Joel D. Fick
Have you ever had one of those "ah ha" moments while reading the Bible? Perhaps you were reading a passage you had read many times before, but this time it was different. This time some aspect of God's word was so indelibly impressed upon your mind that what was once only informative suddenly became transformative as you heard "the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture" (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.10). I recently had such an experience.
Before I reveal what was so impressed upon my heart that day, let me back up and provide some context. For several months, my wife and I had been giving serious consideration to pursuing special-needs adoption. The idea of adoption had always been in our hearts, but when a providential conversation raised the question of whether we might ever consider adopting a child with Down syndrome (DS), the idea began to sprout into desire. That conversation prompted my wife to begin investigating special-needs adoption.
What we discovered broke our hearts. With the advent of prenatal screening for DS, nearly 95 percent of children who are diagnosed with DS in the womb are aborted. Besides being horrific, this also meant that there were relatively few orphans with DS available for domestic adoption. At the same time, we discovered that there were many orphans with DS throughout the world for whom their disability was a virtual death sentence. Along the way we discovered Reece's Rainbow, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the adoption of children with DS, and through Reece's Rainbow we were brought face-to-face with truly unwanted children in great need.
The idea which had sprouted in desire grew into a goal. In pursuit of that goal, Marianne and I outlined a five-year plan to prepare ourselves to adopt. In the meantime, we began to support Reece's Rainbow and pray for particular orphans during our times of family worship. Our three biological boys would each pray for a different orphan by name, but the prayer was always that the Lord would provide these children with loving Christian families. It was so encouraging to hear our kids praying earnestly for these other children and to see them rejoicing when God answered their prayers. God was working in their hearts, teaching them to care for those in need.
Little did we know that God was about to take our five-year plan and turn it into a six-month plan. It all began when we discovered that one of the little girls for whom we had prayed had been "relisted." That meant that she had lost her committed family. We read with sadness about the circumstances that required her family to withdraw their commitment. But in their desire to see her adopted, they left her with a sizable grant. We wondered if the Lord was opening a door for our family to adopt her. We decided to go ahead and inquire about this little girl. Her name was Darya.
This brings me back to my "ah ha" moment. It occurred on the very day we committed to adopt Darya—indeed, it was the catalyst for the final decision. I had been laboring over the decision for some time. My wife had told me that she was ready to commit, but was willing to submit ungrudgingly to my final decision. It had all unfolded so quickly, and now that it came right down to it, I was having second thoughts. I began to weigh the costs, and the costs just seemed to pile up. There were the immediate monetary costs, time costs, and the emotional costs of leaving our children for four to six weeks. But there were long-term costs as well. Raising a child with DS meant that we might never have an empty nest. Besides that, there was the distinct possibility that our adopted daughter might outlive us and would need the care of one of her brothers. Was it right to put that responsibility on them? These were the kinds of questions I was considering.
When I sat down that morning, I was hoping that my studies would divert my attention, but that's when I had my "ah ha" moment. I had read Ephesians 1 countless times before, but had never before noticed the way in which Paul sets the clause "In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ" (vss. 4–5) in parallel with the clause "In him we have redemption through his blood" (vs. 7). That was it. That was my "ah ha" moment! "Adoption is redemption," I thought to myself, "and redemption is costly" (Ps. 49:8).
In searching the Scriptures, I became increasingly convinced of this fundamental point. Israel's redemption from slavery is called her adoption (Rom. 9:4; cf. Ex. 4:22–23). God's command to Israel to care for the fatherless was grounded in her redemption (Deut. 10:17–19; 24:17–22; Ps. 68:5). Likewise, the church's redemption from her bondage to sin and the law is her adoption (Eph. 1:5–7; Gal. 4:4–5) and the basis for her continued care for orphans (Jas. 1:27). We have already received the Spirit of adoption as the guarantee of our heavenly inheritance (Eph. 1:13–14), by which we cry, "Abba! Father!" (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6), for Jesus will not leave us as orphans (John 14:16–18). We do not yet enjoy the fullness of that inheritance, but we "wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8:23).
I also found this fundamental point reflected in our standards. Question 34 of the Shorter Catechism asks, "What is adoption?" The answer is, "Adoption is an act of God's free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God." On the surface, this might not seem to reflect the fundamental point I am making, but it does in the context of the preceding questions. Adoption is one of the primary benefits of effectual calling (Q. 32), and effectual calling is the way in which "the Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ" (Q. 30), which had the great cost of his humiliation (Q. 27) and his "once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice" (Q. 25). Adoption is redemption, and redemption is costly. And yet, costly as it is, our heavenly Father's adoption of us is "according to the good pleasure of his will" (Eph. 1:5 KJV).
Later that day, when we officially made the decision to adopt our daughter Darya, it was made in accordance with the good pleasure of our will, and it didn't seem all that costly in comparison to God's adoption of us. Adoption is just one of the ways in which Christian families can reflect the gospel in their own lives as they care for the needs of the fatherless.
The author is pastor of Redemption OPC in Gainesville, Fla. Unless otherwise indicated, he quotes the ESV. New Horizons, January, 2011.