Some time ago I saw Little Orphan Annie on stage in, well, Annie. Her hard-knock life in a dingy New York City orphanage deprived her of all except her startling ability to sing and dance in unison with other little girls. Then Annie met Daddy Warbucks. When he bent over, as my dad would say, money fell out of his pockets. The rest is musical history.
In another made-for-Hollywood orphan story, Hadassah grew up in Susa under the wing of her cousin Mordecai because she had no father or mother. Mordecai and Hadassah descended from a line of Jews who had been taken from Jerusalem into captivity in Babylon.
Hadassah couldn’t have grasped how good she had it. Mordecai raised his adopted daughter Hadassah, or Esther, to carry herself well enough to win King Xerxes’ favor in a palace full of bachelorettes. After the Jews in the kingdom became pawns in a planned genocide, Mordecai urged her to uncommon bravery, faith, and ingenuity. The final act of Esther’s adoption story included a series of plot twists and a captive nation’s stunning victory over oppression.
Progeny Versus Legacy
As a young couple, Ben and Melissa Nugent faced their own plot twist. They couldn’t get pregnant. Like other believers facing infertility, each had to trust God with dashed expectations.
Melissa had to accept that she wasn’t going to own a pregnancy story. She couldn’t create a record of photos like her friend had, with each succeeding month’s picture showing a slightly bigger baby bump. She slowly realized that God had designed her family to include adoption instead of fertility. She learned to say, “I want to be a mom for a lifetime. How that happens, what that looks like, I can flex on that with the Lord.”
Ben had to come to grips with the fact that his DNA wasn’t going to be extended to the next generation. As a father, he would concern himself with Jesus’ Kingdom rather than which kid had his eyes. He grew the conviction that between a blood line or a spiritual legacy, he wanted to leave the legacy.
Discipling: Teaching the New Kid
Adoption has opened Ben and Melissa’s eyes to deep truths about making disciples. Just like helping someone younger in the faith as a spiritual parent, Ben says, he’s taken the attitude, “These are the Lord’s children and He’s invited us for this time to be their parents.”
Melissa expects joys and challenges in parenting. As a mom she understands that her chance for a series of two-hour chats with another woman can’t happen as it would have before kids, so she’s adjusted. She disciples her own children first. As she interacts with other believing moms who want to influence others, she suggests that the mom look for someone who’s already in her life, asking, “Who can you bring alongside you?”
Our lives as disciplemakers, Ben says, are about adoption. The disciplemaker is the older sibling showing the younger adopted kid in God’s household how the family dynamics work. “In this family, dinner’s at six. In this family, you can’t lie to Mom and Dad.”
Ben explains, “What we’re trying to do is invite people into this life the way we’ve invited these kids into our family.”
God wants us to be so certain about receiving “the spirit of adoption” that we can call God “Father” and even the more intimate “Papa” (from the rendering in The Message of the Aramaic “Abba” in Romans 8:15). Ben notes that J.I. Packer, in Knowing God, writes, “Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption.” Packer adds, “If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.”
It’s hard to grasp how good we have it.