Signs and wonders

I read something recently on an adoptive parent's blog that's been keeping the wheels turning this week.

I'm not going to link to the blog in question unless permission is granted (if you figure out who you are, please leave a comment or send an email, and I'll add the link) because my goal in this post isn't to create more discord, it's simply to voice a few more thoughts about the discussion I read there.

The blogger is clearly devoted to her Christian faith, and therefore attracts others of like mind. The post I read linked to several others on the subject of adoption and Christianity, including one of mine. The ensuing comments, whether they agreed or not, were thoughtful and respectful. One of the commenters made the frequently-seen point that Christians are called to adopt because God set a precedent by adopting humanity. It got me thinking about the dangers of looking for signs and affirmations for the things we want to do.

Humanity has always loved signs. My own Catholic faith is loaded with them, which for me is a problem, because logic is my comfort zone. This doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t appreciate the serendipity that sometimes accompanies life’s events. It's all over my kids’ births and adoptions, and to someone who might be seeking it, point to a higher power’s approval of their presence in my family.

First, there’s the peculiar coincidence of their birthdays: they share the same one (don't ask) which happens to be Sikmogil 식목일 – Korea’s Arbor Day. If ever an image can conjure up adoption, it’s that of the tree: roots and branches, transplanted trees, and more. It was hard not to see providence at work here. My children’s roots are in Korea, but couldn’t be nourished there. By moving them here, their branches will thrive and can join our family tree!

Then come the arrivals. There are, as those of you who have adopted from Korea and are Catholic may know, 103 Korean saints, martyred in the 19th century and canonized in 1984. The Boy arrived on the Catholic feast of Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and Companions. His name is the same as one of the martyrs. What is God telling me here? He must be saying that this child was meant to arrive here, to this country, and join my family and my faith! He iced this cake by selecting another of these saints as his confirmation patron.

The Girl’s arrival also came with a message. She arrived on the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, patron saint of soldiers and promoter of scholarship and learning. Hmmm. What’s God saying with this one? That this child will be a fighter of some sort? Maybe a scholar? If that happens, I’ll know she was meant to be ours! Well, The Girl is certainly a good student and fighter, no question about that! And when it came time for her to choose her confirmation saint, she chose St. Joan of Arc, another soldier saint. See? It's true!

I'd be a liar if I said these signs have no meaning to me. But I'd be a fool if I took them at face value.

Fact is that although a transplanted tree can survive, it should first be helped to thrive where it grows. Fact is, too, that when a tree must be moved, it should only be done with respect for where the roots first grew, for their desire to return, and with a care for those who experience the tree's departure in sadness.

Fact is that identifying a cultural coincidence is meaningless if we as adoptive parents ignore our responsibilities to respect and nurture our kids’ heritage, to protect their birth histories, and to welcome their birth families into ours.

Fact is that raising children out of poverty to be scholars and strong citizens isn't just the purview of adoptive parents - poor parents have the very same right. Helping their families to achieve the means we enjoy should be our primary focus.
When signs affirm something we desperately want to be true, they serve our wants and desires rather than the truth. This feeling is so comforting that some of us try to retrofit life events into them, even when the connections are forced and the messages perverted. I find this particularly sad when the sign is taken from a holy book, and when it excludes other equally-important messages from that same holy book demanding different behavior.

No action is moral if it ignores the bad fruits (think Matthew 7 16) that result from it. This happens in adoption; this good thing that so many promote has led to some appallingly rotten fruit from people who know how to game the system for personal, institutional or governmental profit. Even when an individual adoption is done ethically, if the adopter never gives a backward glance to the families left behind or forward glance to the rights of the adopted, the fruit is just as rotten.

Promoting material and social justice for surrendering parents and equal access to identity for adopted people has to be the starting point for any discussion of adoption. Promoting adoption without equally addressing these, and not just paying them lip service, creates a lie by omission, an untruth. This seems so incredibly clear to me, I honestly don't understand why people don't see it.

Maybe a sign would help.

Comments

Are you saying that children who live in these poor countries should be left in their countries and not adopted to Americans?
When people talk about adoption and God it bothers me some. It seems as if they are saying God meant this baby for them. So the other side, of that is that God doesn't think the baby should be with it's birth family.
Margie said…
What I'm saying is that adoption should be the last course. We should be doing all we can to support families above all, and only considering adoption when efforts to keep a child with his or her family have been exhausted. At that point, I believe adoption can be - not necessarily always is, though - preferable to life in an institution, but only when adoptive parents understand their responsibilities to their child and his or her history.

Poverty isn't a sin. It's no a reason to separate children from families.

Hope that helps, but if not let me know.
Raina said…
Well said, Margie. I have a blog post in the works along these lines. I love my life, my family, my country. But truthfully, I would have rather lived a life in Korea, with a good birth family under the right conditions. Unfortunately the "right" conditions weren't available, which has caused all this loss and gain. My own adopted daughter will probably feel the same way, and I won't take it personally. As a recent blogger wrote, it's insulting for Christians to reduce God to an incompetent fertility doctor! ~Raina
kyungmee said…
margie, I believe you put it very well. I too have commented on this on others posts and perhaps in my own too. It is a delicate issue. While I too wish for better education and prevention so there would be little to no need for adoption so adoption would be last choice..what do we do with all that sits and waits without parents or in very poor and desperate conditions where many are already without parents or the parents are ready to give them up due to their lack of..? It is hard one to ponder..if we continue to serve and promote adoption to resolve current predictaments does it feed the need to continue this wanted service. But yet if we don't "rescue" those left behind..what will happen to them and their future and the future of their young ones? Anyway, it's a thought. One thing is clear..like you said, I too believe WE can try to understand ALL sides and make the best decisions for ALL involved AND NOT PROMOTE our preception and needs as words of GOD and decide who is worthy to care and raise 'our children'. * I hope I did not twist your words..
Margie said…
Raina, thanks so much - and boy do I love the comment about God as infertility doctor! It's right on the money!

Kyungmee, you most certainly didn't twist my words - your comment is exactly what I'm thinking. Poverty is a global challenge; finding the best way to help families without either leaving a child behind or taking one from his or her family unnecessarily is a very delicate balance. This is why it frightens me when people pin their beliefs to a single scriptural verse or theological principle - it invariarbly skews the issues.
kyungmee said…
oh good. Thanks Margie! I am glad to know others think like me too!
Dear Margie:
You are a talented and clear writer. I have learned from your blog and will continue to check back to see what other insights you share... In keeping with your last post, one of our suggestions at I Support Adoptions is to help by SPONSORING a child to keep a biological family together, maintain an orphan in his or her own culture or integrate a child without parents into an "orphan village".

On a personal note, I strongly believe in making an adoptees culture come alive to him/her with books, education, videos, discussions and trips to the "homeland".

Thanks for allowing me to share,
Maria
richmomma said…
Hi Margie,

If you're talking about my blog, you're welcome to link it. I feel very conflicted about this issue.

But I read this entry so it must be a "sign." :) Just not sure what the sign is saying. ;)
wade said…
With regard to "signs," Matthew 16:1-4 speaks clearly to seeking signs versus seeking the One who has already given His word. We don't need to seek after signs, coincidence and happenstance as we have been given God's revealed will to us through His Son in the Bible. The question is just whether or not we will be obedient.

Pure and faultless religion is to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27). Of course, it would be best to provide for mothers and families to care for their biological children; however, when the child is already abandoned for whatever reason, what is the right thing: to pontificate about what should have happened and what social injustice may have led to such an occurrence or to demonstrate the love Jesus had for us in that while we were yet sinners, He died for us in order that we might be reconciled to Him and the Father? Faith without works is dead.
Margie said…
First, let me clear somthing up: Nowhere in this blog or in anything I have written do I suggest that children in true need should be ignored while we address the injustice that led to their condition. Nowhere.

Wade says:

"... however, when the child is already abandoned for whatever reason, what is the right thing: to pontificate about what should have happened and what social injustice may have led to such an occurrence or to demonstrate the love Jesus had for us in that while we were yet sinners, He died for us in order that we might be reconciled to Him and the Father?"

Think about this phrase for a bit:

" ... already abandoned for whatever reason ..."

What if you know that the reasons for a child's abandonment are the results of man's injustice? What if you know, as we do, that the majority of those "orphans" you talk about aren't, but are instead children whose families desperately want to keep them, but can't for want of money? What if that $10K or $15K or $20K you will spend to adopt that child could actually keep the family together?

Is that adoption then a work of obedience to God, or a perpetuation of injustice?

Wade appears to say the former, as long as the child has been abandoned.

I say Christians are duty-bound to understand WHY a child may have been abandoned, and to give the same attention to preventing it as we devote to supporting, through many means, not just adoption, those who have no other source of support.

I completely agree that faith without works is dead. But I also believe that faith that ignores the truth is no faith at all, it's ideology, and is dangerous.

As for the verse you quote, Wade, I believe you provide it as a sign that I shouldn't believe in signs.

You understand that this post is saying the same thing, right?

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