To my adopted brothers and sisters,
Russ Moore writes of the occasion when he and his wife adopted two boys from an orphanage in Russia.
“When Maria and I first walked into the orphanage, where we were led to the boys the Russian courts had picked out for us to adopt, we almost vomited in reaction to the stench and squalor of the place. The boys were in cribs in the dark lying in their own waste. Leaving them at the end of the day was painful, but leaving them the final day before going home to wait for the paperwork to go through was the hardest thing either of us had ever done. Walking out of the room, to prepare for the plane ride home, Maria and I could hear Maxim calling out for us and falling down and convulsing in tears.
“When Maria and I, at long last, received the call that the legal process was over, and we returned to Russia to pick up our new sons, we found that their transition from orphanage to family was more difficult than we had supposed. We dressed the boys in outfits our parents had brought for them. My mother-in-law gathered some wild flowers growing between cracks in the pavement outside the orphanage. We nodded our thanks to the orphanage personnel, and walked out into the sunlight, to the terror of the two boys. They had never seen the sun. They had never felt the wind. They had never heard the sound of a car door shutting, or the sensation of being carried along at one hundred miles-an-hour down a Russian road.
“I noticed that they were shaking, and reaching back to the orphanage in the distance. I whispered to Sergei, ‘… that place is a pit. If only you knew what is waiting for you: home with mummy and a daddy who love you, grandparents and great-grandparents and cousins and playmates, and McDonalds’ Happy Meals. But all they knew was the orphanage they had come from, and it was squalid. They had no other reference point.
“We knew the boys had acclimatised to our home—that they trusted us—when they stopped hiding food in their high chairs. They knew there would be another meal coming. They wouldn’t have to fight over scraps. This was the new norm …
"But I still remember those little hands reaching for the orphanage, and I see myself there.”
Adoption is a beautiful thing. At its best it originates in the in the heart of people who simply want to pour out love. It transforms the lives of the broken and vulnerable. And it is a reality that is offered to each of us. For God is an adopting God. This idea of adoption gives us the deepest insight into the nature of his love.
The apostle Paul wrote, 'But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law so that we might receive adoption as dearly loved children (Galatians 4:5-6). He didn’t only free us from guilt and condemnation; he has taken us to his heart. He didn’t just let you out of prison; he gave you a place in his family. He gave his Son to make you his son. You are his treasured possession. He delights over you with singing.
James Packer writes, ‘In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship—he establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater’. He also adds that the concept of adoption is the guarantee that God will not let you go, even when you let him down and fall into sin, ‘for only bad fathers throw their children out of the family, even under provocation; and God is not a bad father, but a good one’ (Packer).
Cast your mind back to the love that Russ and Maria Moore had for those two Russian boys—Max and Sergei. Do you realise that that is just a taster of the infinitely greater love that God wants us experience in him? Remember that it took time for the boys to realise that they were safe and accepted—to stop hiding food in their high-chairs. God wants us to realise our position as adopted children, and so he gives us the person of the Holy Spirit, so that we might cry out Abba, Father.
Jack Miller writes, ‘Unless you’re assured that God loves you, it’s pretty hard to do anything in the Christian life’. So why not pray a prayer that the apostle Paul gave to the Ephesians (and when you have prayed it for yourself, pray it for three other people you know:
'And may you have the power to understand, as a, God's people should, how wised, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God' (Ephesians 3:16-20, New Living Translation).
Your brother, Paul.