Called to Adopt: Our Growth into a New Ministry

by Mr. Sheehy

We had barely removed our third child from the hospital’s bakery warmer before someone first asked us the question: “Are you done?” It became the stock question, following on the heels of “What’s his name?” and “How old is he?” We naturally developed a stock answer: if we did have another child, we’d probably adopt. The reality was that neither my wife nor I had really considered adoption. The answer had less to do with adoption and more to do with answering a casual question quickly. No one ever followed it up with inquiries about adoption; perhaps they detected our lack of interest.

Yet even without much desire we knew God was bigger than our imaginations, and we always knew if more children were in his plan for us, he could grow in us a heart for adoption.

I’m no farmer, but by watching my wife garden a bit I have learned the clarity of one thing: if you want a seed to thrive, you have to prepare good soil, and in our yard that requires lots of additives. Looking back on our lives I can see how God prepared the soil for a seed he wanted to plant. Our pastor had preached convincingly on the sermon on the mount, reminding us of the importance of storing our treasures in Heaven. He’d also impressed in us a lesson from the book of Ruth about Naomi, who acted with confident initiative because she knew God’s heart even when she could not know God’s plan. Such insight encouraged our faith and increased our confidence that God in and of himself is sufficient for us and that he is eager for us to move boldly in faith.

With such enrichment of faith occurring, we reacted differently when we encountered the concept of adoption. To stay with the metaphor, our soil was receiving sufficient additives that it could accept and nourish a seed.

Such a seed dropped when I had been reading some things with the kids that caused me to wonder about adoption. It came from out of as close to nowhere as something can come and I didn’t explore deeply, yet the thought that adoption would be a good thing lingered.

For my wife, the seed dropped when she met a woman at a local coffee shop who was adopting a baby from Ethiopia. My wife heard her whole story and came home affected by the experience. We talked about it together but did not decide on anything–it’s not like the clouds opened up and we suddenly sold a car in order to adopt.

We did pray about it, though, and after some time I admitted to my wife that the more I thought about adoption, the more it made sense. That metaphorical seed had sprouted.

For me, the sense it made arose from the gospel, which suddenly struck me as an explicit story of adoption. It seemed like every time I returned to consider the gospel, which is just about every time one opens the Bible, I faced the idea of adoption.

Meanwhile, my wife was doing her own survey of scripture, a survey not of the imagery of adoption but of the practical call to it. The thing that got to us most powerfully was what we read from Deuteronomy (10:17-18), a statement of identification that God gives to the people of Israel as Moses descends from Mount Sinai with the second set of tablets showing the 10 commandments.

He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.

Essentially, this is the first thing he mentions to make people know the kind of action they can expect of God. The implication is that we know who God is when we realize he executes justice for the fatherless and the widow.

It is one thing to say the Gospel is explained through adoption. It is another to realize that God loves these fatherless children so much that caring for them is the most significant and exemplary action he takes. In fact, sometimes he’s not even called God, but “Father of the fatherless” (e.g. Ps. 68:5). In our thinking verses like this moved adoption from a powerfully explanatory metaphor to a compellingly tangible example of God’s personality and heart.

Then we discovered more than the example. In the verses where we found many of these references, God commanded the Israelites to care for the sojourners (or aliens, depending on the translation) because “you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” In our ears this echoed other responsive commands, like forgive because you have been forgiven, and love because he loved you first, and we began to feel that burden of response with adoption. We are adopted–what would our response be to that act of caring mercy?

For us, we knew that what we were really considering was adoption: extending our arms and welcoming to our life a child in need of a home. As a response to the Gospel, as a reaction to God’s personality, this is what we needed to do.

There are other reasons why adoption makes sense for our family. Family is very important to us– we’ve committed to living off one income, I am committed to being home in the evenings, and we spend our time primarily with one another. Our best ministry, then, is to expand that family structure where we minister best. Yet ultimately these kinds of things are traits, not calls. These things give us confidence that we are fit for what we are doing; they’re not the call itself. The call comes from our understanding of the Gospel of Christ and the heart of God. The one who has made us children of God and defines himself as the father to the fatherless wants us to defend the cause of the orphan, and we are convinced that adopting a little one is the perfect way to respond to his call.

And now we pray that the Lord will bless us with the grace we will need as we respond to his calling.

Thanks for reading.