27 years ago today, my family picked me up from JFK airport and officially adopted me into their lives as their daughter, sister, niece, and granddaughter. I was seven months old, fresh off the plane, and as ready as a baby can be for a new language, new family, and new life. For most of my life, I have celebrated my adoption day as a day of joy, rewatching home movies, and celebrating with my family. But today, I woke up a little shaken, not as ready to celebrate.
Don’t get me wrong. I am beyond grateful for my family and the many ways God provided for me during the first year of my life. But I have to be honest with myself when I find myself struggling as an adoptee. I have to remind myself that adoption exists because brokenness exists, because of cracks in the perfect system God originally designed. Had the world not experienced the Fall, I don’t think adoption would have to exist. But because the world is fallen, we experience separation from God, separation from the world, and separation from each other.
Many compare my adoption to the adoption we all receive into the family of God. And it’s true, there are similarities. I was adopted because of a broken situation; we all are adopted by God because of a broken humanity. We experience adoption into the family of God because we are born apart from God. There is no adoption without first separation. There is no redemption without first brokenness. There is no resurrection without first crucifixion.
But the difference between earthly adoption and heavenly adoption is significant and often overlooked. With my adoption, I was separated from my birth family, my heritage, and my country of origin. With spiritual adoption, we are separated from sin and our old life. When my adoption gets compared to spiritual adoption, it subconsciously teaches me that my old life is bad. Everything associated with my life before January 21, 1988 is bad – my heritage and home country and even my race should be completely left behind so I can fully embrace the new life. The metaphor can even be stretched to tell me that I should be praying to God, asking him to remove my sinful yearnings for my old life. I mean, I was rescued out of the pits, people! Who would ever want to go back there?
The truth is, most people who have made that reference are well-meaning and hoping to relate to me in some way. “You’ve been adopted, me too! We are all adopted in the family of God! Isn’t it amazing?” And yes, it is amazing. It is a gift. But while there are similarities between the two adoption narratives, the metaphor is not consistent, and therefore not always helpful.
I don’t have the answers. I don’t have any solutions. I’ve really only just begun processing my adoption story and its impact on my life and ministry. But what I do know is that I serve an amazing God who loves me completely. I know that I have a loving family who calls me their own. I know that I have been called to a lifelong journey of partnering with Jesus in his mission to bring full restoration to a broken world. And I know that brokenness is not fixed easily and that it takes a lot of time, effort, and intentionality. May I be a person who takes the time, who puts in the effort, and who lives intentionally for the glory of His Kingdom.