeys, as well as a large garden. She is passionate about hospitality, mothering, the intersection of farm life and faith, and finding beauty in the commonplace. She enjoys her classics book club, walking her country road, and traveling with her large family. She occasionally blogs at goodgiftsfarm.com, but you can keep up with her more regularly on Instagram @good_gifts_farm.