Two weeks ago Les and I were privileged to attend an adoption finalization court hearing. It’s the third one we’ve attended in the last year and a half for families in our church. It was so powerful that afterwards I posted this on Facebook:
I really do love adoption. It’s changed our lives. We adopted. Our daughter adopted. Our nephew is adopted.
The Sunday after the adoption, the mother thanked our church for praying during the entire process that led to this new family being formed. And she asked us to keep praying.
“Adoption is not once and done,” she said.
How true it is.
Yes, their son’s adoption is final. But the ramifications will last forever.
As her son grows there will be many interactions over this fact of his life. It’s an open adoption, so there will be visits. The relationship between his birth mother and the adoptive parents she chose is already a good one. And yet I imagine that for this growing child there will still be times of wondering and wishing and anger. And so we keep praying.
The adoptions in our family all involved kids who were older and who were removed from their birth parents for various reasons. The hardest thing I had to face about adoption was that no matter how dysfunctional a birth family might be, some children are desperate to get back to that family. You can explain why they were not safe there, you can attempt to prove that their parents abused them or ignored their needs, and you can remind them about how thrilled they were to become part of your family.
And they can still make the foolish decision to turn their backs on your family and attempt to reunite with their birth family. And it can break your heart—and eventually theirs.
As I thought about the process, the “not once and done” comment of my friend, it occurred to me that the same is true in our adoption into God’s family. As Ephesians tells us:
Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. (Ephesians 1:4–6, The Message)
Our adoption is also finalized. We’ve moved from darkness to light in a new “forever family” with the perfect Father (Ephesians 5:8). And yet sometimes (too often, actually), we head back to the darkness, to the slavery and abuse of our “birth” family. We crave what the family of darkness offers us, the freedom to sin. And it will destroy us.
And the Father waits for us to realize it was a foolish move. He watches for us to return to our forever family like the father in the parable of the prodigal son story.
When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. … “We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!” (Luke 15:20–24)
And so we keep praying—for ourselves, for our families, for our friends. Because the process is “not once and done.”