We settled into our seats in the food court at the mall when out of the corner of my eye I noticed it happening again. Her eyes bounced back and forth from my daughter to me then back to my daughter then back to me, each time causing her brow to wrinkle in greater curiosity and her mind to visibly race with more questions.
I'd seen it happen a hundred times and knew exactly what she was thinking - Is that her dad? Is she his daughter? He's white. She's, well, not really. He's bald. Her hair is big, cute and crazy out of control. What's going on here? What's the story?
I smiled at her and answered the question I knew she wanted to ask but she wasn't sure if she could or not - Yes, she's my daughter. And in an attempt to diffuse the curiosity with humor, Don't you see the resemblance? With that, the confused stranger next to us laughed with a sense of relief and leaned in closer. Her curiosity was evident. The opportunity I was being given was apparent.
Our conversation naturally led to adoption and foster care and the big reason this precious little girl was now a part of our family - namely the heart of God demonstrated through the work of Jesus on our behalf in the gospel. I'm convinced she didn't interrupt our chicken strip dinner that evening as much as Jesus interrupted hers. And in a casual, unassuming place, the pulpit of adoption preached the power of the gospel to her. She was grateful, said she had never thought of it that way and thanked us for allowing her to interrupt our little daddy-daugther date. I assured her she was no interruption and that it was my honor - and it truly was. What a privilege it is to see the gospel made evident through the life of a little girl in a mall food court.
The Pulpit of Adoption
Adoption is not anything less than giving our families to kids who need one, but it is so much more. The call to care for these kids does not terminate on our care of these kids - it extends itself into the responsibility we have to posture ourselves as a pulpit upon which the gospel can most vividly and effectively be communicated to the curious world around us. We don't need to share the tragic details of our child's story as much as we need to share the good news of Jesus'. Their story is theirs to be told - when and how they choose; but, His story is His to be told - and He's made it clear when and how He wants that to happen. While it is not always the case that skin color and hair type make certain things about adoption obvious, it is always the case that caring for the vulnerable and bringing them into a new forever family is one of the purest and most undefiled expressions of our faith this world will ever see (James 1:27). It preaches His story. Our job is to let it.
Opportunities, Not Annoyances
Embrace the questions, stares, assumptions and seemingly offensive statements of others not as annoyances but as opportunities - the privilege and responsibility you have been given in adoption to help form a category of the gospel for people where there is not one currently. Perhaps they're not interrupting whatever it is we're doing as much as Jesus is wanting to interrupt whatever it is they're doing. It's generally the case (although not always) that their stares and statements are not malicious in intent but rather are ignorant in understanding. It's our job to inform, teach and help build a paradigm for people that goes beyond what they are seeing in our family and points to something greater and more glorious - namely the heart of God for them as our friend at church or acquaintance in the neighborhood or stranger in the food court - reflected before them in the dynamic make up of our family.
That's not to say that EVERY conversation has to be a deep, theological treatise on the nuances of salvation. Not at all. It is to say, however, that we can always be helpful, kind and generous with people, even if it's a short 30-second interaction with the checkout clerk at the grocery store. Perhaps scripting your "elevator" speech could be a good exercise for you. Imagine you're in an elevator with someone, the doors close and they turn and ask you a question - you have 30 seconds before the doors open at the floor you're getting off on. What do you say? What's your response? When someone says, "Those kids are so lucky to have you," what's your elevator speech? Perhaps it's as simple as, "Oh no, we are definitely the lucky ones here!" Short, helpful, and a slight shift in perspective for someone to consider.
For a short list of five helpful "elevator speech" responses to some of the most common things I've heard along this journey, click HERE.
His Name is Jesus
Adoption incarnates the gospel with great vividness and clarity. Like a shadow it brings Jesus with you wherever you go - the grocery store, the restaurant and the even the food court at the mall. People sometimes can't help but stop and stare, ask questions and wonder and clumsily fumble themselves through awkward and sometimes comical interactions with you - it's unlike anything they've personally comprehended and their attempts to put words to it are feeble at best. Yet, we have the words to offer them and the answers to provide them.
The pulpit has been constructed, the audience is captive, the privilege to point to Him is humbling.
Adoption preaches the gospel. It's our job to let it.
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