I was hanging out with a friend the other day, our kids playing in the basement as we snatched bits of conversation. Her almost-one-year-old crawled over to me with the biggest smile. What a smile! I exclaimed before making a huge faux-pas, She looks just like her mom. Without missing a beat, my friend replied, She does look like her birth mom!
My friend is this little girl’s mom. She has been since before this child was born – chosen for her. And yet, through the connection of Facebook and open adoptions, we also know her birth mom and what she looks like. We see biologic resemblances even though all of this sweet girl’s nurturing is through her adoptive parents.
My friends have learned to handle these comments with grace. They are open about this road to adoption and the challenges and sweetness of the journey. They embody a family knit together by the restoration of adoption.
In Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World, Kelley Nikondeha speaks about the theology of adoption as an adoptee herself and as an adoptive mother. She weaves together stories of her own adoption, of her journey of adopting her children, and the Bible’s underlying theme of adoptive family. From Moses to Ruth to Jesus, we see adoption stories as the basis of Christian faith. Paul calls us adopted children of God. Without adoption, there is no foundation for the radical inclusiveness and love of the message of Jesus.
Kelley brings this theology of adoption out of the ancient text and into our lives, here and now. How do we reconcile the adopted land of Israel? To some, this state is a restoration of a displaced people; to others it is the oppression of an original people group. How do we reconcile centuries of oppression and slavery in America with acknowledgement that returning to literal African roots isn’t the solution? How do we restore the stolen land of our Indigenous People while recognizing it isn’t about the physical plot of land. Or maybe it is? Kelley brings these questions and their theology to the forefront while recognizing the complexities of living out a Jubilee-faith, a faith that restores the land and forgives debts; a faith that welcomes the refugee home; a faith that reconciles adopted land with homeland.
Kelley’s rich storytelling and smart theology blend perfectly create a book that deals with current issues of social justice with the power and grace of biblical redemption. She reminds us that redemption doesn’t mean a neat bow and easy answer, that this kingdom is slow in coming. But, she says, that doesn’t mean we lose hope. Through her own story of adoption, she says,
Adoptive parents aren’t superheroes or saints. The legitimate words of caution and real complications that are part of adoption give me pause. And yet redemption, whenever it happens, must be named (94).
Extending this metaphor of adoption, she reminds us that the road to redemption is paved with disappointment, failure, and suffering. It is the restorative work of God that brings those heartaches light and brings the slow restoration of this world.
She ends this book with the reminder that all of humanity is adopted into this family of God. And that by claiming the title of family, of brothers and sisters, we are interwoven and bound. We are together on this road to reconciliation and redemption. This faithful hope gives me pause when I get discouraged and reminds me that, though there are so many divisions, there is so much repair that is happening, as well.
Adopted is for sale now, and I’d highly recommend this hopeful book! As part of Kelley’s launch team, I received an advanced copy from the publisher but all views are my own.
How have you experienced the theology of adoption? Where do you long to see restoration through adoption?