Archives for posts with tag: kingdom of God

When I was a child, I could not imagine what it would be like to get married but I knew I wanted to adopt a little girl. That was my vision for a future family: me, my little girl, and our cat. Decades later, after finally meeting that someone I liked enough to want a mini version, I have wrestled with the idea of adoption to the point of not wanting to consider it at all. Yet, aside from the expense and bizarre economics that intersect with racialized bodies, I couldn’t quite articulate what–exactly–was so disconcerting. Until now.

I recently ran into two pieces on adoption, both from the perspective of adoptees (both happen to be young women adopted from Asian countries). The first was a riveting slam poem that explored the challenge of not quite ‘fitting’ one’s name. The second article laid it out like this: “Adoption can be a very good thing for an individual child, but it is not charity. It is not a religious crusade. It is never a ‘miracle,’ the hand of God at work, when a child ends up living without their original parents.” Just like that, the writer articulated the very thing that makes me so uneasy about the adoption industry: the presumption that I–by virtue of being a middle class, educated, white woman–would provide for someone else’s child better. But, as the writer questions, better than what? better than whom? So often the process of adoption skips over entire households of relations to place a child with perfect strangers.

The desire to raise a family for so many women is a visceral longing–so intense it feels like a calling. Our churches support the vision of loving families that provide and care for not only their own flesh and blood but others who are no less deserving of a stable home. Yet, here’s the problem with much of the language we hear: it is one sided. A newborn cannot ask to stay with her biological mother, whose scent and voice are the only things she knows.

I once overheard a young woman in church sharing about the infant foster child she had just received in her home. She was so excited for this child, and was (understandably) nervous about the tenuous nature of fostering. Then she commented that the mother was in rehab–one of the requirements to be considered “fit” to get her baby back–but she still hoped to be able to keep the child. I am not suggesting that she wished the mother ill, but for her and her husband to ‘keep’ this child would mean for the mother to fail at getting treatment and turning her life around. What struck me in this moment was how we have constructed a child welfare system that breaks down far more than it builds up.

And we, as Christians, help perpetuate this system. We even have scriptural justification. In Romans 8 Paul uses language describing the Spirit of adoption God has extended to us. Somehow we equate bringing a child into our home with God’s saving grace that unites us in Christ with God’s household. Adoption then becomes a means of saving children, but at the expense of a meaningful connection with relatives, geography, culture (except for those families who are very intentional about maintaining some kind of connection).

Yes, I have outlined a rather sullen perspective on adoption. I certainly do not mean to say the system needs to be done away with altogether. But I want to stretch the canvas bigger. Rather than zooming in on the portrait of a “needy” child, what if we acknowledged the other people in that child’s life, starting with their biological parents? This quickly gets complicated, but the most significant issue I see with adoption is that it requires commodifying children as individual units with virtually no relations. (Again, there are exceptions.) A child’s story began long before they were born–how could we possibly know that without developing some sort of relationship with their family of origin?

Reflecting on the gospel narratives of Jesus, many of the stories remixed household dynamics. Paul went even further to turn oppressive household codes on their head in Colossians. How then might we consider what that looks like for us today? Another way to think of it: are we looking to create family friendly churches or familial churches? Family friendly churches tend to support the individual units composed of parents and children who live in the same house. Contrast that with a church community that sees itself as an extended family to any and all who gather together. I know I have benefitted from the latter, and hope to continue nurturing familial relations wherever I end up.

Black Hole, part 4

I am a person of faith. When life is hell, in theory and in practice, I can lean into the hand of the God of the universe, and sometimes I do. Other times I just want kick and scratch that hand out of anger, like a raging punk-ass Thumbelina in the hand of a giant. Right now, I am exhausted.

What I have learned after 29 months of disappointments is that my body simply doesn’t want to conceive naturally. The water is bitter, or at least bereft of necessary nutrients to support new life. Perhaps years of hope deferred have left their tailings in an empty womb. Perhaps some of us weren’t meant to be mothers. I have learned there are many women of various ages who feel that last sentiment acutely. Motherhood and the desire for it are not definitive for femininity, are they? I would like to think that not being a mother does not compromise my identity as a woman, in fact. While this is a recent and fairly privileged idea, I would like to think that it is none the less true. I can be–and am, really–fully female without having a child of my own. So then, why are we so suspicious of women without children (and spouses, to roll it back a notch)? Come to think of it, why does society continue to invest only partially in young women pursuing careers?

We are wrestling with a still new phenomenon of women and work–public work, visible-to-society work. The consequences of which (I suspect) have spurred on the fertility industry. We never think we’ll need help, until we do. Then we are suddenly reliant upon half-caring professionals who, with vague understanding, begin to try first one thing, then another, without having any idea what might actually work. Of course, for many of us, we hadn’t even started thinking about children until our mid-30s because we wanted something like a career, or we waited to get married (a corrective from our parents’ divorce-happy generation), or we weren’t even certain we wanted kids. But, after a while, everyone else started doing it, so we figure we’re supposed to as well. Then, all of a sudden, nothing happens. We’re too stressed, too overworked–too old–to conceive naturally. The job that was a symbol of ‘making it’ casts its shadow. We hear stories of women continuing in their careers after having children, and it sounds great, just like having two cakes and one fork. And we hear stories of women taking time away when their income went solely to childcare. Both are searingly complicated.

In her book, Infertility Cure, Randine Lewis made a point about children for couples after infertility being absolutely desired and adored–and that made me sad, even as I sensed a deep truth to that statement. Why is it that we would need to be deprived of something (someone)? What happens in that time of unfulfillment? This question haunts me. In fact it has followed me through the library doors and into my theological study.

As Christians, we live in a time of unfulfillment:

Christ has died,
Christ is risen, 
Christ will come again. 

We anticipate a Now/Not Yet Kingdom filled by the light of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. But we have no idea what to expect, really. ….It’s a bit like infertility.

I find it appropriate that Thanksgiving comes just before Advent. Remembering God’s goodness is the foundation for expecting/anticipating God’s coming.

This is me with Dr. James M. Houston, of Regent College. I got to meet him recently at the CASA Network leadership conference.

This is me with Dr. James M. Houston, of Regent College. I got to meet him recently at the CASA Network leadership conference.

This year I am grateful for professors and pastors who have walked alongside me in seminary, who see and call out God’s gifts, and who keep me and my family in their prayers. Completing a seminary degree is a significant milestone for all of us. It is a moment that signifies greater knowledge of God and the church, responsibility within our communities, and for most (if not all) has come with further dependence upon and trust in God. This year I am most thankful for a few remarkable individuals God placed in my life, whose wisdom and long journey of following Christ are storehouses of riches. God is faithful to and through all generations.

In the Kingdom of God now/not yet paradigm, thanksgiving is a call to anticipate more. Not that what we have received is insufficient, but because we know there is a grander vision for all of creation. Gratitude is the threshold on which we stand in expectation of delving further into hope, faith, love and joy for still more people. Listen to the Advent readings this year: while we celebrate God’s incarnation in the person of Jesus, born to Mary amidst straw, mud and cattle, there is a voice in the wilderness crying out even still. Prepare the way of the Lord, in our churches and neighborhoods, in our cities and regions. Make straight a path within our own hearts to receive the coming One.

This Advent, when we ask of Jesus, Are you the one who is to come? (Mt 11.3) let our thankfulness be the substrate of our prayers, the platform of our anticipation. Let us remember what God has done, as we walk alongside one another, sharing stories of God’s faithfulness yet to come.