Adoration of Adoption
November, for those unaware, is National Adoption Month. For many American’s, adoption has transformed lives in many powerful ways. And for those of us who know the Lord, adoption is certainly one of the most powerful realities true about us today. In fact, J.I. Packer goes so far as to say that his summary answer to the question ‘What is a Christian?” is that a Christian “is one who ahs God as Father.”
I wouldn’t be who I was today were it not for adoption. My dad was adopted, and thus my understanding of family is shaped by my contemplation of this powerful phenomenon by which the full-fledged embrace of family can actually expand beyond the barriers of bloodlines.
But most recently, I have been brought to meditating on adoption because of the newest addition to my extended family- Abigail Joy Gish. Meet Abby. Abigail Joy Gish. The newest member of the Gish Family.
For a year and a half, my Aunt and Uncle heroically pursued the adoption of a five year old girl from China. Such a target was somewhat unusual, as 81.2% of all adoptions in California for the past decade were of children under the age of five. But what really makes this story appalling: their target was for a five year old girl with severe Cerebral Palsy. As my family knew before hand- but came to experience in ways much more vivid- chances for life are drastically different for those born in other parts of the world than they are for those blessed to be born in the developed world. For a girl like Abby, born without any muscle control of her body, her limbs twisted and clubbed in awkward contortion due to her neuro-muscular disorder- you can imagine her chances in a Darwinian society. After three and a half years of life in a state run orphanage surviving off of rice formula , Abby received care from state workers with diligent hearts, but scare resources. However, through circumstances that so clearly seem to be arranged by God himself , Abby was rescued, and taken into care by a missionary family and their indigenous Chinese ministry partners. After a year and a half of bureaucratic miracles that only God could wrought, my family arrived back on California soil in April of 2011 with our new member of the family in arms.
Now, why a child with such challenges? Well, this wouldn’t be the first child with severe physical limitations that my Aunt and Uncle could call their own. Bryson, my oldest cousin, was himself born with Cerebral Palsy. For the last twenty-two years, their lives as parents have been filled with the physical stresses and pains- of raising their beloved child while many times watching the physical suffering and frustrations Bryson has had to endure. Yet today, after decades of therapy, some intensive surgeries, and above all prayer, Bryson is nearing the completion of his first college degree, avidly involved in the sound and technology ministry at church, and an emerging fan of pick-up 4-wheeling/ off-roading. However, his life is still filled with major challenges that most of us will never get close to facing.
So, why would an American family, people in the country inoculated with the pursuit of opportunity, self-interest, consumerism, and individualism…want to take on the magnanimously life-restricting challenge of adopting an child with severe CP? From the Utilitarian and Darwinian perspective held by many in Abby’s birth land, she is about as undesirable as they come. What chance does a girl who can barely crawl and move herself have in being a competitive contributor in an exploding economy? She cannot speak a single word. Outside of crawling, clutching (she actually has a powerful vice grip) and crying, her condition leaves her hardly any additional tools to try to communicate and contribute to the world around you. She cannot care for her own hygienic needs. Yet, through loving care of the missionary family she learned to love others and care about the world around her. Now in our home she is getting therapy to reach her highest potential. What a humbling picture of need… transformed into a beautiful canvass of hope.
But the question that each of us really needs to be asking is “who would want us?” As destitute and pitiable as Abby’s medical condition renders her, the distance between Abby and a professional athlete, or a powerful lawyer, or supermodel celebrity… on the continuum of human ability and status, is infinitely smaller than the chasm that separates us from being worthy of the family of God. In comparison to the unimaginable glory and holiness and power and worth of God, we are all woefully pitiful, wicked, and sinful. Isa 64:6 explains that in comparison, we are all unclean, and that even our righteous acts are actually as putrid as menstrual rags when juxtaposed to the righteousness of God. Why would God want us? Why would he, of all things, want to bring these kinds of creatures into the hold of his family?
Although I also am so delighted to love and embrace Abby as a part of our family, honestly my roll in her adoption has primarily been that of an observer. I hear of see the tears of joy that trickle down my aunt’s face when she holds and talks about finding her baby girl on the other side of the world. As an observer, I can’t help but have my heart stirred by the limitless sacrifice of love poured out from my aunt and uncle and cousins upon the adopted one. Personally, this Thanksgiving, I look forward to really spending time with her myself, to be able to testify to the labor and sacrifice invested in caring for her, and creating opportunities for her to change for a brighter tomorrow.
At first, all this change was confusing to Abby, and she did not know how to respond to it. Sometimes this confusion brought resistance to change. However, with time, Abby has begun to understand how the immense patience required in therapy, as frustrating as it can be, is helping her, and is beginning to show an interest in improving her life.
How similar does this sound… to us? Either as newborn babes in Christ, or even older “mature” ones, how often do we kick, twist, and wrestle from the seemingly strange and bewildering ways in which God is exercising our circumstances, through His sovereignty, to heal us, and to conform us to the image of His Son? And as seen in this human example, how beautiful is the unending and mighty love of our Father, especially when grace is meet with resistance complaints and weakness.
This bewildering, arduous love has ingrained a vivid picture in my mind that depicts both the gap between my unworthiness, and God’s perfection, and the mystery of His electing love. “How much more…” I think, “how much more revolutionary must be the love that God had to chose me? To elect me? To adopt…me?”
Today, my point is this- the believer’s adoption in to the family of God is nothing short of a miracle. Our adoption, like the great geographic and social distance traveled by Abby from an orphanage in China to a home in America, brings us a long, LONG way from a habitat of darkness, to a heavenly home.
Our separation was great. Our distance from God immeasurable. Yet, through adoption, we are not simply brought slightly closer. We are clutched near. We have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph 2:13), so near that we are now made one with the divine family itself, a privilege the angels do not even have, yet yearn to look into. Perhaps in our own meditations upon our salvation, we often take time to think of what it is that we have been saved from- and this we should. And when we do this, its important to praise God not only from the quality of the punishment from which we were delivered (ge,nnan, gnashing of teeth, etc), but also the distance. We have been transferred from a kingdom of darkness to a kingdom of his beloved son (Col 1:13). Considering the poverty and suffering of Abby’s previous condition, in contrast to the abundance of love and life she has with her family today, and the 5,000 miles of ocean, passports, visas, cultures and languages to get there…Abby moved a great deal. But how much more so have we been moved.
This vast distance transfer is one beyond our ability. As Jesus tries to teach his disciples in their appalled depression, wondering who could possibly be worthy to enter the Kingdom, “with man, it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mk 10:27).
Sometime, a fresh picture that reminds us of the distance Christ has covered makes the intimacy we taste today that much sweeter. What a precious promise it is, that “all who received him, to those who believed in his name, He have the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
 J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 200.
 For more information about this neuro-muscular disorder, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001734/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerebral_palsy (yes, sorry, wikipedia)