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The God who adopts

March 24, 2020 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

Flash back with me to November of 2008. Our youngest son, Nate, was three months old. Ryan and Will, our two oldest boys, were three and two years old. I was two years into pastoring NewLife, and my wife Michele was working as she was able to help make ends meet. Naturally, Michele told me that she thought that the time was right for us to go through training to become licensed foster and adoptive parents through the state of Connecticut.

Over eleven years later, we have had the privilege of providing a temporary home for hundreds of children in the foster care system. There have been babies who cried all the night and teenagers who stayed in their room all day. There have been sibling groups who spent the weekend and older girls who stayed three months. There have been boys who have bounced from home to home for as long as they can remember, and girls who were removed from their home in the middle of the night and ended up on our doorstep. There have been two who have remained a part of our lives to this day, and many others who came and went, never to be heard from again.

Every time a child is dropped off at our house, DCF gives us a packet of information about the child. Over the years, we have seen it all on that paper: physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Children who have been neglected, lived in group homes most of their lives, or never even met their own parents. Kids who have started fires, robbed stores, witnessed murders, and gotten pregnant. Out of a desire to love, we have knowingly opened our home to a number of influences and experiences that we hope our children will never go through themselves.

Needless to say, foster care and adoption are not for everyone. This ministry has certainly disrupted our lives regularly over the past ten plus years. Our children have learned to give up their rooms, and sometimes their clothes, when needed. We have needed to communicate with numerous social workers, some dedicated and understanding, others burnt out or callous. And we have had to repeatedly adjust our plans to make sure that we meet the needs of someone who 24 hours earlier was just a stranger to us.

In the end, however, this journey has been an opportunity for our family to show the love of Jesus to many children, even if it is just for a night or a weekend. I have had the privilege of watching my wife do one of the things she does best: build up hurting kids by knowing when to listen, when to encourage, when to challenge, when to leave them alone, when to advocate for them, when to take them shopping and when to throw them a party. And, just as importantly, to know when it is best to say no, to move a child on to another home, to regroup and care for our own four boys.

One of the central but often overlooked aspects of our salvation is that when we put our faith in Jesus, God the Father adopts us into His family. On the cross, Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” as the Father turned His face away from His beloved Son. But Jesus’ loss was our gain, as by His death, He has taken away our alienation and given us the gift of adoption: Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)

Because of Jesus’ death for us, we can relate to God as our good and loving Father. And because of Jesus’ resurrection, we know that we will inherit, along with Him, all that is the Father’s, when we are with Him forever.

Adoption is at the heart of the gospel. God the Father not only risked the safety of His family but allowed His Son to be violently and unjustly killed in order that we might be adopted as his children. God-willing, our children will never experience anything like that. But we know that our goal in life is not safety, not to protect our children in a safe little bubble from the cruel world. Our goal in life is to follow Jesus and to love like Him, and that means being willing to sacrifice and suffer for the sake of others, however He leads.

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