the theology of adoption: the needy and the needed

November is National Adoption month. There has been a plethora of sources and blog posts daily on my Facebook news feed. Huffpost, among others, has been diving headfirst into the fray with their series, trying to be balanced in their opinions, but mostly being conservative, as expected. What makes me saddest, is the total lack of evangelical voices. Not the ones who like to paint everything with sugar and roses, but the ones who take a big step back. Christians MUST think about adoption. Christians, who are pursuing the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ DO think about adoption daily. Here’s some of what I mean.

If a Christian adoptee is having struggles with bitterness, chances are she has struggles with Christianity as a concept. But it probably isn’t her fault. It may be a result of poor communication from other Christians who are largely ignorant of adoption as a concept.

Adoption language is used over and over in the Bible as a picture of what has happened to God’s people – not belonging and then made to belong. Not being part of God’s family, through our own choices and the sin of the world, but brought into the family through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a legal transaction of sorts that officially recognizes us as God’s own. We just have to admit that this is what we need.

But no one wants to be needy and receive help. It is becoming all too common in our culture today to vilify someone who wants to help and victimize someone who needs it, or vice versa depending on the context. We aren’t good at creating an equality between those who have and those who have not, because we have a hard time actually seeing them as equal in any way. Christians should know better, though too many of us seem to try to prove otherwise. True believers know that it is not a dichotomy of haves/have nots – humans aren’t divided into two columns of “needy” and “needed” – but rather a human race filled with needs of all kinds, and that we are all seen as the same in the eyes of God. We are all fallen. We are all in need. We all desperately try to meet our own needs in various unhealthy ways, or ways that appear healthy but easily shift to become destructive and damaging to ourselves and anyone caught in our paths.

The truth of the Gospel tells us that none of us are worthy of the grace we have been given, and that none of us can earn it. We depend on Another. “Upon a life I did not live/ Upon a death I did not die/ Another’s life, another’s death/ I stake my whole eternity.” (Horatius Bonar) This is a fundamental truth of the good news.

The problem, and this is where the adoption discourse rams heads with the gospel, is that we must first confess our need of saving. It is the last thing we want to do. Until it is the last thing we can do. The notion of “needing” to be saved is much of what’s behind adult adoptees’ resentment. It’s the story we’ve been told our whole lives. We were born into an unfortunate, maybe dangerous, situation and we were headed for a certain doom if all remained the same. We needed some miracle which came in the form of our adoptive parents and aren’t we lucky to have them? Now be grateful and keep your mouth shut when you’re feeling otherwise.

Of course we are going to be resentful of this. Of course it is more complex and massive amounts of back story gets lost in the middle of the dichotomy of good (white) folk adopting needy (sometimes “colored”) children. Even if we never come to know the truth in our origin stories, we have heard enough origin stories to know that things are often not that clear. And our resentment builds, if we let it.

I don’t let it. And it is only because of what I DO know.

I DO know I can’t change it. Avengers movies and time continuum theories aside, there are no alternate realities and there are no time machines and even if there were I’m not sure I would change anything. There are many reasons for this – my husband and my children the most prominent, and really only necessary one.

I DO know with my whole heart is that I have been made a Daughter of the King, a joint heir with Jesus, a Kingdom Dweller, and that this is by adoption. I DO have first hand experience with the complexities of such an adoption all my life and, because of that, I have a much fuller and more personal picture than those who have not had this experience. I DO know that I would not trade that. Not for all the tears I have shed, all the rage that has flowed, all the sadness that has weighed me down into a darkness deep as death.

It is said that you just don’t know what you don’t know. Until someone tells you. I am telling you what I know. I am telling you that you can know this too. I am telling you that you will always cling to something and that you get to decide what that is. But know this, that thing will cling back to you. It will adopt you as its own, just as you adopt it. What I know is that the One who has adopted me and called me His own has given me the very riches of the kingdom and nothing will shake it. I also know that I am both needy AND needed, that the kingdom was designed for me, to give, and to take, freely.

For me, the resentment only lessens as I look to the cross. I look to the life that Jesus lived, how he took on himself a family – a real life human family, with all their flaws and parenting fails – and he subjected himself to the cruelty of humanity. For what? For me. So for me, I cannot hold a building resentment in my heart because as I think more and grow up more I discover a longing for exactly what Jesus gives us – a family. An eternal home. A place to hang your hat (and gloves and boots and balaclava if you live in Montana). We are given so very much through the Gospel, and I am a fool to have ever turned it down. The riches of the Kingdom. A place at the table. For all time. I need this. I am needed here. All because of Jesus. I will stand one day before His very body, see the scars, fall into His arms, and He will call me His own. His sister. His daughter. His princess. His saint. Titles I could never earn. Titles I don’t deserve, but given because I have run to Him and put all my hope in Him.

Now, all this is not to say that all adoptions are this beautiful picture of family and the grace of God. Clearly not true. And the way that we talk about adoption, especially in Christian circles, can be painfully revealing of how we think of each other – both sides of the aisle, so to speak, those who carelessly affirm all adoptions as Godly (and that adoptees should just be happy and not suffer decades of identity crises and abandonment issues) and those who are staunchly against all adoptions (i.e. referring to it as kidnapping and such). As per usual, there is a balance in the middle somewhere and most of us need to move over on the spectrum in some way.

The next post will give some bullet points as to how to hear and talk about adoption and adoptee stories. So even if you don’t agree with all the above, you may find that the things you do agree with me on circle back to my faith. It’s been a long journey for me, and it will continue to be a learning experience until the day Jesus comes or calls me home…



  1. Reblogged this on Christian Mommas and commented:
    There are no words to describe how excited I was to reblog this post today. Robin urges Christians to think about Adoption. Since we were adopted into the family of God, we should extend the love and opportunity God has given us to children in need of a home. We can start by giving to orphanages but we can go beyond that and give those children a family, a home. James 1:27 says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Perhaps, some of us are scared to bring a child with a history of trauma into our homes. We must look beyond that and see these children how God sees them. These children can experience a new life, their stories can be re-written when love is poured into them. My dear friends, think about adoption! Enjoy Robin’s inspirational post! Stay blessed.

  2. Wow. Love your passion for this. Truly, adoption is something I look forward to. And having to go all out for these ones touches God’s heart even more “we are not obligated to them but then because of the love we feel in our heart that was shed abroad in our hearts through Christ Jesus in us, we also let that Love flow to them”.

    Love this!. 💯

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