Adoption is Forever

By Kersley Fitzgerald

We started out looking into adopting a Native American kid. Way too much politics. Then we had to decide foreign or domestic—and, if domestic, private or foster? Neither one of us felt called to foster. (Isn't that kinda weasel-words? How about, "Both of us were scared to death of fostering"?) Dev didn't really want private because he wasn't sure about the whole open adoption thing.

That left international, which was a good fit since we knew we'd still be moving quite a bit with the Air Force. A chance meeting with a Reader's Digest at my grandmother's brought the specific agency to our attention. We went through their country list.

Can't do China or Russia because of Dev's security clearance. Scared of Romania because of attachment issues. Don't want any country that only adopts kids older than three. But we don't want an infant, either. That leaves The Philippines, India, and Thailand.

In the midst of all the paperwork is the Medical Conditions Form. It is a horrible form. It lists all the possible medical conditions your child could have and asks you which ones you could handle and which you'd rather do without. With the understanding, of course, that the child may have more ailments than the host country's physicians discover.

How do you answer that? You have to. "We can learn sign language, but I don't know if we could care for a blind child." "Allergies, yes. Tuberculosis, maybe. AIDS, hep C, no." "Cleft palate is a no-brainer. We have military health care, so no big deal. But what about an amputee?" Miserable form.

After a while, we had to settle on a country. India, where our friends adopted from? Philippines? Some of our friends are Filipino. Or Thailand? My office-mate is Thai…After much prayer, we both felt strongly God was saying "Thailand." So we jumped.

Unlike some other countries, adoptive families don't typically go to Thailand and pick out a kid. The Thai government service in charge of taking care of kids looks through your paperwork and matches you with a child that fits. Allergies? Yes! But otherwise perfectly healthy.

So, this kid from halfway around the world has some paperwork. And we have some paperwork. And a government official looks at the paperwork and says, "Yeah. This'll do." And that's a family.

God's additions into our spiritual family seem just as random, but they are backed by even more authority.

The child's previous authority gives the person up because old lifestyle did not present the opportunities of new one. The most surprising thing JT's foster mother said to me was, "Take him and love him like I love him. I'm giving him up because you can give him more opportunities than I can." It didn't occur to me that this woman on a farm in Thailand who decided to foster because the last of her five kids were in school would charge me with the care of her son. She was just a foster mom, right? And by just, I don't mean the sacrifice and commitment. I mean, surely she hadn't allowed herself to get that attached to him. Had she? Apparently she had. And she had considered her taxi-driving husband and her two boys in school and decided that as much as she loved JT, she couldn't give him everything he needed.

In the Christian life, the "previous authority" is the self. The moment a person realizes they cannot give themselves everything they need, that they need God to do that, is an amazing thing. I recently did research on the different ways the world's belief systems view heaven. Aside from some unstandardized, anything-goes religions, Christianity is the only one that says, "You can't do it. You cannot earn or work or steal what you need. Only God can. All you can do is admit you can't do it and accept God's gift." For the self and the ego to look around and see that nothing else is going to be good enough is humbling and freeing at the same time. And really scary. What if it doesn't work? What if it turns out to be too hard, anyway? Fortunately for us, giving it all up to God always works. Even if it's not in the way we expected.

The adopted kids are more like their new family than either realizes. Eight years later, an old friend was watching JT play. He turned to us and said, "He's so good for you. He's exactly the kid you needed."

"How?" I asked. "He's such a leader. If I want a group of kids to do something, I just tell him and he gets it done. Dev and I aren't leaders. We're totally out of our depth!"

But our friend is right. JT is more of a leader than we are, but the rest of him is straight up a mix of Dev and me. He's got Dev's natural way with people. Both of them can talk to anyone. But he has my mechanical inclinations. He can build a K'nex Ferris wheel by himself in one afternoon.

"God gives parents the kids they're supposed to have," Catheryn said constantly. "And He gives kids the parents they're supposed to have." I rested in that, even when I didn't quite understand how it applied to us. Of course our own bad choices can negate the sentiment, but when it comes to personalities, it makes sense to us.

We're not leaders. So we're able to show JT the servant side of leadership that wouldn't have occurred to him. But we learned from his leadership, too. For one, a lion of a kid will walk right over a parent who isn't paying attention! We have to constantly be intentional with how we raise him, which usually brings us running back to God.

It is such an incredible responsibility to influence a new believer. And it's heady to think this person is as gifted by the Spirit as any other. How do you recognize and build up those gifts? How do you rein in a budding preacher who isn't grounded in the truth yet? Or teach a new servant-heart how to balance her duties without becoming resentful? We have a tendency, if we do anything, to mentor the new believer into a kind of bland sameness. How much do we show how much we appreciate them? How much they add that we were missing?

Once they're in your house, they never leave. Did you know that? Apparently, adoption is permanent. Every single day, they're there. Even when they're not there, they're there. Because you never are sure what goes on at the bus stop and if they'll remember to not throw trash over the neighbor's fence or if they'll get a fever at school or trip on the curb and drown in a mud puddle. It's like they think you're there to take care of them or something. Don't know where they got that idea.

Actually, that didn't used to be the case. It used to be that kids who were adopted internationally did not automatically become US citizens. That changed because of the felons. In the US, of course, if you commit a felony and you're not a citizen, you can be deported to your home country. Well, take a 20-year old kid, adopted from Central America at six months, who commits a robbery with a gun, and he's on the next plane to a place he doesn't remember. But now it's automatic. Once the adoption's final, they are a US citizen.

Funny how God works similarly. His adoption is permanent in large part because if it weren't, we'd sin our way out of there so fast the ink wouldn't be dry on the documents. But there is no way to escape God's hand. Not doubt, not sin, not nothing. We are His, and that's that.

Adoption, The Series

Part 1: Adopting a New Way to Look at God
Part 2: Adopted by Father-God
Part 3: Adopting a New Life
Part 4: A Whole New World
Part 5: Adoption is Forever

TagsBiblical-Salvation  | Christian-Life  | Family-Life  | Personal-Life

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Published 5-11-11