The Spirit of Adoption: A Biblical Perspective on Adoption
by Brian Luwis
A Spirit of Fear
My position and purpose as the co-founder of America World Adoption is actually the result of my wife, Renée’s, courageous actions years ago. Unlike the majority of couples that pursue their adoption plans together, my wife researched adoption alone—I was afraid to join her.
After three years of marriage, Renée left her job to prepare our home for the children we hoped to have. As time passed with no hint of a pregnancy, we sought medical help. Doctors and diagnostic tests gave no conclusive reason for our inability to conceive. Although I was content to wait and see what God would do, Renée was ready to be a mom and pressed on. She began to investigate adoption as a means of having children.
To be honest, I was only mildly interested when she began showing me brochures about adoption. I believed God would answer our prayer and give us a child by birth so there was no need to look into adoption. In some way, I thought it was a lack of faith on Renée’s part not to wait on God. God said he would “give us the desires of our heart” and it was truly our desire to have a child by birth. In spite of my reservations, Renée pressed on in her quest to be a mother.
As we wrestled with God’s plan for our lives and our hope for children, I finally came to a point where I began to support Renée’s instincts as a woman. It came after a birth mother interviewed us to be the parents of the child she was carrying. She decided to place the child with another family. We swallowed our disappointment, but it was through this experience that God changed my heart. I saw, first-hand, a woman in crisis who required the help of others. Here, right in front of me was a woman ready to place a child in my arms. She, like other women around the world, was in a position of need and we were in a place to provide.
As I moved forward with Renée at this point, our discussions about adopting began to transform into reality. We knew virtually nothing about adoption-only that we wanted our first child to be as young as possible, we wanted that child as quickly as possible, and we were searching for a program that was financially realistic for us. These factors eventually led us to consider international adoption.
Renée and I were open to any nationality, so we researched a variety of countries. China was a good match for us with infant girls readily available and the costs within our means. I truly believe that if it weren’t for Renée’s efforts in moving me to accept adoption, I would not be the proud father of five children.
Perhaps if you could have been in my shoes years ago you might better understand my passionate change of heart. I was in our home experiencing the newness of fatherhood and suddenly realized that this child, because of some ink on paper (or so I thought), was now my daughter. As I carried my daughter Fei slowly to her crib, she gently patted my back (which was also my way of showing her affection). With that gentle touch, she spoke a thousand words to my heart and showed me what love is all about. Fei would soon call me “Papa” and with her smile, fill my heart with a joy that will still bring tears to my eyes. Through Fei, God would show Renée and me the incredible joys of parenthood. Ultimately, it was through a new understanding of God’s Spirit of adoption that we would learn that God truly had the best plan imaginable for our lives and that our children by adoption were a part of that plan.
For those of you who have not yet made the decision to adopt, the most important idea I hope to impart to you through this story is that God has a plan to bless you. It is my hope that this story will help you answer some of your fears. I have laid out this story based on the most commonly asked questions my wife and I receive about our experience and what God has revealed through our struggles. It is long and uniquely our story, so it might contain sections that don’t resonate with your story. If that’s the case, skip ahead and look to see if the next section speaks to you.
What is Choice?
As an architect, I have had the privilege of designing and building my own home and homes for others. My father was also an architect and a builder, so I have been around construction for as long as I can remember. My favorite toys were trucks and earth-moving equipment. My most vivid childhood memories are observing my father sitting at his drafting table with a light over his shoulder and working diligently on a building plan.
My background in design and building has given me a unique perspective and interest in why God created the world the way it is. Even if you have no background in design, it is easy to imagine the countless possibilities that could exist on this present earth. Most, if not all of us, have contemplated a world that is absent of pain. In fact, the very existence of pain in light of an omniscient, omnipresent and all-loving God is the reason that many people reject accepting Jesus as their Savior. Who wants to accept a gift from a cruel, sadistic god?
Let us imagine a world where none of these things exist—an Eden if you will. In fact, have you ever played out a scene where God created a world where there was no tree of the knowledge of good and evil? No ability for us to reject God? What kind of world would this be? I know it would not have pain. There would be no tears, no death, no suffering. It sounds like a pretty nice place. Yet everything comes with a price.
We would lose our most fundamental ability, the ability to choose—to choose who to love, what to say, where to go, what to eat, what to wear, etc. We could debate for centuries whether it is better to have been given free will (choice) or never to have known choice. But before even beginning the debate, we must consider the nature of our Creator and the creation we are a part of. God created us in “His image” and “His likeness,” which means by design we are like Him and have the ability to choose.
Yes, God could have created us not in His image and taken away our ability to choose, yet He did not do that. As our Creator, God gave us the blessing of free will: to think and to imagine, to design and to create, and to love as He loves.
You must be wondering how all of this relates to adoption? Well, it goes back to my curiosity about how things work and why God made the world like it is. Knowing that God is love and He is not willing that anyone would suffer, then how do we explain the existence of a helpless orphan placed on the side of the road? Knowing what I know now about choices, I accept that this world can only exist with the ability of man to make selfish choices that affect the lives of others’ choices that we wish others had never made or been allowed to make, yet God in His wisdom allows all of us the freedom to make them.
If we accept that God has made a world with the gift of choice and yet our choices are part of a complete divine plan, then we can better understand God’s will for the adoption of children. I believe that to best understand God’s plan, we must first accept God’s plan/will as perfect-that God makes no mistakes. Even if life seems and looks chaotic, God has a plan. This, in essence, is what faith is all about—trusting in God and His plan-even when it seems like there is no plan.
Did God’s Plan Fail?
Parenthood was designed to be the outcome of God’s beautiful union of marriage. The path toward parenthood, however, can be as winding and varied as the people who travel it. For many couples, pregnancy is an easy and effortless milestone in their life. For some, however, the road to parenthood is a long and difficult path, filled with heartache, disappointment and an ongoing sense of failure.
In Genesis 3:16 (NKJV) God says:
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children . . .”
This verse tells us that pain is to be a part of this world, even in marriage and childbearing. The broken condition of this world is a reality we must all face. Knowing the condition of this world is significant to our understanding of the blessing of adoption. When we know that suffering is part of a loving God’s plan, then we can understand that the existence of orphaned children is not an accident or failure of God’s plan.
How do you view God’s plan? Are you like I was, who once thought God’s plan had failed with the creation of this world? I believe most of us assume God created a perfect Eden and that it was to be our home on earth forever before it was polluted by His creation. God, the Master Builder, had somehow not prepared for the events that were to occur in Eden. He was caught off guard by the fall of His children and had to patch the hole in his beautiful design. We believe that God made a world that was to remain perfect, with no sorrow, pain, or hardship. The results of the choices of His creation could not be part of a loving God’s plan, but the failure of His creation. Or could they?
I am not saying that God is the author of sin, but that God’s creation allowed for the existence of choice, which resulted in sin. Many times I would play out scenarios of the consequences to planet earth if Adam and Eve did not sin. All I would come up with were worlds that could not exist. The results were all the same. We know too well human nature. Eventually, one of us would have made the same choice as Adam and Eve did. Then the question must be, “Why did God allow His creation to have the freedom of choice?”
God said his creation was “very good” before the fall. We assume that after the fall of Adam and Eve that the world would change to “very bad” in God’s eyes. Or are we missing a crucial concept? I believe we are if we do not look at the root cause of the fall, in relation to God’s “very good” creation.
God’s creation was very good before and after the fall. God is the Master Builder and Architect of a world full of natural beauty and wonders of His thoughtful design, all carefully chosen for His glory and our good. Have you ever thought of the greatest gift God bestowed on us when He created us in His image? Your next thought will actually be the exercise of that greatest gift-choice. Without it, we would be like a computer or a machine, programmed by our Creator to perform certain tasks. God allowed us choice, to know love and to be able to love. Love is a choice. To exercise it, we must be able to choose whether we are going to love or not to love. God is not the Author of sin, but of love. His “very good” creation was designed for us to know love and how to love.
In defense of this theological position, we can turn to one of the greatest minds of the past century. In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis rejects the idea that God designed a perfect world that was flawed by the free will of His creation requiring God to adjust His plan to redeem it.
C.S. Lewis states, “This may raise the ridiculous idea that the Fall took God by surprise and upset His plan, or else-even more ridiculously still-that God planned the whole thing for conditions which, He well knew, were never going to be realized. In fact, of course, God saw the crucifixion in the act of creating the first nebula. The world is a dance in which good, descending from God, is disturbed by evil arising from the creatures, and the resulting conflict is resolved by God’s own assumption of the suffering nature which evil produces.”
Does God Place an Emphasis on Genetic Relations?
I want to dispel a myth that is entrenched in many of our thoughts about God’s chosen people. It is my belief that this will help you view adoption as a natural process designed by God. In the book of Genesis, God calls Abraham out from among his kinsmen to a new land. Abraham was to be the father of a nation from which his physical descendants (the “chosen seed”) were to be the “keepers of the covenant.” From this, we assume it was God’s plan to redeem man through Abraham and his biological descendants. This is not the case. When God chose Abraham He also chose his entire household and not just Abraham’s physical seed.
“And he that is eight days old will be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of your seed.” (NKJV)
Through this verse, we can better understand what God meant when He spoke of a “chosen seed.” Abraham’s household was truly a blended community, integrating relatives, servants, and strangers from a variety of ethnic groups. When God chose Abraham and his descendants, it had nothing to do with genetics. Abraham was chosen because of his faith, as was his “seed.” God was not trying to create a special ethnicity of people based on genetics, blood type or DNA. Instead, God wanted to cultivate a people who would be universally known as His children by their spiritual heritage, not by their skin color or genetic makeup.
Galatians gives further insight into this truth.
Galatians 3:7 says,
“Know therefore, that they which are of faith are the children of Abraham,” (NKJV)
Galatians 3:29 says,
“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (NKJV)
When we consider these verses in light of Ephesians 1:5 (NIV),
“…He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will,” we begin to see adoption for what it really is…God’s relationship builder and His chosen means of bringing His fallen creatures into a permanent relationship with Himself and a perfectly natural means for God to place a child in your family.”
We see in these passages that a true descendant of Abraham is defined as “someone who has a personal relationship with God.” We also see that it is our spiritual relationship that gives us an eternal place in God’s family. Just as being a physical descendant of Abraham did not secure a place for someone in God’s eternal family, a child is not guaranteed a secure relationship with his or her parents. Relationships are built on trust, time and commitment, and have very little to do with biological or genetic connections. When we understand that God defines a relationship in terms of spiritual traits like love, faith, and hope, we realize that genetic bonds are insignificant. God wants us to embrace His Spirit of adoption in our relationship with Him, as well as our relationship with our children.
Ultimately, it is only through spiritual adoption that we are able to cultivate a permanent relationship with our children…and with our God. After all, adoption is the mechanism by which we enter God’s family. It is the only bond that will last forever with our children.
“Is God Punishing Me Through Infertility?”
I ask this question because it is how I felt when we failed to have children by birth. If you have never struggled with these feelings, you can skip ahead to another section. But if you are like I am, perhaps this tough language is something you may need to hear.
In the beginning, God commanded that Man be fruitful and multiply. Obeying this command for most couples is a matter of deciding when. Not so with the couple that is dealing with infertility.
Couples struggling with infertility often experience failure upon failure, month after month. In many cases, these failures cannot be explained by technology or medical professionals. These couples are faced with many hard questions: “How far should we go with modern medicine?” or “How many attempts at treatment should we pursue?” They may begin to think that God does not want them to have children.
As Christians, we believe that God is sovereign, and if so we might easily think that He has closed our wombs as some sort of punishment. Feelings of inferiority and depression can turn the dream of childbirth into a nightmare. Just attending a baby shower can become emotionally overwhelming for a woman struggling with infertility.
Yet, it need not be that way.
For Renée and me, the release came from a change in our basic beliefs. We once thought we had a right to children by birth, but our experience with infertility convinced us that children are God’s miracles to give. It took me a very long time to come to terms with the fact that God’s promise for children in my life would be fulfilled according to His plan, not mine. When I realized this, I found comfort in God’s word when it says,
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (NKJV)
Remember, God is not punishing you by ignoring your pleadings for conception. He has other ways to fulfill the desires that He puts in our hearts.
“If I Desire to Have a Child and Can’t Conceive, What is God’s Plan for Me?”
When Renée and I first began considering this question, we were studying Scripture that expressed the joy and happiness of having children.
“As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them.” (NKJV)
Passages such as this led us to believe that a desire to have children was good. We knew God wanted people to be fruitful and multiply. But what does this verse mean to those who cannot conceive?
We also found verses such as Psalm 37:4 (NKJV),
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
At first, we held on to this verse, believing that if we loved God He would eventually answer our prayer for a child by birth.
We soon began to realize that a deeper look at this passage revealed that our own relationship with God should be placed first. When we focused on the bitter fact that God was not giving us the desire of our heart, we were completely missing out on our own responsibility in this verse…”Delight yourself also in the LORD“…and then “He will give you the desires of your heart.”
This was a huge breakthrough for us, especially for me. I realized that although I had been following Renée in her pursuit of a family, I had been dragging my feet. I was a reluctant companion on this journey. Over time, Renée and I both began to learn that by putting our relationship with God above our hopes, above our dreams, and even above our sorrows, then we could give God the freedom that He needed to reveal His plan for our lives.
I realized that God knew this world would be filled with the consequences of sin-war, famine, poverty and other ills that would leave children orphaned. Yet God chose to create this broken world and the resulting effects. C.S. Lewis eloquently captured this truth when he said, “It is not the best of all worlds, but the only world possible.” God’s purpose in bringing us through the trial of infertility was not intended to be a dead end on our path to parenthood. It was an opportunity to embrace the boundaries God placed on us and experience the limitless possibilities of His plan.
These were the questions we wrestled with before we adopted. As our lives as a young family began to unfold, God lent his wisdom to the new questions that would arise.
“Is Adoption God’s Plan B?”
Because we believed adoption was God’s Plan B, we became unsettled when our child by birth was born. We so deeply loved and were bonded to our first two daughters by adoption, yet we were concerned. Could we think less of them now that we had a daughter by birth? Obviously, our perception of adoption as Plan B was flawed.
What did the Scriptures have to say about the subject?
Have you ever considered the fact that Jesus was adopted? Yes, Jesus’ earthly father Joseph adopted him. In fact, the Gospel of Matthew traces the bloodline of Jesus not through his biological mother, Mary, but through his adoptive father, Joseph. Even though one might easily pass over this fact as insignificant, this detail reveals something amazing about God’s nature. God does not make mistakes, and He certainly doesn’t need a backup plan. Through this footnote in history we see that for Jesus, adoption was not Plan B.
God’s plan of redemption for an imperfect world was set in motion through the very concept of adoption. Not only did He ordain his son Jesus to be adopted, but He made adoption the only way we could become a part of His eternal family. It was His good pleasure to adopt us. In fact, it is His ideal mechanism to establish relationships.
Renée and I struggled with this realization for quite some time, because we saw adoption to be the second choice, next on the list after biological birth, the first choice. But if infertility is perceived as a curse, and adoption is only a last resort for those who struggle with infertility, then how do we interpret Psalm 113:9?
“He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD.” (NIV)
This verse doesn’t say that God makes barren women fertile-although that is certainly within His power. The key phrase is “happy mother.” A “happy mother” is God’s Plan A. How can a barren woman become a happy mother unless she adopts? Just as God has decided that some couples will experience parenthood through biological birth, He also has ordained some couples to experience parenthood through the miracle of adoption. If Renée and I had realized the full meaning of this concept earlier in our journey to have a family, we would have saved ourselves an abundance of sorrow.
“What is God’s Definition of ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’?”
Renée and I began studying the Bible to see what God’s word said about parenthood. Not surprisingly, what we found was completely in keeping with God’s character.
Proverbs 22:6 says,
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (NKJV) We read in Ephesians 6 “. . . fathers do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (NKJV)
In these verses, God defines “mother” and “father” as teachers, instructors, and disciplinarians. Interestingly enough, no verse stresses the necessity of a biological connection.
This concept was made clearer to us after we had our daughter by birth, Sophia. When Sophia was born, we realized that the love we felt for her was exactly the same as the love we felt for our daughters through adoption. The genetic structure of each of our children is different, with variations in hair, teeth, skin and eye color. Yet, each of them had the exact same need for love, affection, instruction, and discipline.
After experiencing the joy of giving birth, Renée and I realized how easy it is for a parent to view a child as his or her own accomplishment, not as a gift from God divinely placed within their care. If we focus on the biological connection we have with our children we overlook the deeper bond we develop through our relationship with them.
Families, after all, are built from relationships. The quality and depth of the relationship have no bearing on the blood connection. If we lay aside our preconceptions of what it means to be a mother and father, is the correct definition not simply “to love?” Real love, of course, covers all aspects of how our heavenly Father gives us His protection, His blessing, His hope and His discipline. When we define a mother or father as one who loves and takes responsibility for a child, then it truly does not matter if the child is a child by birth or a child by adoption.
Most importantly, a genetic connection does not automatically establish the kind of rapport between parents and their children necessary to develop them into men and women of God. If we have a godly relationship with them, however, we can do the most important thing a parent will ever do for a child-teach them who God is.
“Is a Child by Adoption My Own?”
Renée and I faced this question as newly adoptive parents. When Renée gave birth to Sophia we likewise questioned if God considered her to be more “ours” than Fei or Gwenn were “ours.”
We read in 1 Corinthians 6:19:
“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (NKJV)
If we are not our own and God owns us, then He must own our children too, for it is by His grace that we move, live, and have our being. We have children by His grace, adopted or by birth. God entrusts them to us. He is their true Father in heaven. We are their earthly parents
This seems like such a logical conclusion, but I think when we hear “that’s my boy,” more attention is often placed on the “my” than the “boy.” That child is God’s boy, and God entrusts him to us.
I feel especially blessed because when I proudly look at my children (biological or adopted) and proclaim, “That’s my girl,” my first thought is to praise God for allowing the miraculous gift of calling one of His children mine. I thank God that He allowed us to adopt children first, so I could see that we never really own our children. We raise them as best as we can and strive to teach them about God to the fullest extent.
God’s Word goes further to show we are not our own by calling us His children:
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12 (NIV)
God calls us “His children.” If we are His children, then so are our sons and daughters. We can take comfort in knowing that the ownership of our children (by adoption or birth) belongs to the Creator of the Universe, our Eternal Father.
The next challenge that Renée and I worked through was prompted by our oldest daughter Fei when she asked Renée:
“Why Was I Not Born in Your Tummy, Mama?”
Most children by adoption come to a point in their life when they ask this question. Fei asked us when she was five. We wondered how best to answer this question. How could we help all of our children understand that there are two ways to come into a family: the “planes, trains, and automobiles” method or “through a local hospital.”
As we searched for biblical insight to this question we came across this passage in Psalm 139:
“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (NIV)
These are powerful words to anyone who reads them, especially to a child by adoption. It’s amazing to think that God has already ordained each detail of a child’s life before that child is born, whether that child is a child by adoption or a child by birth.
I understood this even more fully one day when I was thinking about what it was like to be present when Sophia was born. I remembered being up late at night in the dim hospital room and how incredible it was to cut Sophia’s umbilical cord. It was truly a breathtaking experience to see this innocent little girl come into the world. For me, being there to actually cut the cord enabled me to connect with God’s will in placing this child into our hands.
I was not there to cut the umbilical cords for my children by adoption. I consider this a loss for all of us. But God revealed something even more powerful to me through Psalm 139—that our position as the parents to children by adoption had been sealed by God before time began.
God, Himself actually cut the cord between our children by adoption and their biological parents, freeing them to be placed in our hands. When we became their mother and father, it was not through our efforts or by chance, but by God’s mighty hand in our lives and the lives of others. Every detail of our life now is evidence of God working to redeem the broken things of this world to fulfill His plans and not ours.
What a beautiful answer to the question, “Why was I not born in your tummy, Mama?” to be able to tell your children, “God did not forsake you. He never leaves you; God has a plan for your life and all of our lives and it was His plan to place you with us.”
Through the years, Renée and I have had the opportunity to play a role in hundreds of adoptions. We have seen that God consistently shows adoption to be close to His heart. He is closely attuned to our needs and the needs of the orphan. We now thank God for our inability to conceive. Otherwise, we never would have been given the privilege of raising children by adoption. Each of our children is unique, precious and full of life. It is only now, in light of what God has taught us through the Spirit of adoption, that we are able to stop seeing childlessness as a curse and see it for what it really is—an opportunity for God to bless us, and an opportunity to pass this blessing on to other families.
I don’t know for whom it is God’s will to adopt, but I am confident that adoption is not a second best choice for couples coping with infertility. It’s not the last resort and it is certainly not Plan B. God only works with one plan, and that is His divine plan, established before the foundation of the world. Just as He predestined the birth child’s existence, He also predestined the path of the child by adoption.
It is awesome to think how God orchestrated all the events in the universe for us to know our children and be their Mama and Papa. God’s Spirit of adoption can do the same for you.
Is God calling you to adopt?