As lawyers, case workers and court clerks scurried around the court room, we sat waiting - ignorant of the process but eager to see it end. We assumed our role would be minimal, more as a silent presence than an active participant. We were wrong.
It was trial day. Nearly a year had gone by since a beautiful 3 day old baby girl was brought to our house by child protective services. We knew very little about her but instantly fell in love with her. What little our case worker was able to share with us was enough to understand she had been brought from a very bad situation. We knew our family would change forever, whether this little girl grew up in it or not.
This was a significant day in court, moreso than the handful of others we had had over the prior months. This was the day the judge would rule on whether or not the biological mother and father would retain their rights over their child, or lose them forever. Outside of her birthday and the day she was brought to us shortly thereafter, this was by far the most important day in this little girl's life - and she was wholly unaware of all that was going on around her.
We had never seen the biological father as he'd been incarcerated throughout the extent of the case. Although today, exercising his right to a fair trial, he shuffled in the back of the court room dressed in an orange jumpsuit while bound by shackles and escorted by guards. His presence took us back, as we're not accustomed to sharing a room with a federal prisoner. Yet his face drew us in - the baby girl we had shared our hearts with undoubtedly shared his face. Paternity test aside, there was no question he was the father.
Despite our efforts to meet him the officers denied our request. We would never say a word to him, and would never see him again. His crimes were too severe and the stakes too high for us to interact with him. In fact, rather than meet him and speak with him we were informed we would need to testify against him before the judge. This is not what we were expecting. No longer silent spectators.
The lawyers brought him before the stand while we stood a few steps back and to the side. He radiated anger. An obviously difficult life led him to this point. The trial commenced. He was sworn in and immediately riddled with a barrage of evidence detailing his criminal history, his inability to maintain employment stability and his incompetence in all that would be required of him to safely raise a child. With no defense and nothing to say, he was asked to step back from the bench. I was then called forward.
The judge asked me a series of questions: Are you the foster dad? Yes, sir. Do you love this baby as if she were your own? From the moment we saw her, sir. Is it your intent to adopt this baby into your home permanently? Yes, sir.
And then, after taking a moment to glance at his notes, he looked down at me from high on his bench and asked a question I will never forget. Even as he asked it, before the words finished coming out his mouth, I sensed a severity in what was taking place in that moment more than I had at any other time throughout the past year. This was different.
Over the past year God has been gracious to teach us much about the Gospel of our adoption in Jesus through caring for this little girl. We've seen with greater clarity and vividness, in very real and tangible ways, the extent Jesus has gone to rescue us out of our sin and bring us into the forever family of God. We've learned that orphan care is just as much about us pulling a child out of a broken story as it is about us being pulled into one. Through loving and caring for her we have learned much about God’s radical, redeeming, consuming, healing, hope-giving love for us through Jesus; how He has changed our names, given us new identities and granted to us the rights and privileges of being His forever heirs. We've come to heightened depths of gratitude for how He joyfully laid down the infinite value of His own life so that we might know the immeasurable worth of being fully and unconditionally loved in Him. In all these things Jesus has done much for us, and for the last year we have had the great privilege of doing the same for her.
Even in all that - seeing the greatness of who God is towards us and the glory of what Jesus has done for us in the Gospel - something unique was taking place as I stood before the judge that day, something unlike any other I had yet to experience.
As the room seemingly fell silent, the judge asked his final question of me: Do you believe it is in the best interest of the child for parental rights to be terminated and for you to permanently adopt her?
Yes, sir. I do.
In what certainly lasted a few seconds but felt like an eternity, a wave of overwhelming clarity came over me in that moment. I found myself more deeply connected with the rich, tangible nature of the Gospel in ways I never knew possible. I realized then what it meant for Jesus to stand before the Judge on my behalf - to advocate for me, speak for me and stand in the gap to make me His own. The rights of the Enemy were terminated - I was forever adopted into the family of God because of the work of Jesus on my behalf. With vivid clarity I felt that - even saw it - in that moment.
While it's certainly not the case that our baby girl's biological parents are the enemies from whom she needs rescuing, her circumstance did demand an intervention. And it is most definitely not the case that we are her saving heroes. The real enemy in adoption is not the biological parents, but Satan who kills and destroys lives and families; the true hero is not the adoptive parents, but Jesus who gives life and hope and healing. We simply have the humbling privilege of demonstrating this truth in profoundly deep ways by advocating for and speaking on behalf of abused, marginalized and neglected children. Children who, in many cases, cannot speak up for themselves. The defenseless in need of a defender. The voiceless in need of someone to speak for them.
Jesus stood before the Judge and advocated on our behalf to make us His own. He stood in the gap and willingly assumed all responsibility towards us. The sacrifice required was extensive, but the joy He found in accomplishing for us what we could never do for ourselves was His eternal privilege. We can literally do the same for oppressed and marginalized kids. If you want to see the Gospel in stunning new ways then stand before a judge on behalf of an orphan. Jesus as your advocate shines vividly clear there.
A day does not pass when I do not look at our baby girl and wonder how differently her life would look - what she would be doing in that exact moment - had she never become a part of our family. I'm reminded of the process we went through, the pain she was spared and the new trajectory on life she has been offered. I'm then compelled to think the same of my adoption in Jesus - where would I be, what would I be doing right now - had Jesus not intervened on my behalf. The process He went through to make me His own, the pain I was spared in His rescue of me and the new trajectory of hope He has offered through His finished work on my behalf. I stood before the judge that day as an advocate for our baby girl only and because Jesus had first done the same for me. The Gospel compels, albeit demands, that we be willing to stand for what Jesus stood for by standing where Jesus would stand. This is the only explanation for me being in that courtroom that day - a place I would never anticipate being otherwise.
If you want to forever find yourself more deeply connected with the rich, tangible nature of the Gospel in ways you never knew possible then choose today to defend the defenseless and speak for the voiceless. In doing so you will change a child's life...but not nearly as much as that child will change yours.
"...we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins..." (1 John 2:1-2).
"Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans." (Isaiah 1:17)
- Rethinking Some Common Foster Care Concerns
- The Sovereignty of God in Foster Care
- Six Things Foster Care Has Taught Me
- The Other Side of Foster Care
- The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care
- Why Foster Care is Necessary
- Orphan Care: The Call To Change & To Be Changed
- Killing the Orphan Care Hero Complex
- Orphan Care, the Church and Evangelical Fads
- Adoption: Giving A Family, Not Just Getting A Child
- 3 Ways Orphan Care Displays the Gospel
- The Generational Effects of Adoption
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