I was adopted. After being in foster care for awhile, my foster parents decided to adopt my sister and I. At the young age of three, I had no understanding, much less any thoughts, towards the complexities of the legal system, foster care, or the adoption process. All I understood was love, stability, and honey-nut Cheerios. I was three! At no fault of my own, my sisters and I were abandoned by people who perceived us as four problems among the real personal problems they refused to accept. So, there we were – our lives were in limbo, waiting and hoping for rescue, acceptance, and love. Fortunately, two God-loving, Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus understood that God was a Father to the fatherless and sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). They lived out James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
As a teenager, I struggled somewhat with rejection. I thought, “Why would anyone do that to their kids? Why would anyone do that to me?” I didn’t struggle long as I had great loving parents, but those thoughts would come to mind occasionally. I once met my biological dad. It was at my biological grandfather’s funeral. I was a tenth grade, straight A student with a great life. As the funeral was ending, people formed a line to share their condolences with the family. Since I was not technically immediate family, I got in the line with my mom and dad. I remember my mom whispering in my ear, “The guy on the left beside your grandmother is your real dad.” Real dad? My real dad was in front of me in line. My real dad was the one who went to work every day, even when sick, to provide for us. My real dad was the one who took me fishing, played catch in the front yard, taught me to drive on the old tractor, and cheered at my basketball games. That stranger wasn’t my real dad. So, I awkwardly waited in line to shake the hand of the man they told me was my real dad – they guy who abandoned me fifteen years earlier and hadn’t written, called, or visited. As I approached the line, I honestly didn’t wonder what I would say or do as thirty seconds was really no time to prepare for such a meeting.
“Sorry for your loss,” I said. He gave no response as he looked away. I wasn’t sure if he did that because of embarrassment, regret, or pride. Afterwards, my parents said we were going to eat at my grandmother’s house. During the car ride, I imagined what I would say if I saw him again. Thoughts of anger, confusion, and even revenge entered my mind. We didn’t stay long, but long enough for me to say the words to my biological dad I had been dying to say since the funeral. I had thought long and hard about my words and I was ready to say them to him face to face. Before we left, I found him and said, “It’s ok. I forgive you.” I walked away and that was the last I ever heard from him. I wasn’t looking for a dad; I had the best one ever! That day, I found how forgiveness set me free of past, present, and future hurts of unforgiveness, rejection, and depression. It was just a week or so later that God called me to be a pastor. I believe I was able to hear and answer that call because my heart and mind were not clouded by unforgiveness.
Adoption is a biblical word and the very heart of the gospel. Galatians 4:4-7 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Think about these verses. There are huge costs in adoption and Jesus paid a huge cost for ours. There are legal issues in adoption and Jesus dealt with and fulfilled the legal requirements for us. Kids who are adopted get a name change and now we are sons, daughters, and even heirs! When I was adopted, I got a daddy. When God adopts us, we get to call him “Abba”, which means “daddy” in Aramaic. The best part is these verses imply we are chosen. Adoption was not an afterthought by God or His Plan B (read Ephesians 1:4-6). The fullness of time had come for God to act through sending His Son Jesus. I jokingly say sometimes to those not adopted, “Your parents got what they got…mine chose me.” In Christ, we are not abandoned, rejected, or unloved. He is our Daddy, redeemer, rescuer, defender, savior, and friend.
Stephen and his wife Haley have called Arkansas home all of their lives. Stephen has served in several ministry roles over the last 25 years and as a lead pastor for the last 8 years. Stephen attended Williams Baptist College and earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University, an MA, MDiv, and DMin in Christian Leadership and Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. When not pastoring, Stephen enjoys running, cycling, reading, writing, camping, fishing, and spending time with his family.