On Valentine’s Day, I remembered the anniversary of one of my birth parents’ death – just a few days after my own birthday. The day was filled with inexplicable grief, exhaustion, and me wondering what my life would have been like if I hadn’t been adopted.
Growing up, when I told friends and strangers that I was adopted, the common response was “Wow, that’s so cool!” I also often heard friends, when upset with their family, say to me “You are so lucky you were adopted!” But on Valentine’s Day, it was neither “cool” nor “lucky” that I was not living with my biological family.
Within the evangelical community, it has become somewhat of a “command” to adopt, especially internationally. Families feel “called” to adoption either by God or by infertility, and many say that they are doing it in response to James 1:27 looking after the orphan. Instead of letting a child grow up in poverty or in a country at war, being “rescued” is much better. But I, as a transracial adoptee, would like to push against this interpretation.
From the adoptive parents’ perspective, telling their adoptees it was “God’s will” for them to be adopted seems like a wonderful way to explain their adoptee’s story. But from the adoptee’s point of view, it can be very upsetting. In my case, I began to wonder: does that mean God took my parents away in order for me to have new ones? Is one set better than the other? Why didn’t he make me look like my adoptive family? Adoption is not always a beautiful or exciting thing, especially for the adoptee. It involves loss, trauma, grief, and questions that will never be answered. And while I am not speaking for every adoptee, I think it’s time for us to take this into account.
As Christians, we know that our world is messed up because of sin. Two interchangeable things that sin brought was death and loss. This means there are children growing up without parents. In response to this, the Bible reminds us not to forget those who are experiencing loss, specifically orphans.
Often times, there are children in the world waiting to be adopted simply because their birth families do not have the money, resources, or skills to take care of them. While I do believe there are times when adoption is in the best interest of the child, children tend to be adopted instead of efforts being taken to preserve their biological families. Growing up in Niger and doing my community services at orphanages, I saw parents sending their children to the orphanages in the hope that they´d get food, education, medication – not necessarily a new family. This also meant that a lot of the children had at least one parent alive. What was needed instead of families coming from all over the world and adopting was for organizations to help support the biological families of the child, instead.
Do I thank God for my family? Yes, of course! Am I also upset that I had to lose my birth family? Absolutely. I believe that as Christians, with many of us feeling called to service, we need to ask ourselves why we are wanting to adopt. What is the motive? It should never be to “save” a child, to give ourselves a family, or because we think it’s “cool” and a “lucky” thing to do for a child across the world. The focus always needs to be on the child and what they are going through. And no, I am not lucky to have been adopted.