Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Why We’re Adopting

Our family has been completely immersed in the adoption process for around 3 months now. Up to this point we've never take time to write anything down so this post will probably be fairly long. The most common question we get asked is "What brought this on?"

I’ll start a little more than a year ago. My mom called me one night to inform me that my sister was pregnant with her fourth child. My response? “Is she crazy?!?!”

I couldn’t understand why anyone in their thirties who had spent most of the last 8 years changing diapers would do such a thing. She’d be in her fifties when this kid finally graduated high school. Fifties is for grandparents, not parents.

Now we’re adopting two of our own – from Ethiopia. I’ll be joining the ranks of the fifty plus year old parent of a high schooler.

Needless to say God has done a major shaking up of our lives in the last year. Adoption had never been a dream of ours. Now it’s a reality!

There are lots of factors that played into our decision. I’m sure I won’t be able to cover them all but I’ll hit the majors. First, Jesus’ brother, James played a big part in it. I was participating in two different groups (it’s rare that I’m ever a participant in even one group – usually I’m in charge) that were studying the book of James. At the end of chapter 1 it reads like this:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”

Our groups could come up with ways we help widows. None of us were helping orphans – at least not in a significant way.

That verse attached itself to me and wouldn’t let go.

Now mind you at the time the verse latched on our family was sponsoring a child in Mexico. Our youth group was also involved in helping orphans on occasion. We’d raise hundreds of dollars for World Vision to help a kid or two for a month or two in a far off African country – or two. But that was it.

Maybe that is enough. It didn’t seem like it to me. In fact, my efforts to help orphans felt pretty pathetic. It certainly didn’t seem “pure and faultless” as Jesus’ brother had laid out in scripture. My contribution to helping one of the world’s 143 million orphans in distress seemed pretty insignificant.

Then another group of scriptures began opening my eyes. Jesus tells this story about a master who gives varying amounts of money to his servants to invest for him. When he comes back, two of them have doubled – DOUBLED – their money (have you ever thought about how much risk they would have taken to double their money?). The other one dug a hole and kept the money safe in the dirt until the master returned. He gave the money back but he hadn’t done anything with it.

In the Message version of the Bible the master wasn’t pleased that he “played it safe” and threw him out. Depending on the version you’re reading this servant was called “terrible”, “slothful”, “criminal”, “wicked”, “good-for-nothing”, and “lazy”.

Then there’s Jesus’ story of a man who built a barn so he could hoard all his crops for himself. The plan was to lay up a lot of good things for his future (all the while forgetting the needs of those around him). He died that very night.

Then there’s that little verse in Luke that that quotes Jesus as saying:
"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. "

I could go on but you probably get the point. It became very clear to me that I had much more than I needed. I’d really never asked myself why. Why do I have so much stuff?

The American Dream is to get a great paying job, get married, own a house, two kids, a pet, and save up for college and a comfortable retirement. I think I had that. Correction, I currently have that (well most of it anyway). But why?

I’ve got a nagging bookshelf to the left of our TV. The top 4 shelves are crammed full of VHS tapes that haven’t been watched in 3-4 years. Why?

I’m building barns to hold all the stuff I don’t even look at, play with, use, or know that I have.

Bottom line is this. By God’s design (some people would say complete chance – let’s not argue that point right now) I was born in the most prosperous country in the history of the world. There’s a website called “Global Rich List”. Somewhere in this process I typed in my family’s salary. We’re in the top 1% richest people in the world (after taxes). File 100 random people past me from anywhere in the world and I’m richer than 99 of them.

My contribution to helping orphans in distress just didn’t feel very “pure and faultless” to me anymore.

Somewhere along this process of heart change I heard an interview on the radio. An African was asked why he wanted to live in the United States. His reply? “I want to live in a country where the poor people are fat.” (By the way a person living at the poverty line in America is in the top 11% richest people in the world according to the global rich list.)

Now at this point it may sound like I’m feeling guilted (obligated) into doing something nice for someone because I have more than they do. (A sidenote ancient Jews viewed giving to the poor as an obligation – almost like paying taxes. Jesus changed that and told us we need to be cheerful givers.)

Well, simultaneous to all these “2x4 in the face” scriptures God began to change my heart. I found myself getting teary (a big thing for me) whenever I’d hear or see stories of fatherless children. This is something new for me. I think its called compassion. I hardly know what to do with it other than act on it.

So that’s the nutshell version of why we’re adopting. Long story short – God has changed our wiring. We view the world differently. We see hurting people – especially children – and we want to do whatever we can to stop the suffering.

The Jews (hope I don’t need to remind you that Jesus was a Jew) use the phrase “Tikun Olam”. It simply means “to fix the world”. They believed if there is injustice or imbalance in the world that God wants his faithful human followers to try to fix it. I think I’ve tried to give that job back to God more often than I’d like to admit. “Fix it God!” Fixing things – especially these big, God-sized problems – seems impossible. Jesus is the one who came as the light of the world, not us!

But he also called us the light of the world too.

Sure, in the scheme of things our two orphans from Ethiopia seem pretty insignificant when you think of the millions of others who will remain parentless. All we know is that this is what we’re supposed to do.

And who knows, maybe this is just the beginning for us.


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