by Stephen Story
At Covenant Care we try to impress on our adoptive families what a privilege it is to adopt. I’ve heard colleagues say that it’s a privilege to be part of a ministry like Covenant Care. Other adoptive parents have said that they feel privileged to grow their family through adoption. What do we mean when we say things like this?
Loosely defined, a privilege is an opportunity available only to a select group of people. A privilege is understood to be a good and special thing. As an adoptive dad I see that there are certain experiences, insights, and benefits encountered in the world of adoption that are not experienced anywhere else in life.
There’s the joy of holding your long-awaited child for the first time – even though that child may look nothing like you. There’s the humbling experience of watching a birthmother choose the well-being of her child over her own desires. There’s the satisfaction of knowing that you helped to offer life and hope in a culture that often affords only emptiness and death.
But for Christians who adopt, the greatest privilege of adoption transcends these temporal rewards and goes to the very heart of God’s design for us as humans. It’s a privilege that is shared not just with adoptive parents but with Christian parents of every generation. For those trusting in Christ, the greatest privilege of adoption is the privilege of teaching a child to trust in God.
In Psalm 78 the psalmist lays out a God-centered view of parenting that captures what is at stake as time rolls on from one generation to the next. It’s the understanding that, for God’s people, parenting is all about one generation teaching the next generation to hope in God.
A story that unites generationsOne characteristic of Psalm 78 is the past / present / future theme. The psalmist says that he will teach us “things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (vv. 3-4, ESV).
He continues in vv. 5-6, “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children.”
The psalmist is pointing out that we are living a brief moment in the middle of a much larger story. This is a story that began with “our fathers” (v. 5) many generations ago. It’s a story that will continue with the coming generations.
And we are right here in the middle. Part of the story has already happened in the past. Part of the story is still to come in the future. The call is for us to see the present as something we are responsible for – something that we have the unique opportunity to influence in the midst of this larger story.
Teaching children to hope in God
Thinking of the things God did and taught in the past, the psalmist writes in v. 4, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”
The reason? “[S]o that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (v. 7). This is the central point of the passage: We remember what God has done in the past and we talk about it, so that the next generation will learn to hope in God.
One striking truth is that you don’t have to try very hard to fail at this calling. Notice the two opposites in v. 4: hiding and telling. You’re either telling about God, or you’re hiding what God has done. Those are the two possibilities. You don’t have to proactively teach others to forget God. All you have to do is fail to tell them what God has done, and in essence you have hidden God from the next generation.
When God acts, when He works, when we can discern His faithfulness and provision, these things are designed to be highlighted and talked about and taught, especially with children.
The greatest privilege of adoption
I always enjoy hearing the reasons behind the name that parents choose for their child. Many parents choose a name based on the meaning, using the name to capture the vision they have for the child’s future.
This was the case for my wife and I with each of our children. One of our sons is named “Elijah” after the Old Testament prophet. We chose the name because it means “my God is the LORD,” which we think is a wonderful statement of our deepest desires for our son.
We now have the privilege of teaching him what it means to hope in God. One of the most effective ways we can do this is to talk with him about the things God has done in the past, both for our family and in the pages of Scripture.
For the Christian, parenting is all about teaching the next generation to hope in God. Adoption shares this same transcendent purpose, and this is the greatest privilege of adoption.
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