Six truths about adoption

Written by Somer Colbert
Published on November 04, 2022

As the late afternoon traffic began to build, my kids and I sat quietly in the car on the way home from piano lessons. Out of the blue, my seven-year-old daughter said, “Mommy, is that what my mom looks like?” Having glanced outside at the woman sitting next to us in her car, she noticed her hair and skin were similar to her own. After a long day of work and ubering my kids from school to piano to football practice, I wasn’t totally prepared for this conversation. But very quickly I answered, “Yes honey, she has the same beautiful hair and skin color as that lady does.” And for the moment, that was enough for her curious little heart. 

Later, when I had a few moments to pause and consider my daughter’s question, my momma heart sank just a little. Though she doesn’t look anything like me, most days I forget that I did not give birth to her. It’s days like that day in the car that I am reminded that her story includes a family she doesn’t even know. Despite the fact that I am the only mom she has ever known, in her heart, my baby girl carries thoughts of her birth mother and wants to know more. 

A true calling 

November is adoption awareness month. This is a great time to bring attention to the many children all over the world in need of loving forever families, but it is also a time to bring awareness to the reality of what the adoption calling truly means for those who step up and say yes. Millions of families in the United States are affected by adoption in some way. And while many onlookers appreciate its beauty, most are unaware of the reality adoptive families live with each and every day. 

Adoption is more than a process, it is a calling.

When my husband and I felt called to pursue adoption, we had only the Hallmark movie version in our minds, complete with no complications and a fairy tale airport arrival scene. But there is so much more to adoption than the version we see in movies and social media. The reality of what we have faced over nearly a decade of heartbreak and failed processes include: A newborn taken from our arms, failed placements in 4 different countries, and a promise made to a woman across the world to love and raise her son only to have to go back on our word because a pandemic made it impossible to bring him home. 

It’s not the easiest path (but it’s worth it)

We have offered our hearts to children who will never know we exist and spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in paperwork seeking to fulfill God’s calling to build our family through adoption. Because of this, we have experienced loss, grief and heartache. But we have also experienced miracles and lessons from the Lord we could never have learned on safer and more predictable paths. 

While it is important to champion the need and call Christian families to adoption, what is equally important is to see these families equipped for the journey ahead. 

Nine processes over ten years have taught us these six truths about adoption – 

1. Adoption is messy

Adoption is the result of God’s original plan for family being broken and therefore, it is messy. The many reasons a child becomes available for adoption include poverty, disease, addiction and abuse or neglect. Because of this fact, children joining families through adoption bring with them a difficult story and trauma that desperately needs love and healing regardless of their age when they join your family. This requires adoptive parents to understand the behaviors associated with trauma and how to properly respond to them, as well as the importance of helping their child process and navigate the broken parts of their story. Connection takes time and adoptive parents must be ready to sacrifice a great deal of time and convenience to meet the needs of their child, especially early on as they build trust. 

2. Adoption is not about me

Author Jason Johnson says, “Adoption is less about getting a child for your family and more about giving your family for a child.”  This is something I did not understand and was unwilling to receive as a waiting adoptive mom. When God called our family to adopt, all I could think about was that baby girl in my arms. My blinders went up as I worked tirelessly toward that end goal. As a result, I allowed the progress of our process to dictate my mood and my joy, which honestly made me no fun to live with at times. I longed for that moment when I would hold her for the first time, but never once did I consider the grief that both she and her birth mother would be feeling. 

It has taken me years to understand that I allowed my longing to overshadow my calling. 

I now understand that while I carried my girl in my heart, another woman carried her in her womb and bravely chose life for her. My daughter needs me to see and celebrate that there are other people that contributed to her story and they deserve a place in her heart as well. Therefore, adoption is her story and not mine. I merely get to play a part. 

3. Adoption is stewardship

As Christian parents, it is so important that we are ever mindful of the fact that our children, whether biological or adopted, are not our own. They are created and given to us by God to shepherd in his ways and steward toward the life he has for them. When God sees fit to place a child in your family that you did not give birth to, he is assigning you to a role that carries much weight, but not in the way you might think. You see, an adopted child is not someone to rescue or “fix,” they are simply the child God has ordained for your family. While there will be times you may need to parent them differently according to their physical and emotional needs, your role as their parent is the same as it is toward your biological children. When we understand our role as stewards, we are better able to maintain a steadfast effort and focus on what the Lord truly wants us to accomplish as parents. Love them, point them to Jesus, and trust the Lord with everything else.

4. Adoption is refining 

I have been an adoptive mom for nearly 8 years now, and I will tell you with absolute certainty that nothing has refined me in my character or spiritual walk like the adoption journey. It will make you uncomfortable, stretch your faith muscles, and challenge your dedication to the very calling itself. But I will also tell you that I would not want to go back to the person I was before he led me down this path. That’s the beauty of our God. He uses what challenges and makes us uncomfortable to mold us into the children he intended us to be all along. 

5. God is sovereign over your family

I have honestly lost count of how many times I have asked the Lord “why” after so many processes ended and doors were closed. I have run the gamut of emotions including sadness, frustration, doubt, anger and apathy over and over again. But very slowly over the years, the Lord has taught me that his calling was not for us to fill our home with more children, but to be willing to obey and offer love freely. As challenging as those years were, they were not wasted. Through each of those experiences, I can now speak with authority on the lessons God has taught me along the way. I tried everything and fought hard to complete those processes and bring those kids home, but in the end, I had to learn to accept that those children were not God’s assignment for me. My heart can rest knowing he is sovereign. He knows and loves each of them and has a perfect plan for their lives just as he has a perfect plan for yours and mine. 

6. Adoption is an invitation to love in an entirely new way

About a year and a half after our daughter joined our family through adoption, the Lord began speaking to our hearts to begin another process. While we were a little hesitant to walk through it all again, we surrendered and began pursuing a daughter in Africa. One day, my husband was listening to a podcast and heard the word “ahavah.” The word struck a chord with both of us and we began diving into its meaning. Ahavah is the Hebrew word for love. “It’s perfect,” we thought and quickly agreed this was the name for our daughter-to-be.  Little did we know that our hearts would be crushed when we learned months into the process that we had been lied to and no adoption would be possible after all. Though we grieved that loss, we never let go of that word ahavah. The Lord continued to bring it to our minds and prompted an even deeper dive into its meaning. The root word for ahavah is ahav, which means to give. Of course! God’s original language describes love as an action, not a feeling. This is what we now understand to be true about adoption. No matter how God chooses to involve you in his plans, the way forward is love in action. For some this means saying yes to welcoming children into their families, for others it means coming alongside to serve and lift up those who have answered the call. 

If the Lord is speaking to you about adoption, lean in to his calling and don’t be afraid to lay your “yes” on the table. Surrender your fears and expectations as he guides you one step at a time to the outcome he has for you, but don’t get too caught up in the outcome as the twists and turns can be many on this journey. Walk forward in faith knowing that God already knows what your family is supposed to look like. 

If you have a heart for adoption and want to help families, consider serving them in these simple but impactful ways:

Pray

Adoptive families need prayer! They are living their lives in a daily battle with an enemy who despises them for stepping in to redeem something he has delightfully broken. Pray for their endurance, wisdom and for God’s hand to cover their homes, their marriages and their children.

Take action

Adoptive families are often depleted doing what I call the “hard work of heart work.” This means the practical needs around the house sometimes fall to the wayside. You can bless an adoptive family tremendously by offering to bring meals, babysit and organize a volunteer group to take care of some much needed yard work or schedule a monthly check-in to see what needs the family might have. 

Each year, more than 100,000 children in the U.S. alone find themselves in need of loving families through adoption. While not every family is called to adopt, we are all called to do something. I pray you will take some time during Adoption Awareness month to pray and consider how God might be calling you to step out and be ahavah, love in action, for children and families around you.


Consider a few extra resources:

Adoption and foster care isn’t a have to—it’s a get to

Surrendering to God’s call

Answering the call

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Somer Colbert

Somer Colbert is a writer, speaker and host of the Love Where You Are podcast. She is the Director of Adoption and Foster Care Ministry at Crosschurch and Connected Champion with the Arkansas Baptist Children and Family Ministries where she creates support, awareness and advocacy for families seeking to serve in the areas of adoption and foster care. She creates weekly podcast episodes and resources to equip and empower Christian families to identify their influence for the gospel in every season, live life on mission and share Jesus right where they are.  Somer is passionate about equipping spiritually healthy families and seeing a movement of God’s people step into confidence in their ability to change the world around them through the way they love! 

She resides in Arkansas with her husband, three kids and three dogs. She’s obsessed with British docudramas and cooking shows and can always be found with a cup of hot tea in hand. Her life has been forever changed by the love of Jesus, marriage to her favorite person, parenting her crazy crew and walking multiple adoption journeys. 

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