Question Submitted: I had been feeling alone in my guilt over my lack of drive to get into the adoption process now that it has been 6 years since my husband and I started trying to have children, with no success. I realize now that I am not alone in my guilt over what I feel is selfishness. The other day a woman who, along with her husband, are in the same boat as us, said the exact thing to me that I have been thinking, “I feel selfish for not adopting.” I told her that we would need forgiveness no matter what decision we make for our situations. Maybe we are not meant to adopt, and THAT would be the wrong decision. Either way, we pray for forgiveness and know that we have that forgiveness in Christ. I say this, and I know this, but I don’t always REMEMBER this. Have you heard from others talk of guilt over not diving head first into the adoption process? Are others paralyzed with fear over it as I am, or not motivated to adopt, as I may also be?
You and me both, sister.
I feel all kinds of guilt: guilt for having a womb that bears no fruit, guilt for not making my husband a father, guilt for not making my parents grandparents, guilt for not having a family that looks like that of my friends, guilt for not being worthy to receive a red carnation on Mother’s Day, and the list goes on and on.
I have earned the rank of Eagle Scout in guilt.
So, let me take a shot at defining the guilt and tension you might be feeling surrounding the question of whether or not to adopt: You know from God’s Word that He wills for us in marriage to be fruitful and to multiply (Genesis 1:27-8). You know that children are the blessed fruit of the one-flesh union between a husband and wife (Psalm 127:3). And, you also know that, for whatever reason, you and your husband have been unable to procreate. So, what now? Is having children a law from God you must obey?* Are you obligated to find an alternative method of having and raising children? Do you need to adopt a child to please God?
Adoption is not intrinsic in God’s design of procreation. Adoption is a matter of free will. When a husband and wife are unable to conceive in the one-flesh union, God does not require them by law to adopt children into their family. If a husband and wife decide they would like to adopt, that is great. If a husband and wife decide they would not like to adopt, then that is great, too.
I think a big source of our guilt surrounding the question of adoption stems from the conviction that, in Christ, we are to serve our neighbor. God’s Word even compels us to care specifically for the needs of widows and orphans. However, adoption is not the only way to care for those needs. In other words, we do not need to adopt our neighbor in order to serve him. There are many ways to serve, even mother, our neighbor without signing legal paperwork in front of a judge. We can faithfully pray for the children in our church. We can help a single mother (or pastor’s wife!) wrangle her children in the pew week after week. We can serve as godmothers to precious saints. We can bake cookies for Vacation Bible School and make baptismal banners for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can teach Sunday school and lead the children’s choir. We can attend the local ballgames and cheer on our favorite little people. We can babysit the children of our friends for free on a Friday night so that they can have a much-needed date night. We can buy Christmas presents for underprivileged children. We can write a check to financially support a seminarian’s family. (You and I could spend all day brainstorming ideas.) Think about your specific talents and gifts. How can you use those gifts to serve your neighbor?
Another source of guilt surrounding the question of adoption can come from wanting to please others. How many times have you confided in a friend, family member, or acquaintance that you are barren only to be immediately told, “You should adopt”? Suddenly, you feel like you are supposed to adopt simply because the world thinks you should. Yet, the fullness of our quivers has never been determined by the expectations of others. Children are a heritage from the Lord, gifts to be given and determined by Him, not by your circle of friends. In fact, children are still a heritage from the Lord, whether those children are birthed or adopted. Even if you choose to adopt a child, even if you begin the paperwork and make it through the home study, you will still only be given (or not given) a child according to our Lord’s perfect will and in His perfect time. [Kristi and Rebecca have both written eloquently about this in their respective posts, More Paperwork and Thy Will Be Done…(but what is it?).]
It helps me in those moments of societal pressure to remember that most of those well-meaning people simply want to see me happy, and adoption – to them – seems like the easiest and simplest way of making me a mother in my barrenness.
Now, about that guilt. What are you to do with it? Pastor Schuermann wants me to tell you this:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.” Psalm 103: 10-14
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Adoption is a good thing. The reality is that there are plenty of children who need parents to love them and bring them up in the Faith. Yet, not everyone is called to be parents through adoption, just as not everyone (because of barrenness) is called to be parents through conception. If you and your husband come to the conclusion that adoption is not the right path for your family, then let go of your guilt and pray that God would provide parents for all children in need. Then, go out and serve your neighbor in all peace, joy, and in the full knowledge that Christ has perfectly served you on the cross.
* This is not dismissing the reality of procreation as a part of marriage. Avoidance of procreation in marriage raises other issues that are outside of this discussion.