by Stephen Story
Adoption is very much a family undertaking. As Christians we believe that within the family God has created men and women with unique roles and responsibilities. With Father’s Day approaching it’s worth asking: what aspects of adopting a child are especially the responsibility of men? How should we as Christian husbands and fathers lead our families in the ministry of adoption?
Set the overall moral vision of your family
Christian husbands should provide direction in the big things (Why is our family here? How can we glorify God as a family?) and in the seemingly mundane things (We will have dinner together. We will worship together on Sunday. This is what we will and won’t watch on TV.)
John Piper explains it this way: “All families stand for something. All families are known for something. All families are called to glorify God according to their gifts. What does that look like? […] Pursue that. Figure that out.”
Does the ministry of adoption fit into the moral vision God has given your family? Do you need to re-cast a vision for your family that includes adoption? Why is your family pursuing adoption? Lead your family in asking and answering these questions.
Champion the vision God gives your family
Having a vision of what your family ought to look like doesn’t guarantee it will become a reality. Even for couples who enter marriage with shared desires for their family, over the years the temptation for men is to sit back and coast and let things play out as they may. When this happens our wives are left as the ones having to move the family forward.
Part of what it means to lead as a Christian husband is that you are the one reminding your wife of the vision God has given your family. And it means that you should lead in refining and shaping that vision as the years progress.
Maybe your wife was the first one to mention adoption. That doesn’t mean you’re not leading. God may give your wife the vision for something your family needs to be doing, such as adoption. That’s a good thing! Your responsibility then is to explore that along with her and, if it does in fact seem to be where God is leading, then you become the champion of that cause.
Take that calling, that desire, and take ownership of it. One Covenant Care dad summed it up like this: “Dad believes God has called us to adopt. This is not going to be easy, but God will be with us. Are you with Dad?”
If adoption or foster care is where God is leading your family then don’t let it be just an add-on to what you’re doing as a husband. Jump in with both feet, embrace it, and lead in figuring out what that looks like.
Be the decider
We often say at Covenant Care, “You don’t adopt a child by accident.” You have to lean into it and actively pursue it. And this means making one decision after another.
George W. Bush famously declared himself to be “The Decider.” His point is inelegant but well taken. One mark of a weak leader is the inability or unwillingness to just make a decision. It’s possible to analyze something to death. You can thoughtfully and carefully consider something from a dozen different angles. But guess what? Nothing’s going to happen until someone makes a decision! And as a Christian husband this responsibility will often fall to you as your family pursues adoption. Don’t let fear of the unknown paralyze your ability to make a decision.
At the same time, being “the decider” means making informed, wise decisions. We counsel our adoptive families to count the cost. Know what you are committing to when you choose to pursue adoption. If the cost is more than you’re equipped for, then perhaps you should decide not to move forward.
In making decisions as husbands we should do so gently, patiently, and tenderly. God is honored when we seek out the insights and desires of those those we lead. Seek and pray for unity, especially in the big decisions. Don’t enter a lifelong commitment such as adoption until you and your wife are unified in the big decisions.
Be the stabilizer
Brian Borgman writes, “All parenting is spiritual warfare. In fact, the whole Christian life is spiritual warfare. But some children come from dark places, and parenting them means that you will fight a particular battle for their hearts and minds.”
Adoption — like parenting in general — is not easy. It’s going to be up and down, back and forth, and incredibly difficult at times.
And in those ups and downs you are called to the the anchor for your family. When emotions are running high it’s your job to steady the ship. One pastor says, “Don’t get too high on the highs; don’t get too low on the lows.” Slow and steady. For some couples this stabilizing perspective comes from the wife, but more often it seems to come from the husband.
Being the stabilizer can at times be a simple thing. It may mean saying, “I know that you’re tired and worn out; let me take the kids for the day so you can rest and refocus.” It may mean just reassuring your wife that you love her and that you’re committed to her and to your family for life.
But more often this is not a simple thing. The truth is that you don’t have what it takes to be the stabilizing force for a lifelong journey such as adoption. You can only give to your wife and family what you have already received from the Lord. Stability comes through you, but not from you.
You have to be spending time with God through His Word. You have to be killing sin in your life by the power of the Spirit. You have to be fighting for your wife and your family in prayer. If you aren’t finding security and stability in God, then you won’t be equipped to be the stabilizer for your wife and children.
Humility. Humility. Humility.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant… (Philippians 2:3-7 ESV)
Every adoption story involves brokenness, and you cannot step into brokenness from a standpoint of pride. When you enter into a situation where people are suffering and hurting, whatever pride is in your heart will be sifted out and replaced with humility. It’s not about you, it’s about birthparents and a child who are hurting. It’s not about taking on a project of a child in need. It’s about bringing attention and glory to the God of grace, the God who redeems.
In choosing to adopt you are choosing to step into a situation that is filled with pain and brokenness. Often it will be pain and brokenness that you cannot fix. You are not going to be equipped to do this apart from the mind of Christ and the humility of Christ that Paul writes about. You won’t be equipped for it if you aren’t willing to empty yourself like Christ did, and pour yourself out for the good of that child and ultimately for the glory of God.
Embrace humility, because it will come one way or another. You can start there, or you’ll arrive there slowly and probably painfully through the experience of entering a broken situation.
Love your wife like Christ loved the church. Be a servant to her, and to your children. Admit and confess your faults — adoption will bring them to the surface! Embrace humility, because it will come one way or another.
What a privilege we have as Christian men to lead our families on the adoption journey. Happy Father’s Day, from all of us at Covenant Care!
1 Borgman, B. (2014). After they are yours: The grace and grit of adoption. Adelphi, MD: Cruciform Press