(Courtesy of Shannon Dingle)
November 23, 2013, was National Adoption Day. Our family celebrations began at 3:30 am, as we were all jet lagged from the previous day's flights from Uganda to our home in Raleigh, North Carolina. As our family of eight prepared lunch just before 10 am, I checked Facebook.
It was then I first read Dr. Richard Land's piece, "Adoption: The Best Option," here on The Christian Post.
Dr. Land's first five paragraphs had me cheering. Yes, children in the U.S. and all around the world are waiting for their forever families. Yes, we as Christians ought to carefully and biblically consider how to respond to this great need. Yes, those of us who are in Christ were adopted spiritually by God our Father through his Spirit. I could not agree more with these words from Dr. Land's article: "I would encourage all eligible Christian couples to pray seriously about whether or not God wants them to adopt children in need of loving, caring parents."
Then I got to the rest of his column.
I do agree that God's design for the family, as laid out in the Bible, is for a father and a mother to raise children in a loving home. When an unmarried woman finds herself in an unplanned or "crisis" pregnancy situation (both descriptors I find more respectful to both mother and child than "problem pregnancy"), I agree that adoption should be an option and that abortion shouldn't be one, except in the rare cases in which the life of the mother is at risk. I just can't – as a Christian and an adoptive mother – agree with the conclusion that adoption is the always the best option.
I love adoption. You don't become a mother of six, including four who were adopted, without loving adoption. But I love adoption in the way I love the cross: despite the pain involved and because of the beauty borne out of that sacrifice. Glorifying adoption without acknowledging the brokenness involved is like celebrating Easter without Good Friday.
One reality of living in a post-Eden world is that families do not always reflect God's initial design of a two-parent household. However, as we see in the example of Timothy who either had no father or an unbelieving father, a child can be raised to know and follow Christ without being raised in an ideal household where both mom and dad are Christians (2 Tim 1:5). Scripture is peppered with other examples of our great God bringing forth redemptive stories without demanding that everything else line up perfectly according to his design before he acts.
I disagree the most with this portion of Dr. Land's article:
Keeping the baby is almost never preferable to allowing a baby to be adopted into a solid, faithful Christian home. A single mother who keeps her baby is quite often denying that baby the father that God wants for that baby, and every baby, to have. Furthermore, in most circumstances, keeping the baby circumscribes and forecloses both the mother's and the baby's economic futures in tragic and unfortunate ways.
First, Dr. Land implies that a single mother household can't also be "a solid, faithful Christian home." I count among my friends many single parents who through love and work and sacrifice provide solid, faithful Christian homes for their families. Second, the assertion that God's design is for every unmarried woman to choose adoption for her baby neglects God's design in placing the child in that woman's womb in the first place. We can't place ourselves on God's throne to declare blanket statements about which parents "God wants for that baby."
The example Dr. Land used from 1 Kings 3 could support single motherhood as well. When two prostitutes came to King Solomon for a ruling about one living child claimed by both of them, Solomon could have ruled that the child be given in adoption to a family in which a mother and father would raise him. Solomon did not do that, though, and instead affirmed the motherhood – presumably the single motherhood – of the woman and right of the child to his birth mother.
Finally, I must take issue with Dr. Land's description of "the heartache of parents who long to adopt, but cannot find children to embrace and love as their own." Earlier in his article, Dr. Land mentioned more than 100,000 children waiting for families in the U.S. foster care system and millions of orphans around the world. These are children who wait to be embraced and loved, and we don't need to increase the number of waiting children by demanding that single mothers relinquish their rights and add their children to these statistics. At this time, no Christian who is longing to adopt will find a shortage of children, unless they are only open to the youngest and healthiest children. For those who are concerned about the financial costs of adoption, I encourage you to explore adoption from foster care, which can be free.
I know the joy and challenges that come with parenting children from diverse backgrounds. Two of my children were born to me, one was born with cerebral palsy to a single teenage mother in Taiwan, and three were born in Uganda to a married mother who would succumb to complications from HIV, a disease she passed on to one of our children. I love and respect the other two mothers my children have known, and I weep for them, as I would have loved for those dear women to experience the joy I get every day in raising their children as my own.
When an unmarried woman becomes pregnant, the loving response of the church isn't to treat her like an incubator for parents who would like to adopt. Our call is to love her, not just the baby she carries. Yes, adoption is an option, but it's not the only one. If she desires to parent her child and needs support in doing so, we who know Christ have the privilege and opportunity to step up and serve her. Yes, single parenting may – or may not – involve hardships, but elders and deacons can step up as father figures and others in the church can offer practical helps as well.
What better opportunity to show the world that Immanuel is real and among us than to embrace and love single mothers and the lives they choose – through parenting or adoption – for their children!