The Generational Effects of Adoption
When I was nine years old, I learned that the man I had grown up knowing as Dad was actually not my biological father. While this naturally produced many questions in me, it certainly answered one that had always confused me: Why do I look nothing like my dad? Now I knew why.
I learned that when I was an infant, my mom married my dad, and by the age of two he had adopted me and my older sister as his own. He changed my first, middle and last names, raised me, loved me, disciplined me, provided for me and reoriented the trajectory of my life forever. In choosing to marry my mom, he also chose to marry himself to me - willingly embracing the broken story I came from and believing a newer and greater one was in store - one that was fueled by the person of Jesus and was bound up in God's sovereign plan for my life. A very different trajectory than the one I was born into.
You name the vice, and my biological father excelled in it. His actions bore destruction and brokenness, ultimately putting my mom in the difficult position of being on her own with two young children. This is not meant to dishonor or disparage him, but to merely give context. I am grateful for the story I have - all parts of it - even the bad ones I have no recollection of but have been significantly impacted by throughout my life.
It was some time later that my dad would enter the picture - a quiet, humble man, a follower of Jesus and eventually a full-time vocational pastor. In taking my mom's hand in marriage he took mine as well, and in no uncertain terms declared that things would be different from here on out. And they were.
There's been several times throughout my life where I've found myself pausing and considering - Where would I be right now had my dad not interceded in my life? On this mission trip? At the altar with this girl? In this hospital watching my babies being born? What would I be doing right now had he never stepped in? Would the behavioral patterns of the context I was born into continued to perpetuate themselves from one generation into the next - mine?
My dad effectively interceded into one story and began to write a new one - one that does not end with him marrying my mom; nor does it end with him adopting me over 30 years ago. Rather, the new trajectory he set into motion will carry on for generations to come - my kids benefit today, and their kids will continue to benefit over 30 years from now. For that, he is a hero to me.
Not long ago, my wife and I were brought into a deliberation room with the biological mother of the baby girl we were fostering. Case workers and lawyers filled the room. The decision before her was clear but painstakingly difficult - either stand before the judge and have her parental rights forcibly terminated or willingly relinquish them by signing the papers that rested in front of her. She had no way out. The demons in her life she could not get out from under were too deep and destructive. There was no way she was leaving that courthouse with her rights intact. The rock-and- hard place she found herself between was real and right and just, but still overwhelmingly emotional. Through her sobbing she asked to speak with us. As we stood with her, she had two simple questions that will stick with us forever: Do you love my baby girl? Yes, since the moment we first saw her. Will you make sure she knows I love her too? Absolutely. It's our honor to have that opportunity.
With that, she signed the papers, and legally committed her baby into our care while effectively putting an end to the generational cycles she was raised in and which continued to be perpetuated through her. In that moment, she determined that what her life had been plagued by would end with her. Things would be different from here on out. Her baby would be given a new opportunity, a new trajectory, a new hope -- and even a new name. Unbelievably difficult. Amazingly noble. In that moment she was this baby girl's biggest hero.
A day does not pass when I do not look at this little girl who has now become our daughter and wonder how different her life would look -What would she be doing right now had she continued to be raised in the context in which she was born? I watch her on vacation at the beach playing in the sand, on the floor with our daughters playing house, sleeping comfortably in her crib with a full belly and her favorite pacifier and I'm forced to wonder - What would her life look like? Would the pattern of addiction and brokenness eventually continued to perpetuate itself from one generation into hers had she not become a part of our family? What would she be doing, where would she be sleeping, right now?
OUR STORY IN JESUS
In all of this - the process my dad went through to make me his and the one we have gone through to call this baby girl ours, the pain she and I have both been spared and the new identities and trajectories on life we have been offered - in all of this I'm compelled to consider the similar privileges we receive through God's adoption of us in Jesus.
Where would I be, what would I be doing right now had Jesus not intervened on my behalf?
I'm reminded of the process He went through to make me His own, the pain He endured and that I was spared in His rescue of me and the new trajectory of hope and identity He has offered through His finished work on my behalf. The Gospel, like adoption, is a multi-generational story of redemption. It breaks our past cycles, forms our new realities and offers us a future hope unburdened by the broken contexts from which we originated. He changes our names. He gives us new identities. He grants us the rights and privileges of being His sons and daughters. He secures our futures and changes the trajectory of our lives forever. Because of Jesus, everything is different from here on out.
The old is gone; the new has come. This is the Gospel, the story of our adoption into a new family - one in which rhythms of the past have been interrupted by new and greater ones for all eternity in Jesus.
To the extent that my life has been changed by adoption, our baby girl's life has been changed by adoption, our family's life has been changed by adoption and, if you are a follower of Christ, then yours too has been radically reoriented through your adoption in Jesus - it is to this extent that we must intercede on behalf of marginalized, neglected and orphaned children and help rewrite a future story of hope unburdened by past cycles of brokenness. Adoption, like the gospel, is a multi-generational story of redemption. Just as we have been forever changed in Jesus so too we can forever change the lives of these kids...and their kids...and their kids...and their kids...for generations to come.