We were discussing James 1:27, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you,” when my prayer group friends gave me a new perspective: “It doesn’t say caring for orphans will immediately fix their distress. It doesn’t say ‘bring them to your clean life and they will live a clean life, too’. It says to care for them in their distress. I suppose that means we are bringing trauma and distress into our homes when we welcome those in distress.”
God commands us to care for orphans and widows. His love pours out of His people, making them able and even passionate to care for children that have been overlooked or uncared for.
There are many Scriptures that describe how God adopts us–giving us His blessings, His legacy, and His inheritance. Earthly adoption is often compared to God’s adoption of us. “We want to adopt because God adopted us.” While this is true and a beautiful example that points to God’s ability to redeem and call us His own, it is also flawed.
It is flawed because we simply aren’t God. When God adopts, it is the way it was intended from the beginning. God created us to be His. When we sinned and walked away from Him, there became a need for Him to redeem and adopt us back to His family. He always was the Father. He knows every intimate, intricate detail of our lives and history, and also our future and the purpose He created us for. He is the perfect Father; the unfailing Father. He is the Father that knows when we need to be scooped up and held mid-tantrum. He’s the Father that knows the longings in our heart and the secret ways we are wired that we ourselves fail to understand. He has the capacity to fill every need. He will never fail and never stop pursuing His own.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:3-7
We may be brimming over with the love of Christ but we aren't perfect parents. Sometimes caring for others in their distress brings out our own distress. We adopt children and might not have the resources to parent well. We don’t know our children’s history. We don’t understand where they’ve been. We have unrealistic expectations. We want to fix...and sometimes in fixing we forget we are dealing with a real person. We miss opportunity for relationship and unconditional love and instead view our kids as projects.
We give our adopted children our name, our home, our inheritance. But sometimes that means a new set of problems and weaknesses. It’s imperfect and lacking.
We question if it’s more helpful to teach our kids to “start over” or to delve into the past to get healing and make sense of it. God delves into the hurts of our past. He finds ways to redeem it, not merely move past it. The identity He gives isn’t separate from our past; it uses our past in a way that glorifies Him. He does this for our children and He does this for us.
Yesterday was Orphan Sunday, a day when many churches focus on making their congregations aware of ways to help orphans, promoting adoption/foster care/sponsoring a child.
As I picked up my kids from their Sunday school classes, I thanked God for the work He’s done in our congregation. We have many families in our church who have adopted. My kids have friends at church from our foster system, Ghana, Ethiopia, China, Uganda, Haiti (and I know I’m missing some).
This year I’ve been part of a new ministry team at church called Preserve. Our aim is to bless adoptive and foster families through respite events, meals teams, education and training, and acts of service.
Education and training is changing me. I have been studying trauma and it’s impact on growing brains. This isn’t just for kids who have been adopted or come from third world countries. If you parent or work with children who have suffered any abuse or neglect, or had parents divorce, or have lost a parent, or have had severe illness or injury, or have lived with a parent that suffers from depression or anxiety, or even had a stressed Mom during pregnancy, look at these links (yes, I realize this pretty much means all of us):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAkZxYjCkB4 (This is a short video intro)
http://child.tcu.edu/resources/videos/ (A longer intro to the “why” and glimpse into methods)
https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime?language=en (Fantastic Ted Talk on Adverse Childhood Experiences from a physician)
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=the+connected+child (The Connected Child–a life changing book to help you parent or work with children)
It has revolutionized my parenting to understand the developing brain, to understand how we can “rewire” our brains, and how connections and attachments are made. It has caused me to look at my own distress and see children I work with for who they are, not the problems they bring. It is changing my relationships with my kids in miraculous ways.
I am a far cry from a perfect parent for both adopted and biological children, but I am learning that through the Lord’s guidance, educating myself, and parenting very intentionally (with much grace for my kids and myself!) I can be better equipped. I am not a savior but I was adopted through Christ. He rescues me in my distress. My prayer is that with His love, discernment, and wisdom I can be used to bring His children to His feet.
*If you look at the links and are interested in further reading/research/videos let me know. I'll hook you up with resources.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...