While I am immensely grateful that I have not received many judgmental or snarky comments in the past few months, I recently came across a popular forum in which an adopting mother very early on in the process asked the simple question, “How do I deal with the judgments of the people around me who do not approve or understand my decision to adopt?” I smirked, not because this was a silly question, but because I probably typed that exact question in my search box over a dozen times in the early stages of my own adoption. I remember the immediate nausea I felt upon hearing the first of what would be many judgmental questions or comments which spanned all the way from, “Why don’t you just have a normal kid?” to “What disabilities will you have to deal with?” and even, “Why would I help you raise money to steal a kid from a poor woman across the world?”
What exactly had I gotten myself into?
Of course, I expected the general who, what, when, where, and why saga, so I created this blog with a FAQ section to clarify the basics, but what I didn’t expect was how every single decision I would make regarding the adoption of our son would somehow offend somebody.
Can anybody give me an amen on this one?
Now don’t get me wrong here. Many of the concerns and questions were warranted and when we look back, we can see these questions were presented in love. We have to remember that while we may have read countless books, articles, and journals about this process, our friends and family have not, so we should respond with mercy upon mercy to ensure we are able to catch them up if they indeed have our best interests in mind. And I’m one to talk—I have let my tongue out of its sheath in moments of weakness or exhaustion when my nerves were rubbed raw. But by God’s grace and the passing of nearly a year since beginning our journey to Desi, I’ve learned how to better discern the sheep and shepherds among the wolves.
But what about the wolves? What about the people who are not speaking in love but as a way to undermine an incredible process that God designed to protect and redeem our little ones? What about the internet warriors who are quick to tear deep gashes and doubt into the hearts of already hurting and waiting parents? What about the comments spoken by the Enemy through the mouths of people we may or may not know with the intention of making us throw in the towel even though we know with every fiber of our being this is God’s calling?
What about the wolves.
Perhaps one of the most underrated leaders of the early church, who had quite a bit of experience as a shepherd among wolves, and my greatest hero is a man named Stephen. You’ll have to look pretty closely to find him as he is only described in Acts 6-8 as the first martyr of the early church. The story is pretty simple and can easily be glossed over without seeing something amazing which I am so exciting to share with you this morning. His story begins as a pastor—a great shepherd among shepherds. Stephen had an amazing gift for interpreting scripture and sharing it to all people, knowing that the Gospel story was intended for all people, not just the Jews. This of course offended several of the higher ranking Jewish leaders who brought him before the high-priest and accused him of speaking against the high-priest and the Law of Moses.
Knowing that the men accusing him were speaking out of stubbornness and jealousy of his position, he cut to the heart of the issue. As he stood on trial, he looked around and saw that the wolves would in fact devour him if he spoke the truth that Jesus had in fact come to die for all who were willing to accept him, but he also saw the watching eyes of his flock. While he could have appeased the wolves and continued his work as a preacher by denouncing what the Bible and Jesus clearly said, he knew that as the shepherd, his role was to declare what was true even if it meant his death in order to protect the sheep God had entrusted him with. So what does he do?
He gives the most epic funeral speech of all time. If you have never read the famous speech given by Stephen, knowing it would be his last, I would encourage you to read it this morning. I have replaced today’s verses and prayer with this section which I ask you to read and declare out loud today. He essentially quotes every promise of the coming savior from creation until that very moment when the Pharisees began picking up stones, ready to hurl them at Stephen and end his life. He ends his funeral sermon with the following in Acts 7:51-54:
You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.
What lesson can we learn from Stephen in this paragraph? There will be many we encounter in this life who no matter what we say or do will remain deaf to the truth. This is especially true if they do not know our God as we do. But there is also a boldness here that comes from a deep and profound understanding of God’s word that we must replicate in our lives as well. What does the Bible say about adoption? It says quite a bit, much of which I hope to share through this devotion series. We should not and cannot speak boldly about God’s design and calling for adoption if we ourselves do not know what his word declares to be true. Knowing, understanding, and learning to articulate God’s word is a skill we can all afford to grow in.
And now for the encouragement.
Just before Stephen is stoned to death, Acts 7:55 says that “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into Heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”
This moment is everything. I don’t want you to miss it.
While it could be argued that the miracle of this moment is in the fact that Stephen is able to see where he is about to go to join Jesus in Heaven as an act of mercy, there is a culturally relevant action being described. In this time and place, if a man was put on trial, as Stephen was, those who would act as his witnesses to affirm his story was true and accurate would physically stand to show their support and affirmation. And although not a single member of his flock stood on his behalf to affirm his innocence and truth, Stephen looks up in the final moments before he is pummeled to death by the angry mob to see none other than Jesus, standing on his behalf in the highest place of honor.
I’m crying. I always cry at this part, even when I type it. In moments of doubt, when it seems like not a single person understands your calling to adopt your sweet baby, if you understand what adoption means in the eyes of God, and if you’ve done everything in your power to ensure the methods you use to complete the adoption bring glory to God, then know that your God, Jesus, is standing in Heaven, in the highest place of honor, for you. And when you see this image clearly in your mind, who else matters?
A Sermon and Prayer For Your Day:
As you enter your day, I ask that you take a few minutes to speak the following verses aloud. Yes it is a bit long, but these were the last words of a man who gave up everything to declare who God is, and repeated every story of the Old Testament leading up to David in order to remind his people of the lengths God took to save them. It might be a good reminder for you this morning too! Read and remember the great lengths God made to save you and eventually to share himself with your little one.
“Brothers and fathers, listen to me. Our glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham in Mesopotamia before he settled in Haran.[a] 3 God told him, ‘Leave your native land and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’[b] 4 So Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran until his father died. Then God brought him here to the land where you now live.
5 “But God gave him no inheritance here, not even one square foot of land. God did promise, however, that eventually the whole land would belong to Abraham and his descendants—even though he had no children yet. 6 God also told him that his descendants would live in a foreign land, where they would be oppressed as slaves for 400 years.7 ‘But I will punish the nation that enslaves them,’ God said, ‘and in the end they will come out and worship me here in this place.’[c]
8 “God also gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision at that time. So when Abraham became the father of Isaac, he circumcised him on the eighth day. And the practice was continued when Isaac became the father of Jacob, and when Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs of the Israelite nation.
9 “These patriarchs were jealous of their brother Joseph, and they sold him to be a slave in Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. And God gave him favor before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. God also gave Joseph unusual wisdom, so that Pharaoh appointed him governor over all of Egypt and put him in charge of the palace.
11 “But a famine came upon Egypt and Canaan. There was great misery, and our ancestors ran out of food. 12 Jacob heard that there was still grain in Egypt, so he sent his sons—our ancestors—to buy some. 13 The second time they went, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers,[d]and they were introduced to Pharaoh. 14 Then Joseph sent for his father, Jacob, and all his relatives to come to Egypt, seventy-five persons in all.15 So Jacob went to Egypt. He died there, as did our ancestors. 16 Their bodies were taken to Shechem and buried in the tomb Abraham had bought for a certain price from Hamor’s sons in Shechem.
17 “As the time drew near when God would fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased. 18 But then a new king came to the throne of Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph. 19 This king exploited our people and oppressed them, forcing parents to abandon their newborn babies so they would die.
20 “At that time Moses was born—a beautiful child in God’s eyes. His parents cared for him at home for three months. 21 When they had to abandon him, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and raised him as her own son. 22 Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was powerful in both speech and action.
23 “One day when Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his relatives, the people of Israel. 24 He saw an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite. So Moses came to the man’s defense and avenged him, killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses assumed his fellow Israelites would realize that God had sent him to rescue them, but they didn’t.
26 “The next day he visited them again and saw two men of Israel fighting. He tried to be a peacemaker. ‘Men,’ he said, ‘you are brothers. Why are you fighting each other?’
27 “But the man in the wrong pushed Moses aside. ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?’ he asked. 28 ‘Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard that, he fled the country and lived as a foreigner in the land of Midian. There his two sons were born.
30 “Forty years later, in the desert near Mount Sinai, an angel appeared to Moses in the flame of a burning bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight. As he went to take a closer look, the voice of the Lord called out to him, 32 ‘I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses shook with terror and did not dare to look.
33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. 34 I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groans and have come down to rescue them. Now go, for I am sending you back to Egypt.’
35 “So God sent back the same man his people had previously rejected when they demanded, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?’ Through the angel who appeared to him in the burning bush, God sent Moses to be their ruler and savior. 36 And by means of many wonders and miraculous signs, he led them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and through the wilderness for forty years.
37 “Moses himself told the people of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people.’ 38 Moses was with our ancestors, the assembly of God’s people in the wilderness, when the angel spoke to him at Mount Sinai. And there Moses received life-giving words to pass on to us.
39 “But our ancestors refused to listen to Moses. They rejected him and wanted to return to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us some gods who can lead us, for we don’t know what has become of this Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.’ 41 So they made an idol shaped like a calf, and they sacrificed to it and celebrated over this thing they had made. 42 Then God turned away from them and abandoned them to serve the stars of heaven as their gods! In the book of the prophets it is written,
‘Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings
during those forty years in the wilderness, Israel?
43 No, you carried your pagan gods—
the shrine of Molech,
the star of your god Rephan,
and the images you made to worship them.
So I will send you into exile
as far away as Babylon.’
44 “Our ancestors carried the Tabernacle with them through the wilderness. It was constructed according to the plan God had shown to Moses. 45 Years later, when Joshua led our ancestors in battle against the nations that God drove out of this land, the Tabernacle was taken with them into their new territory. And it stayed there until the time of King David.
46 “David found favor with God and asked for the privilege of building a permanent Temple for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who actually built it. 48 However, the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet says,
49 ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Could you build me a temple as good as that?’
asks the Lord.
‘Could you build me such a resting place?
50 Didn’t my hands make both heaven and earth?’