Transracial adoption: Is God’s leading enough?

Orphan CareIn a post two days ago, Dorothy Bode wrote in answer to those who ask the question, “Am I making a terrible mistake by adopting transracially?”:

The main thing I help them question is their motivations. “Is God building your family or are you trying to do it in spite of Him and in your own strength and wisdom” Outside of God, I think there are mistakes made in adoption plans. With him, I trust there are not.

The same basic question can be changed to cover many different adoption situations ā€” it can apply to children who are older, disabled, in foster care, abused or neglected. If our answer to the question is “Yes, we are following God’s lead and planning in this,” then we can rest in Him because he makes no mistakes.

Although I typically concur with Dorothy’s insights with a hearty yea-and-amen, in this case I felt like saying, “Yes, but…”

A quick email exchange with Dorothy (in which she read an earlier draft of this post) fleshed her comments out a bit. Essentially, she was warning against a “why not?” attitude towards adoption, which often leads to families’ wanting to reverse their decision once the adoption has taken place. Instead, families should have a “Go from God” attitude (more about that later in this post).

The question that the post originally raised in my mind (based on my initial and mistaken reading) was this: Is a family’s sense of God’s leading in their lives sufficient qualification for them to pursue adoption? Since this is an important question, I want to pursue it further, even though it isn’t want Dorothy had in mind.

This question interacts with other issues, most importantly (or at least most controversially), if God calls me to do something, does that mean I’m ready to do it?

A parallel case (in my mind) is the call to the ministry. “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” (1 Tim. 3:1). The desire God puts in a man’s heart to be a church elder is essential in discerning whether that man ought to be an elder. But it isn’t sufficient. After saying that the desire to be an overseer is good, Paul goes on give a list of qualifications (1 Tim. 3:2-7), the sort of things that take years of personal spiritual development and even (perhaps) some eduction (“able to teach”).

So if a man says, “God has called me to be an elder,” the first question to ask is whether he has a strong sense of God’s calling on his life. But then the church must examine the man to find out whether his character and preparation match his desire. If not, then perhaps additional education will be required, or perhaps more personal growth.

Likewise, if a family feels called by God to adopt (by transracial adoption or not), that subjective sense of calling is an important first step. In fact, it’s so important, that if a family isn’t confident that God is calling them to do it, then they should pull back and wait. No one should adopt because of a vague sense that it’s a good thing to do or because they heard a compelling sermon on adoption and they feel a sense of guilt about orphans.

However, that sense of calling must be accompanied by qualification. Can they afford it? (I don’t mean, can they afford to live a life of luxury. Adoption is possible on a very modest income. But adoption is foolish on no income.) Are they educating themselves about parenting (if they’ve never parented) and about issues unique to adoption? Do they have a stable and strong marriage that is absolutely prerequisite to adding more people to a family?

Naturally, no one is really qualified to be a parent. And it’s partly that sense of unworthiness that makes it essential for a family to be confident that God is calling them to expand their family. I think that’s exactly what Dorothy meant in her earlier post. But a sense of God’s calling is not enough. It must be accompanied — indeed, validated — by a family’s own grace-empowered efforts to grow personally and relationally and to educate themselves.

So in response to Dorothy’s post (which was helpfully succinct, unlike mine!), instead of saying “Yes, but…”, let me say, “Yes, and…”

2 Comments

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  1. Thanks Josh – good expansion on my earlier weak post!


  2. To the point of Dorothy’s original post, although it is true that one should not be foolish and ignore external circumstances in building a family through adoption (such as adopting into an unstable family situation or the inability to provide basic necessities), we must also trust God’s leading. An esteemed physician once indicated that he would hate to see my family pursue adoption instead of plowing down the medical road leading (presumably) to building a biological family, only to regret the decision years later and realize that a mistake had been made. I soon realized that if God is leading one to pursue adoption (or a transracial or special needs adoption) and the external circumstances don’t seem to indicate otherwise, we must trust that he is faithful to follow it through.

    Horizontal adoption is a reflection of God’s adoption of His people (albeit meager). Veritical adoption is tied to a covenant relationship between God and his people and to their families (Genesis 17). In light of God’s pursuit of adoption and His covenant with His children, and following by living in the content of that covenant and its implications, I can’t imagine waking up one day to realize that a mistake had been made.

    Oh, and Josh, that “helpfully succinct” virtue escapes me too!