Adoption as a Symbol of Redemption5 min read

Every adoption story is different, and every adoption story is the same. They are different in the particulars: what sort of life circumstances set you down the path? What is the process or local legal requirements? Is the adoption of an infant or an older child, foreign or domestic, open or closed? How much will it cost? In the details each adoption is unique, but every adoption is likely to be daunting, confusing, and even quite nebulous. In the end, however unique, every adoption is the same. When it is finalized, your family will have grown, a child will have been saved from an almost certainly desperate situation, and love will have the opportunity to flourish.

Every adoption is experienced differently in a subjective sense, but every adoption also shares an objective frame of reference. I believe that the Christian life is a participation in the life of God. We are to be imitators of Christ. Our goal in this life is to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. Of course, Jesus is the only perfect image of the Father, so we do well to keep our eyes fixed on Him, trusting in His grace and mercy. But even though we are only poor imitations, it is in striving toward that upward calling that we find our place in the grand tapestry of God’s creation.

Saint Paul writes, “In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:3–5). God has redeemed us in order to adopt us as His sons and daughters, that we may be His, and live with Him eternally.

The way I see it, anything that we might call good must be in accord with and find its fulfillment in God. For nothing can be good apart from Him. Since God in His love adopted us, the purpose of adoption for us should be to participate in that work of God and show His love in our own lives. Adoption here below ought to glorify God and honor His Word by imitating Him, albeit imperfectly, as children imitate their parents. In the same way that we can understand the procreative act between a husband and wife as a participation and imitation of God’s act of creation, the adoptive act can be understood as a participation in and imitation of God’s act of redemption.

Like an adoption story, every salvation story is different, and every salvation story is the same. Many, like myself, were adopted by God from infancy. Others, like my wife, were adopted by God as young adults. Whatever the particulars, we were all adopted according to the grace of God and born into His family through the waters of baptism. God only has one begotten Son; the rest of us were adopted. So in a way we all have an adoption story. You may or may not desire to pursue adoption for your own family; either way, it will only be done according to God’s gracious will.

No adoption story is complete without the birth parents, and it is with them that I think God’s redemption is perhaps most glorious. I don’t know anything about my daughter Violet’s biological father; he wasn’t in the picture, so I’ll refrain from commenting about him. But, for reasons unbeknownst to me, her biological mother could not have kept her. It was either give her up for adoption or to the state; the third choice is unconscionable. But we will be eternally grateful to her first of all for choosing life and secondly for choosing us to raise her baby. We were told by our case worker that she said that one of the reasons she picked us is because I am a pastor. However, she didn’t want to meet us. She didn’t want to see her newborn or even hold her. I can only imagine it would have been too painful. Whatever sins or life circumstances led her there, clearly she loved that baby.

Every adoption story is a story of redemption—not just for the child, but for every party involved. Through adoption, Violet was saved from what may have been a dysfunctional and unstable home life and delivered in the saving flood of baptism. Through adoption, my wife and I have been blessed with a child and all the joy she brings. But I would like to think that the birth mother has the greatest redemption story of all.

By giving up her daughter for adoption, she put the helpless one above herself. Whether she realizes it or not, in her own way she has participated is something bigger than herself which has its source in God.

I see in what she did a small reflection of what Jesus has done. I wish I could thank her and recognize that she has done a truly beautiful thing which shows a picture in time of the eternal glory of God revealed in Jesus’ sacrificial love for us. It’s a testament of what God can do through all of us.

As is almost always the case with these things, adoption is born out of tragedy. In a perfect world there would be no need for adoption and there would be no need for redemption. Ask yourself: Can a lifetime of mistakes, failure, and wonton rebellion be atoned for with a single act of sacrificial love? Yes! After all, that’s what Jesus has done for you. He atoned for a world of sin which He did not commit by His perfect sacrifice on the cross. And to whatever extent we are able, it is pure bliss to share His life-giving salvation.

Photo © Ta Focando/Unsplash

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About the Author

Rev. Trenton Wollberg is the pastor at Holy Cross, Onaway

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Mary C Craaybeek - January 17, 2023

Pastor Trenton Wollberg, thank you for a beautiful interpretive rendering of adoption through redemption!