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Editor’s Note: The article is an excerpt from the book Dignity and Worth: Seeing the Image of God in Foster Adoption, used with permission, all rights reserved.
Adoption: Not “If” But “When”
During the first week or so of our dating relationship, Adam asked me if I would want to adopt one day. Adoption was a “make-or-break” condition of marriage for me, and I told him so. He agreed. For us, adoption wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when.” We didn’t expect to pursue adoption so early in our marriage, but we welcomed the opportunity to do so with open arms.
We started our journey in a way I never anticipated. After watching a few friends go through the legal and relational process—even watching one couple experience a failed adoption—we were intrigued and curious, so we began researching it for ourselves. The more we grew in our knowledge about adoption, the stronger our desire grew to pursue it. At that point, we had only been married for a year, and we didn’t yet know if pregnancy was an option for us. In mid-2011, we decided to pursue adoption and pregnancy at the same time, hoping our next step would become clear.
Years have gone by with no sign of pregnancy, and two sweet boys have joined our family through foster adoption. We would love to have biological children one day, but rejoice in the clarity we’ve received and in the little boys we get to parent every day.
Simultaneously pursuing pregnancy and adoption is not necessarily a way that I would recommend for everyone to discern God’s will, but it was what we pursued and what worked well for us. Ultimately, we were grateful for any way God chose to grow our family. We left our family planning up to his sovereignty, trusting he would do us good and not harm. He did, and he has never failed to for the six years that we’ve been married. Jayda joined our family first, and then Zay came fourteen months later. These two boys, who fit perfectly in our family, are tangible evidence that God wants good for us and knew what we needed better than we did ourselves.
When we began our journey to adopt, I was determined to break down misconceptions that family, friends, and the internet routinely brought to our attention upon announcing our news. Questions like “Don’t you want your own kids?” and comments about how I was going to get pregnant as soon as we brought our adopted child home dominated many of our conversations. It struck me how highly our culture values the biological connection over the adoptive connection. The biological connection is important in adoption, but the idea of loving a child who isn’t “flesh and blood” is very difficult for many to grasp.
What Does it Mean to Be Adopted by God?
If we are in the family of God, we are also adopted. Perhaps there is no blood-relation among believers, but we have alike been chosen by God the Father. He welcomes us into his fold, calling us his own. This Gentile has been grafted into an eternal family, saved by God’s grace, and made a son or daughter of the one true God (Ephesians 1). When I remember that I was once an outsider because of my sin and through Christ I have been welcomed into the family of God, this gospel changes the way I view the biological connection. Biology is not the end-all-be-all. I can love and accept someone who has not a single strand of DNA in common with me into my family, calling him a son or her a daughter.
This is why adoption is Plan A for our family. It’s not a “fall back” option because we can’t get pregnant, and we’re not settling for second best by pursuing foster adoption. Any child who enters our family through adoption is just as loved and accepted as a child born to us. Children who have been adopted are not a sub-par group of people. Any child will receive the full benefits of being a part of the Swiger family regardless of ethnicity, personality, or past.
A good example of this is our legal will. When Adam and I die, Jayda and Zay, assuming we have adopted them both, will inherit just like any biological child would. More benefits of being a Swiger include celebrating birthdays together, vacationing on Cape Cod, cutting down our Christmas tree every December, and reading the Bible together each night before bed. There is no distinction between our boys and any biological child who may join our family in the future.
Adoption highlights spiritual realities over physical appearances. The gospel does the same: We are brought into God’s family by adoption—not by a physical birth, but by a spiritual one.
The Challenges of Adoption
Understanding this spiritual reality doesn’t necessarily make adoption easy, though. In fact, there is great sacrifice that comes with adopting, both for the parents and for the children who are being adopted. Jesus made the greatest sacrifice of all by giving up his own life in order to bring sinners who trust in him into God’s family; that’s what our relationship to the Father costs. Earthly adoption is a picture of heavenly adoption. The sacrifice from human parents is less than God’s sacrifice, but we make it out of the confidence we have in the relationship among the Father, the Son, and the Father’s adopted children.
With great sacrifice often comes exhaustion. Our bodies are finite, and parenting a child who has additional special needs may take a physical and emotional toll on us. Self-care is a buzz-word in the foster care world. Some of these children we welcome into our families have experienced trauma that we can’t fathom. A short list of those traumatic experiences may include physical, sexual, and verbal abuse; neglect; homelessness; domestic violence; exposure to drugs and alcohol in the womb; and hunger. The lasting effect of that trauma can manifest itself in difficult behaviors (e.g., reactive attachment disorder, violent rages, mental health issues, ADD/ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and fetal alcohol syndrome) that can overwhelm families if we’re not prepared.
We know that Satan wants to destroy families and marriages. He doesn’t want believers, and the world, to see the reality of the gospel through the picture of earthly adoption. As Russell Moore says in his book Adopted for Life, “Adoption is war” (page 14), and believers are fighting a battle with the unseen to reveal the glory of Christ through our families. We fight that battle when we view children from foster care as created with dignity and worth and as no less valuable than biological offspring. We must see these children as Plan A, created with a purpose by God, and not as a consolation prize for parents whose biological option failed.
This excerpt comes from chapter two (Adoption is Plan A: Preparing Our Hearts for the Journey Ahead) of Dignity and Worth: Seeing the Image of God in Foster Adoption.
April Swiger is a wife, mother to two awesome little boys (Jayda and Zay), homemaker, and blogger. In 2013, her family moved to her home state of Connecticut, where her husband, Adam, serves as the worship pastor at Christ the Redeemer Church. Living in a 100-year-old farmhouse, being debt-free, cooking nourishing food, and enjoying introvert-friendly activities are some of her favorite things. You can join her for more “Faithfulness in the Mundane” at www.aprilswiger.com and on Instagram.