Not many husbands get to tell their wives, “Guess what!? We’re having a baby!” On January 13, 1998, I had that privilege.
Gayla and I had been approved to adopt a child a few months before. We had survived the stress of social workers inspecting our house to make sure it was kid friendly. We had completed a scrapbook for the adoption agency to share with birth mothers (imagine making a sales brochure to persuade people they should give their child to you, and you’ll have an idea of how nerve-racking that was). We were solidly in the mode of waiting, spending half of our energy trying to remain optimistic and the other half of our energy not letting our hopes get too high.
On that January day that changed our lives, I got word from the adoption agency that a birth mother had decided to place her child with us, and he had been born, and we could bring him home that evening!
I went home and informed my wife that she was going to be a mom. We drove to the adoption agency. I was so full of joy and adrenaline and anxiety and who knows what else that I drove over the curb at the adoption agency. I also failed to turn off the headlights when I got out of the car, requiring a jump start later that night for our son’s first ride with his new parents, no doubt reassuring the little bundle of joy that he was in responsible hands.
I’ll never forget the moment Justin was placed in our arms – the moment that two people intensely longing for a child received a little boy who desperately needed a family. I had wondered how long it would take for an adopted child to feel like he was really mine. The answer turned out to be .00000001 seconds.
Gayla and I had awakened that morning wondering when and if we would ever be parents; we went to bed that night with our son sleeping in a bassinet at the foot of our bed.
Justin became a big brother two and a half years later. We got to repeat the intense experience of welcoming a child into our family a few hours after we learned that he existed (Gayla got the news first that time). Caleb was all skin and bone and ears. We fell in love with him instantly.
Those two cute babies aren’t babies any longer. They are 19 and 17. But they are still mine. And I didn’t think it was possible, but I love them more today than I did when I first held them. Raising them hasn’t always been easy. They are the source of most of the gray hairs on my head. They have both made their share of mistakes, and I’ve made more than my share of mistakes as their dad. But I can’t even count the blessings that I have experienced as their dad. I may be a tad biased, but I think they are two of the most amazing humans on the planet. It is an unspeakable privilege to be their father.
I’d like to share a few semi-random musings from this blessed adoptive dad.
1. Family is more than a matter of biology. If you have friends who have adopted children and you want to see smoke come out of their ears, ask them who their kids’ “real parents” are. Shared DNA is not the primary ingredient in the divine recipe for families. Chromosomes are not nearly as important as bedtime stories and games of catch and hugs and punishments and Christmas mornings and mundane Mondays. Gayla and I had the surprise and privilege of welcoming Sarah to our family 8 years after Caleb, and she came to our family in the more traditional way. I am uniquely qualified to verify firsthand that adopted kids are no less a part of the family than are biological children.
2. We have told our boys from the day we brought them home that they are special because they have parents who chose them. I grew up with some good friends who are adopted, and I know that many adopted kids struggle with the painful feeling that they were rejected and “given up” by the first person who was supposed to love them. My prayer for my boys from before I even brought them home was that their experience of chosenness would outweigh their experience of rejection. I want them to know that they were wanted, and in some ways they were wanted in a deeper way than even a child raised by biological parents could experience.
(An aside: I think birth mothers who place their kids for adoption are heroes. They somehow tune out the many voices telling them that the child growing in their womb is an unfortunate choice that they can undo with a simple procedure. They choose to go through with the emotional and physical struggle of pregnancy. And they selflessly choose to put the child’s needs above their own and release the child to someone equipped to provide the child with a better future.)
3. The most important person B.C. (Moses) and the person who defined A.D. (Jesus) were both adopted. Evidently God doesn’t consider adoption to be a deficient way to grow up!
4. Adoption is a reminder that God is never defeated by difficult circumstances. We live in a broken world where infertility is a painful reality that leaves hurting couples with empty arms, and where unplanned pregnancies leave children in need of a family. God beautifully solves both of those problems with the one miracle of adoption. His creativity and compassion are limitless! God specializes in turning messes into masterpieces.
5. I’m blown away that God chooses the image of adoption to describe his love for us. He tells us in Ephesians 1:5 that his plan has always been to adopt us into his family. He wants us to know that we are wanted. We are orphans, but he chooses to make us his kids! We are nobodies, but he gives us a name. We are wandering around lost but he gives us a home. We are hopeless, but he offers us a future. When I think of the depth of my love for my boys, and I consider that my love for them is just a feint echo of the deep love our heavenly Father has for us, his adopted kids, it becomes difficult to keep the tears off of the keyboard with which I type these words.
I am deeply grateful for the privilege of being Justin and Caleb’s dad. And I’m honored to be God’s adopted child.