Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: adoption

Adopted

I remember the last time my father blew up at me. He was 80, I was 30 and it was the same tirade that I had heard so many times before during my 30 years. I knew there was no use trying to argue, change the subject or yell back at him. He was not in control of himself at moments like this and any resistance would just aggravate him further. I just waited patiently for the storm to blow itself out.

I had become a Christian two years earlier and when the blast was over I found a quiet place to pray. “Oh God,” I asked, “why couldn’t I have had a better father?”

The answer was immediate: “But you do, you have a perfect father.” I have clung to that ever since.

This is what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 8:15: “ For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”

My father sank into dementia not long after that, and soon he didn’t even know me. He was 50 when I was born, after all. I really think he meant well, but he simply didn’t know how to cope with starting a family at that age. Our heavenly Father does not have that problem. Even when we stray from Him and suffer the consequences, He does not drive us farther away, but calls us back.

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A series of coincidences?

We wanted to have children – and definitely more than one. I was an only child and my wife had been raised as an only child by her aunt and uncle. We didn’t think that was the ideal way to grow up.

We had been married less than a year when another young couple from the church we were attending mentioned that they were planning to adopt. We had never thought of adopting before, but the idea became more and more interesting as we talked about it. We contacted the agency and were invited to take part in a series of evening meetings for those preparing for adoption.

In my mind, adoption was about finding a child who would match the parents who wanted to adopt. I was wrong. We were told that it is natural for children in a family to differ considerably in looks and personalities. We were also told that the less we knew about the background of a child the better things would work. If we know too much about the personalities of parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, we would look for signs of that in the adoptive child. “This is your child,” we were told.

We have seen the wisdom of that in later years. Some mothers knew way too much about the background of their adoptive children and never tired of talking about it.  I could see in the eyes of the children that it was not healthy to hear constant reminders that they were misfits in this family. That was never the mother’s intention, of course, but it had that effect.

After the series of meetings, we were given the application form to complete. Most of it was straightforward questions about ourselves and our ability to provide for a child. But one question gave us pause. “Are you willing to accept a child of another race?” Several options were given, other races, mixed-race, pure white, no preference. We talked about it, prayed about it, and the only thing that felt right was to check the no preference box.

The application was accepted, a social worker came to visit our home, we began to gather the things we would need, thinking we had lots of time to get ready.  We never guessed that checking the no preference box moved us to the top of the waiting list. A call came just two weeks after the home visit saying that a baby girl was available.

We drove to the city where the agency office was located, were led into a private room and soon left alone with a 15-day old girl. She slept, we looked at her, took turns holding her, and when the worker came back she would have had to pry that baby away from us.

We signed some more papers and drove home with the baby sleeping peacefully on the seat between us. This was long before child car seats; cars back then didn’t even have seatbelts for the adults. Cars had bench seats, not bucket seats. We used a clothes hamper, they were smaller then than they are now, put a blanket on the bottom for a cushion, placed the baby on top of that, another blanket on top, and drove home.

That was almost 45 years ago. We never had any other children. Our daughter had an advantage that we did not have – we were part of a close-knit church family with many other children her age.I’m sure the influence of her friends’ parents had a tremendous impact on her becoming the fine young woman that she became.

Now, we don’t just have a daughter, we also have a fine Christian son-in-law and four wonderful grandchildren. Was it all a series of coincidences, chance happenings and pure dumb luck? I don’t believe that. I believe God was there every step of the way, opening doors and nudging us toward them.

Really Simple Theology

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure,
having this seal,
The Lord knoweth them that are his.
And,
Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

Here in 2 Timothy 2:19 the Apostle Paul gives the ground rules for discerning whether or not I am a Christian.

The first rule is that salvation is not a one-sided transaction – it is not enough to say that I know God and that from now on I will be a Chriustian. The real question is “Does God know me?” Jesus warned that at the judgment there will be many who claim that they know Him and did many wonderful things in service to Him, yet He will reply “I never knew you.”

God calls, I respond, and if God sees that I have responded with all my heart, no reservations, he adopts me as His child. We will know when this happens. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). “And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John 3:24).

The second rule is that I cannot go on living as I did before. “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:27). “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him” (1 John 2:9-10) .

Theology can quickly become very complex, and sometimes it is merely an intellectual exercise that offers no real help in showing us how to truly live as a Christian. But if I have the Holy Spirit within me and love my neighnour as myself, I will not want to steal, lie, cheat or hurt anyone. Why make it more complicated than that?

Adopting and being adopted

Chris and I began to consider adoption about a year after we were married.  All we had ever known about adopting involved matching prospective parents with a child who most closely matched their interests and background.  Thus, when we began the application process we were expecting some kind of extensive background check.

We soon found out that this Children’s Aid Society had a different approach.  The first two points of their adoption policy stated: (1) To see himself as the adopting parent’s own child, as belonging to them, as being one of their family is basic to the child’s security and happiness.  (2) The key to the child’s sense of belonging is parents seeing themselves as his parents and him as their child.

To this end, they informed us that it was best if adoptive parents knew as little as possible about the backgrounds of the child they would adopt.  They told us that if we knew that one of the grandparents of the child had a certain weakness we would be sure to spot that weakness in the child we adopted and then assume it was hereditary and there was nothing we could do about it.  They told us, “The child you will adopt will be your child.  If he or she has a problem, it is your problem and up to you to deal with it as best you can.”

So we adopted a baby girl, knowing next to nothing about her birth parents and their background. I had a mental record of all the mistakes my parents had made and thought that I had all the answers to parenting.  Once we brought our girl home, I discovered that all my answers were to imaginary questions and there were real questions I had never even thought of.  We were not the world’s greatest parents, but that bit of direction given by the Children’s Aid Society put the ball squarely in our hands and we did our best to accept the responsibility.

We had friends who had adopted through the matching process and they never tired of telling all about the virtues of their boy’s grandparents.  We cringed for their boy’s sake and thanked God that we had not been led into that trap.

Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.  The rest of us are adopted sons and daughters.  Does our heavenly Father care what kind of people we used to be?  Does He care what kind of people our earthly mothers and fathers were?  I am so thankful the He doesn’t.  Consider the following verses:

John 1:12:  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Romans 8:14-15:   For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

2 Corinthians 5:17:  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Romans 2:11:  For there is no respect of persons with God.

Romans 9:8:  That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

1 Peter 2:10: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

Isaiah 63:16:  Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O LORD, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.

What is the New Birth?

Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?   Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.  The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.  Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?  (Gospel of John, chapter 3, verses 4 to 9).

I think we all have questions like Nicodemus, until we actually experience the change in our lives brought about by the new birth.  Even then, there is confusion about how this change actually took place.  Here is a brief exposition of what the Bible has to say on the subject.

As I read the Scriptures, there are three parts to the new birth.  They are not really experienced as three steps to a new life, but when one considers what has taken place in his life, he will be able to identify that all three of these were part of his experience.

First is the call of God, through the Holy Sprit.  “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44).  “And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:65.  “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).  “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”  (Romans 2:4).  “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15).

Secondly, we must repent.  “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:1 & 2).  “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).  “And they went out, and preached that men should repent” (Mark 6:12).  “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13L5).  “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).  “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).

The third part is the adoption of the new believer by God.  “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).  “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).  “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.  Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:6 & 7).  “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.  And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25).

Some profess that the new birth is wholly a work of divine election and irresistible grace, with man having no choice in the matter.  Others teach that we have only to accept the promises of God and that this is entirely our own choosing.

The Bible rather teaches that God must first call us, awakening our heart and conscience to our sinfulness and need of salvation.  We can either accept or reject this call, God does not override our freedom of choice.  Repentance is the act of accepting God’s judgement on our sinfulness and seeking His forgiveness.  But it is not enough for us to judge the state of our heart and say that we have repented.  Salvation is not complete until we have received the Holy Spirit, the token that God has accepted us as His child.  This adoption produces fruit in our lives that will be evident to others.

For most people, the experience of the new birth is a very quiet event.  For some, it can be quite dramatic.  It is not the nature of the experience that makes us a child of God, it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in our lives that identifies us as His child.

Forty-two Years

Chris and I were married August 1, 1970. She was 17, the product of two dysfunctional homes, looking for some stability in her life. I was 28, restless, confused, in debt, not sure what I wanted to do with my life, had little control over my temper — not really a stable shelter from the storms that would beat upon us.

How did it come to be that this marriage has lasted almost forty-two years? It certainly has not been due to goodness, wisdom or foresight on our part. The only possible explanation is the grace of God.

I had received more religious training in my parent’s home than Chris did in the home where she grew up, but it was not enough to keep me from losing my bearings amid the temptations of this world. Chris’s main exposure to Christianity came from attending Sunday School at a nearby Apostolic church for about two years and going to a Baptist summer camp for four or five summers. During one of these camps, the camp counsellor asked who wanted to be saved, she gladly prayed the sinner’s prayer and believed she was saved.

The spring before we were married, I had a conversion experience. I would not have called it that at the time — I had seen so much of superficial Christianity that I believed being born again was a phony claim of being better than other people. Nevertheless, before long I realized something had changed back there when I had prayed for forgiveness and committed my life to God.

I had been reading the Bible for about a year before we were married. As soon as we got home (Sperling, Manitoba at that time) from our honeymoon, Chris insisted that we have family devotions — with me doing the reading and praying! That was almost more responsibility than I could handle, but we started, shakily at first, and have continued ever since.

Through my reading of history, I had come to the conclusion that if there were any true Christians left in the world, they would be found among the Mennonites. I had earlier tried attending a Mennonite church in a nearby city. The service was impressive in its simplicity, but I was invisible. I walked in before the service began and left after it ended and it seemed that no one even saw me. I went twice and then gave up on that church.

Chris had never heard of Mennonites before she met me, but decided that if that was where I was looking, we had better do something about it. She got in touch with a pastor and his wife in a neighbouring town, we visited in their home and began attending their church. We went through catechism classes that winter, but in the spring we were told that they would not baptize us as we had been baptized as children. And here I thought believers baptism was what Mennonites were all about!

A congregation of the same denomination in another nearby town attracted us. There was a group of young people here who professed a genuine life-changing new birth and the pastor was an enthusiastic leader of this group. Before we could be baptized, the pastor was dismissed on suspicion of Pentecostal tendencies! That suspicion was quite unfounded, but the older members felt threatened by anything that seemed new.

The pastor moved on to yet another church of the same denomination and we followed. (All three churches were about the same driving distance from Sperling.) There we were baptized. Shortly after, Chris began having dreams that it was the end of the world and she wasn’t saved. She visited the pastor and he assured her that she would not even be concerned about the end of the world if she wasn’t saved.

We wanted to have a family. About a year after we were married some of our friends were applying for adoption. We did not see any sign of a baby arriving the other way, so we applied too. We went through the approval process and were given an application form. One line on the form caused us some struggle. It asked for our racial preference. We prayed about it and the only answer that felt right to us was to check no preference. We did not realize it at the time, but it seems everyone else checked 100% white and that moved us up to the top of the list when a little girl was born who had only 90% white ancestry.

We were hardly grown up ourselves, but now we were responsible for this tiny bundle whom we named Michelle. I could enumerate all my parents’ mistakes and thought I had all the answers to raising a child. Having Michelle brought a rude awakening — there were questions I had never dreamed of! We made at least as many mistakes as our parents had, learned from some of them and did a lot of praying. But perhaps the most important factor in forming Michelle into a fine young Christian lady was our decision to find fellowship with other true believers.

There were several moves during those early years, from Manitoba to Saskatchewan to Alberta and back to Saskatchewan. Chris had a new birth experience during our first stay in Saskatchewan. We tried several different churches, from liberal Mennonite to conservative Mennonite. We met many fine people, we still have contact with a few of them, but we were always disappointed in the churches. They did not believe and live the genuine Anabaptist faith that I was looking for.

We finally found that faith in the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, where we have been members for 31 years — in congregations in Ontario, Québec and back in Saskatchewan. Many of our rough edges have been worn off during those 31 years, but God is by no means done with us yet.

Now we are grandparents, not much more prosperous than when we started out, but hopefully a little wiser, kinder and more patient . And I have come to realize that this lady who has stuck with me all these years is truly a gift from God.

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