God the Adoptive Father and God the Husband

We’re talking about knowing God and being known by God, about the judgment, and the pronouncement that “I never knew you—I don’t know who you are” and how an all-knowing God could ever possibly say “I don’t know you.” 

Last week we read that to be known by God, we must be adopted. It bears repeating:

 But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.   

 Earlier, before you knew God personally, you were enslaved to so-called gods that had nothing of the divine about them. But now that you know the real God—or rather since God knows you—how can you possibly subject yourselves again to those tin gods? For that is exactly what you do when you are intimidated into scrupulously observing all the traditions, taboos, and superstitions associated with special days and seasons and years. I am afraid that all my hard work among you has gone up in a puff of smoke! (Galatians 4:4-11, The Message Bible)

Adoption is to make something mine that doesn’t actually belong to me. It is to come to know something or someone who was not known before. It is, in essence, a one-way transaction. It raises the question: Can adoption be refused? Something in this concept of adoption, of being in the family of God, has to do with God coming to know us. 

Adoption is another metaphor for grace. It comes with God’s initiative. It is by grace both a belonging and an inheritance. Nothing and no one can be adopted without being known. It raises the questions: Can we refuse adoption? Can we refuse the inheritance? Can we refuse the privilege of intimate conversation with God? 

The way of grace as an adoption is an inheritance. It is a way of putting yourself inside the house of grace. Paul told the Ephesians:

 To the saints who are at Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.   

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, with which He favored us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:1-6, NASB): 

It appears that we can be adopted into the house of grace, but likewise we can also be born into the house of grace. What is the difference between being adopted and being born? We can be born again, as Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3). We apparently can be adopted or we can be born. It seems as if we were chosen before the foundation of the world to be a holy and blameless people. But that plan went awry. It didn’t work out when we ate, apparently, from the wrong tree in the garden. 

We needed a new plan, a plan of grace and adoption. The original plan was for us to be holy and blameless. The backup plan was that we were to be adopted by grace or to be born again. Both lead to belonging in the father’s house, but only—in our case—by grace. We cannot establish residency in God’s house by our own work. Only the father’s invitation and the father’s initiative gets us into the house. The experience of the adoption of grace is to be placed inside the house of grace. 

In the story of the prodigal son, the prodigal’s father pleads with the prodigal’s elder brother to come inside the house, but in the end it is his choice to remain outside, putting his own effort, his own prayers, and his own piety and judgment in place of God’s grace. 

It is a great irony that when we see obedience—which is doing things God’s way—in the proper light, then grace comes clearly into focus. Doing things God’s way is the way of grace. It is not the way of the law. It is the way of grace. Adoption is something that an adopted child has no control over, no say in; so we too have no say in the gospel of grace. Paul, again:

 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (1 Corinthians 15:10-11)

“By the grace of God, I am what I am.” By the grace of God, you are what you are. It is not our initiative. It is not our doing. We are what we are by God’s grace, and that’s the gospel truth. Recall when Moses was negotiating with God about leading the Israelites out of captivity, Moses asked God: “What should I tell the people about who sent me with the good news that they’re going to be freed from bondage? Who sent me with the good news of salvation?” “Say ‘I Am’ sent you,” God replies. “You are what you are by my grace; I am what I am because I am God.” 

Speaking of Moses, we see in his early years a story of grace and adoption:

 Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, otherwise they will multiply, and in the event of war, they will also join those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.” So they appointed taskmasters over them to oppress them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they dreaded the sons of Israel. The Egyptians used violence to compel the sons of Israel to labor; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they violently had them perform as slaves.   

 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah, and the other was named Puah; and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.” So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. And because the midwives feared God, He established households for them. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born, you are to throw into the Nile, but every daughter, you are to keep alive.” 

 Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived and gave birth to a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she got him a papyrus basket and covered it with tar and pitch. Then she put the child in it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. And his sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him.   

 Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her female attendants walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave woman, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a woman for you who is nursing from the Hebrew women, so that she may nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go ahead.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. And she named him Moses, and said, “Because I drew him out of the water.” (Exodus 1:8-22, 2:1-10) 

The meaning of the story cannot be missed. We are born—all of us—into an evil and hostile world. All of us are Moses, born with a death sentence on our heads. Set adrift in the river of life, we have only our works to support us; works made of straw and pitch. Without miraculous intervention we are destined to die. The raft we find ourselves in is only made of pitch and straw, a flimsy support of our own work. But grace comes along (in this case, in the person of the royal family, the family of God), our plight is seen, and we are plucked from the adverse, bitter, and inhospitable river of life. 

By grace we are adopted; not by our own initiative, not by our own choice, but only by the lavish generosity of the royal family. In this case, God is the royal family. As Paul told the Ephesians, it was arranged “before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will….” 

How something like this adoption can be seen as the subject and the link with grace is an idea that was not always visible before. Paul speaks of adoption by grace as a great saving act. We are predestined, he says, for adoption. We are predestined for this grace. Adoption is an exercise in grace. Adoption is the way of grace. 

I’ve had some experience with adoption in my own family. Babies are adopted on the grace of the adopting parents. It is why the adoption metaphor in Ephesians is such a powerful one. The baby has no say, no voice, in his adoption; no choice in the matter. Adoption is not a free-will enterprise. It is the way of grace. We are all predestined to be adopted by God, we are part of the family unless we run away, unless we shun the grace and turn our back on the adoption. 

What then is our story to tell? What is the gospel of grace that all of us own? Which of us is our witness? Which of us is our mission? It begins, as every adopted child story begins, with the selection to be part of the family. The story is about God’s grace and selecting you and selecting me. Like the baby, it is not because we deserve it or because we are worthy. We simply are what we are, and that’s good enough for God. 

God finds us in the bullrushes of the river of life. We are what we are and things are what they are. It is what it is. We don’t control or manipulate grace. It is the starting point of our story. It is what we have to tell. But the story of Moses takes a particularly unexpected twist:

 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin,… (Hebrews 11:23-25)

You can, it seems, shun the grace, you can turn your back on it. God’s ways are not our ways. While we might like to leave the story of Moses with him as heir to the Egyptian throne, God calls him now to no longer be the adoptee but rather to be the adopter. Moses becomes a type of redeemer himself and becomes the adopter, as it were. The entire Israelite nation is the adoptee: 600,000 men, plus women and children. Moses adopts and leads them out of captivity, back to their homeland, back to their heritage, back to their father’s house, to the house of grace and to the promised land. 

There is deep meaning in this metaphor of adoption. The adopter is god of the royal family, who of his own will seeks us for adoption. It is an act of pure grace, completely at his initiative. It has been his idea apparently since the foundation of the world. We are the adoptees, awash in a dangerous river of life, vulnerable, at risk, depending only upon our good works—a flimsy basket made of straw and pitch. 

Notice that even when we are rescued we still need to help. We need a spiritual nursemaid. We can only drink, apparently, spiritual milk. Paul said: “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to consume it. But even now you are not yet able,…” (1 Corinthians 3:2) God adopts spiritual babies. They require attention and effort. That’s where, I believe, the church comes in. Our job is to be the nursemaid. But we so much want to be the adopter. We want to be the controller of the adoption. 

We’ve only been called to be the one who nurtures. We are not the adopter. We are not the parents. Imagine that you adopt a baby and as it grows and changes those who are outside of your family start to teach your child how they’re supposed to relate to you. How do you think that would go over? Is that the role and the risk of the church? The church is like the adoption agency, a connecting rod between the the adopter and the adoptee and a facilitator of well-being, but the church is not the adopter itself. 

Our DNA will always link us to our natural birth parents. But our DNA is no longer divine. We are born in sin: “Behold, I was brought forth in guilt, And in sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalms 51:5). Our DNA is corrupt and scandalous. So to be adopted, we must relinquish our spiritual DNA. The DNA is relinquished and by grace we become part of an adopted family of God. This is a profound and humbling notion of grace. 

We have difficult work ahead of us. We cannot and must not let the story be about us. We cannot tell the gospel of Donald or Carolyn or Reinhardt or David, or CJ or Jason or Chris. The gospel of grace means that all of us—with all of our beliefs, all of our doctrines, all of our ways of thinking—must ask one simple question: What does this say about God? And what does this say about those who are adopted by God? 

It doesn’t even ask the question: What does it say about Moses? And it certainly doesn’t ask the question: What does it say about me? It asks: What does it say about the adopter, about God and his grace? For example, we’ve spoken in the past about the meaning of our beliefs, for example, the Sabbath—how it’s a perpetual symbol of God’s grace, coming every week regardless of our effort; and how the call to set aside work on the Sabbath day is really a call to grace, the setting aside of our own work on our own behalf.

Those of us who fast do so not to show our piety or devotion or even our self-control. We fast to show that what we do for ourselves—the feeding of ourselves, the sustaining of ourselves—is nothing compared to God’s sustaining power. Even when we withhold what we do for ourselves on our own behalf by fasting, God’s sustaining power keeps us going. This is the gospel of grace. 

When we speak of the way and our effort to follow it, remember that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is God’s way, not our way. The gospel of grace is that Jesus is the way and that means we can’t get lost. We may stumble, but Jesus picks us up. We may wander, but the Holy Spirit brings us back. Anything that cannot be seen as the gospel of grace must be released. We cannot hold on to anything that doesn’t speak of the gospel of grace. 

How comfortable are you with the idea of grace? How comfortable are you at being adopted—fully adopted, as Paul says, and part of the inheritance, which shows that the adoption is real and genuine—there’s money involved? And how about those who are worthy of intimate conversation with the Father? 

Are you willing to let the law go? Is it a matter of grace or law? Is it a matter of grace and law? Is it a matter of partly grace and partly law? Is it all grace and some law? What are you willing to accept as the law? Are you willing to accept it and how it relates to grace? Are you willing to accept the law as a guide, as a mirror, but not as a guiding light? Or does the law guide you and light your path? 

Can you tell your story without destroying either the law or grace? How is it that you are called today to share the gospel of grace? What does your adoption mean to you? What are your thoughts this morning on the subject of adoption, and the metaphor of the adoption leading us to understand more about grace? 

C-J: I think it depends when a person is adapted as to how well they’re able to adapt, and the quality of those who are the responsible adults for the care and protection and provision of that person. So if you have an infant, you may have genetic predisposition, and what happened in the womb in terms of good food or drugs, etc. But the further out you go, that child begins to engage, cognizant of its environment. 

Going back to that period of time when Moses’ biological mother was being his wet nurse, I’m sure that the woman who was going to adapt him—Pharaoh’s daughter—knew that if she was a wet nurse she had a child at home. So most likely, Moses went back to his biological home and was nursed for as much as three to five years. 

This princess had other children around her. Pharaoh had many wives and concubines. But you don’t want a child that’s going to be whiny, needs a lot of attention, doesn’t understand social order, bodily functions. So more likely than not, Moses was brought back into the temple. He might come to visit or maybe she went to visit him. It wouldn’t be unusual for people in Moses’ mother’s community to share the children. 

I remember when I was with the Ethiopians, they called me Mama Connie. Whoever they felt familiar with and felt they could trust, they could go to that person, whether she also had children, was a nursing mother, or as a caretaker for protection—whatever the need was of that child. So these children were shared communally. 

So I think by the time that Moses actually entered the palace and remained there, he was probably much older than a newborn, or even a three month old or a year old child. And so he had already learned the Hebrew language. And he was also probably being tutored at some point, maybe even taken for weeks or months at a time to learn the language of the pharaohs. 

So I think that it isn’t just a one off—“Now you belong to me and I’m responsible for you.” It’s not like we in the United States might envision at this time in history, it being a legal contract. But as little as 100 years ago, children were adopted by extended family—maybe a pastor and his wife. There were lots of ways to be taken into new headship. And this is where I think this idea between us and God enters the age of accountability, reasoning, understanding social structures in terms of expectations, not fighting with your siblings (“We don’t do that in our house.” “Why are we eating this? Because we don’t have other food. This is good, even though it may taste bitter.” Adapting a child to his or her environment, being cold, not having fresh water…. 

There are a lot of things that come into play when a child is taken in, like my friend used to say to me when people would come from refugee camps, and I would say, “This is not what America can offer, we can do better than this” and she’d say, “It’s better than the camp.” So if you equate it with where a person comes from, and the hope of somebody releasing that child, like during World War 2 to a relative in England, or during the Great Depression in this country, or famine, disease…. There are a lot of reasons that children are handed off out of necessity, such as a woman whose husband has died and she has no way of providing for that child. 

But the idea of headship that comes in, like with God with us, is transformative. We are not just going to become under an umbrella of protection; we are going to learn a completely different narrative about truth, about behavior, about discernment, about traditions, about myths, and about who we are in this new identity. And that takes a whole lifetime. As old as I am, I am still learning about this relationship of adoption and grace and God. As I go out and experience new, unfamiliar, or even familiar places—even in families, positions change, roles change. 

And we have to be adaptable and we have to understand the idea of grace is profound because one is giving and one is receiving, but the one who is receiving also gives back by gratitude. And I think that in adoption, those things have to be active. God expects obedience, God expects us to love and be faithful. And so do parents that adopt and children who have been adopted. 

Donald: Today’s metaphor I’ve never heard before, and certainly it is very provocative and profound. The idea of the adoption agency being the church, not the courts, is pretty remarkable. It really puts the church into a unique position, one we don’t typically think of. We think of the church as being the adopter, I believe.

Something said a couple of weeks ago has stuck with me: that grace is really not even a concept that human beings can understand. It’s a God thought. It’s not a human thought. So as we attempt and strive to understand what it means, it gets meaningful but  sometimes maybe we just need to recognize that we can be very grateful for it but it is what it is, and not try to put it in human terms. 

David: We talked last week about God’s thoughts not being our thoughts. I think in this metaphor of adoption we maybe making a mountain out of a molehill. To me adoption and adoption agencies and social and psychological understanding and counseling is a human business, a human concept. To me, the divine Goodness probably has no human concept of adoption. It is just what goodness does. Goodness cannot help but adopt anybody and everything. It’s just part of what Goodness is—like the Good Samaritan who “adopts” the victim on the road to Jericho. It’s just what goodness does. It’s not a process. It doesn’t have organization charts and protocols for dealing with it. It’s simply what Goodness does. 

I do agree with Donald that the metaphor can be useful in terms of looking at the role of church. If Goodness—if God—takes care of adoption and there’s nothing we can or should do about it, then you have to ask can or should the church do anything about it? Would it make any difference? I think it might, but I’m not sure.

C-J: I believe that grace is a process. I don’t think that God speaks grace to us, forgiveness, without merit. It’s just “I love you unconditionally.” We are not able to do that. We’re damaged goods, you know. I’ll speak only for myself, but I think I represent humanity in terms of I am imperfect: I need to trust, I need to have faith, I need correction, I need to be taught how this works. I need to have a narrative that I can refer to. God doesn’t need any of that. Even a parent has an agenda. For an adoptive parent or organization such as the church, there is an agenda of conformity. You don’t have to walk and talk the same and wear the same clothes, but there is an agenda of conformity for the betterment of the collective whole and the individual within that whole. 

It would be nice to think that we could transcend in this dimension to what God has offered us— complete union, such as in the garden before the metaphorical sin. But I think that there is an expectation and you see it throughout Scripture from the beginning to the end to come and commune and learn of and about the divine. It is a process. I can’t have the same expectations of a child of seven that I can of a child of 12, or a fully mature adult, like the prodigal son who’s gone out and comes back very damaged and humbled. He is more receptive to grace because he understands the cause and effect. So I believe it has to be a process. It’s what gets us up in the morning—the expectation of relationship from those around us: I will be loved, I will be fed, there will be provision, and it it comes with a narrative and an expectation. 

Reinhard: We’re not talking about physical adoption but spiritual adoption Remember the Israelites were the chosen people and outsiders were considered pagan, outside the family of God. When Jesus came and preached the gospel of grace, we were implanted in the family of God. We became part of the family of God, we are the heir of privileges from our parent—from God. We have the privilege to receive what was given to the chosen people, which is salvation.

As part of the family, we have to have law and order. There are still rules and regulations to follow as members of the family of God. We tend to rebel and disobey God, but in the end, disobedience does not alter God’s ultimate plan of salvation for his people. Being adapted into the family of God through God’s grace is a matter for thankfulness.

Sharon: I think the analogy of adoption works well in the context of grace. Adoption is making room in your life. Jesus made room in his life for us and absorbed us into his extended family, without our meriting or deserving it. I adopted my boys when they were barefoot and always hungry. It is not an easy process to assimilate new cultures, new lives, new ways of being, new families. I think that that’s very parallel to our adoption into the family of God. 

What I’m struggling with in this discussion is the church as adoption agency, because I find the church so flawed and so far from concept of grace. I think in its purest form it was supposed to be the adoption agency, but I think we’re much more likely to be adopted by a trusting friend than by a denomination and its belief systems. There is often so much pain associated with the church. I’m struggling, trying to figure out if a really dedicated Christian friend is not more of a conduit than a denomination or a set of dogmas or a church system. 

Anonymous: There is another analog of the grace of God, as clear as the adoption analogy. Both the New and Old Testaments carry the analogy of God as a husband. God knows some people but not others, such as the 10 virgins. The essence of God’s knowing us can be explained not just by adoption, but also by marriage. 

The relationship between a wife and a husband is unique. The way a husband knows his wife cannot be applied to any other relationship. It’s the one and only way of knowing a wife. So, in that sense, I understand how to be known by God. He has to be my husband, as he said he was of the people of Israel:

 For your husband is your Maker,
 Whose name is the Lord of armies;
 And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
 Who is called the God of all the earth. (Isaiah 54:5)

 And it will come about on that day,” declares the Lord, “That you will call Me my husband
And no longer call Me my Baal….
I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,
In favor and in compassion,
And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.
Then you will know the Lord. (Hosea 2:16,19,20)

When the Bible says “Adam knew his wife and she got pregnant”, to me that shows that the relationship between a husband and wife is productive. It is the same thing when God knows us and bestows his grace upon us: We become fruitful. This relationship has to be fruitful; otherwise, consider the story of the sheep and the goats. The fruit has to come from that kind of relationship, one in which God provides the produce—it is not our works. In that sense only, God knows us—as the beginner and the finisher of everything in our life. 

So he gives us his grace. We do the work that he wants us to do, and at the end, he looks at our life and says: “You were with me all this time, so I know you. You did my works. You accepted my grace. And I and I know you so intimately, just like a husband knows his wife.” 

In a sense, the relationship between a husband and a wife is a graceful relationship as well—intimate and  graceful, because the husband chooses one woman in all the world on whom to bestow his love, and he accepts a lifelong commitment to her. And the love of the wife for her husband, as the receiver of that grace, is incomparable to any other love in her life. No one knows her like her husband does. She cannot be known by anyone else as she is known by her husband. 

Regarding grace and the law: I think it’s both grace and law. We cannot go with part or all of one or the other—it has to be both. He is the sanctifier. He asks us to keep his laws so that we know that he is the one who makes us holy. So it’s very important that we live in both grace and the law in order to be known by God and to know him.

Donald: The relationship is such a unique relationship. And it is not just “a relationship.” As C-J said, there are times in one’s life when it’s easier to adapt, in an adoption. Certainly, the younger they are, the more likely they are going to take on the culture and the ways of the adopting family. In our dotage, we may revert to childhood behaviors, so there’s great comfort, probably, as we mature, to find that room in our life, as Sharon said. I think you’re more likely to have room in your life when you’re a child. As a mature adult in the middle of your life, you think you’re in charge of your life. You don’t have much room for anything other than yourself. 

So putting that together with what Anonymous just said, this relationship is best taken on as a child. If not, you’re probably much more receptive to take it on as a mature adult because you recognize your own weaknesses, your inability to control your own destiny. So there is room in your life.

C-J: I think there’s also a big distinction between adoption and custodial care. Even people in custodial care have a relationship. The level of intimacy that Anonymous was speaking of is one of love. “I accept you for who you are, where you are. But our goal is to help you to become what God intended you to be”, which translates, in cultural terms, to “the best person you can be within this environment to reach your maximum potential.” 

But custodial care doesn’t really care about your potential. It just wants you to conform. And so God exceeds that. There’s a big difference between adoption and custodial care. Even growing old and having to deal with your body, not having control of things in your body that you did in mid-life where you’re empowered to make those decisions and make them happen. I think it takes a different kind of grace for ourselves, and still maintain a dignity, and a faith, a growing relationship, when we get to that point with diminishing returns. But even there, God says, “You are whole in my eyes, and our relationship will sustain you.” 

That’s profound. That’s what I find at this point in my life, because I’ve shifted gears. My relationship with God is still pretty steady, from mid-life, but now I’m moving into new areas, so my relationship with God is changing. In some ways, I think it’s like a long term marriage. It’s “You still love me, even though I am no longer strong, no longer able to bear children, you have to help me with everything, I cannot make decisions.” To all of that God says, “I am with you, from the beginning to the end until you transcend and return to me, not in the flesh, but in the spirit.”

That’s pretty awesome. I don’t see that anywhere else. We have memories when people die, and they fade over time. But that relationship that God has with us is always enduring and growing and active. It’s not like “I’ve arrived and I’ll take care of you.” It goes beyond that.

Chris: There may be strong contrasts between adopted children. One child may find it very easy to accept, another may find it a very traumatic experience to be taken away from what it knew and thrust into a strange environment. The end of that child’s fight and turmoil may be like a light switch going on, with acceptance and understanding flooding in. I think grace may be very similar—very easy for some of us to accept, but a traumatic experience that some others must go through.

Donald: A word that we often use in our faith journey is surrender. It sounds defeatist. “I surrender all.” This seems to be what happens with the traumatized adoptee. 

Chris: It is final acceptance, the recognition that “I have to give it up my preconceived ideas, my heavy baggage, so that I can allow grace into my life.” The contrasting reactions of adoptees may depend very much on their different environments. One may have lived in a forbidding orphanage, another in a loving foster home. We all come from different environments, different backgrounds, and I truly believe that as a result we all relate to grace differently at the beginning of our journey. But goodness is always there. Grace is always there. How we’re able to see it or relate to it or accept it is very different for each of us. 

Michael: It seems very hard to accept the metaphor and the spiritual consequences of adoption in the context of free will. But at the same time, after some struggle, it seems that most adopted children stick with their adopted families—they don’t ask to go back to the adoption agency.

Don: It seems we can and should continue a very vigorous discussion about what we can know about God and what God knows about us. I want to go back and visit Michael’s question of a week or so ago: What should we not know? Or what can we not know about God? And and why do we seek to penetrate so earnestly God’s secrets and his knowledge and his ways?

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