“As if born to you.” Five of the most profound game-changing words ever knitted together. These words written on an adoption certificate fully legitimises the permanent bond between child and parent so that the child enjoys full legal rights as part of their forever family.

When I was in high school, many moons ago, I had recurring dreams about being Dad to an adopted child. Marriage, NEVER! Raising a child, ABSOLUTELY YES! (Ja, I received the highly coveted prize as the most interesting omnivore). Fast forward ten years or so and surprise-surprise, when my then fiancé and I would chat about our possible future family, adoption had taken a seat at the table. For us it was not a case of ‘if’, but rather ‘when’.

The drawer of impossibility

Jesus began to impress upon both of us that our family should be crafted through adoption. We thought that we would not qualify as eligible parents as, being in full-time vocational ministry, we had neither fixed nor stable financial income (as if such a thing exists). We neatly folded this adoption conviction dream deep into “The Drawer of Impossibility” and with it, part of our hearts – something we had not realised at the time. Jesus would simply have to arrange for the stork to crash-land onto our little stoep and squawk “Surprise!”

Some years later, we brought together two couples who were at different stages of grief and bereavement in that they had not been able to conceive children. There was a truckload of tissues used to mop up all the snot ‘n trane. A true watershed moment of healing and relief for them, I thought.

But then the real watershed moment happened.

Whilst waving our friends goodbye, with my wife firmly nestled in beside me, we heard Jesus saying, “Now’s the time for you to start your adoption journey.” He was planting in us the desire to adopt an older child (four years plus).

Our adoption journey

The process of adopting an older child may sound all orphan-Annie romantic. The path may be an easy street for some. This was however not our story.

The two years we journeyed in the system was more of a hard knock life. We were exposed to certain realities that we’d rather not have – ignorance is bliss after all. We initially chose to work through a State adoption agency. They didn’t really know what to do with us as most people preferred adopting good ‘n clean ‘n fresh tra-la-la babies – and I get that.

Apparently we were the anomaly.

Gravity stalled and the Earth stopped spinning the day the social worker told us that there were effectively no adoptable older children in the system. Unintended consequences of legislative changes meant that many children could be fostered but significantly less were technically adoptable. I remember sitting at her desk, seeing it strain under the sheer weight of all those files, seeing her mouth opening and closing as if she were saying something of great importance but the sound did not reach me. All we wanted to do during the period that followed was to stop the bus and get off. We would have were it not for the voice of Jesus saying, “Do You Trust Me?”

Do you trust me?

We were then introduced to Wandisa Adoption Agency who have their roots in child advocacy. I remember walking into their offices for the first time and seeing pictures of families on the walls. These were indeed walls of wonder. I remember them listening to us, listening to Jesus and then asking Him to journey with us in this process of becoming a forever family.

Fast forward a little while and my wife and I are clutching a dossier of sorts of a young boy who potentially could become our son – pictures not included. We were sitting in the car at the beach during a hectic Cape Town storm. The waves and the wind seemed to be at war with each other all around our little car. In the midst of it all we hear, “Do You Trust Me?”

Fast forward a bit and we are introduced to a boy – almost six years old. I’m numb. No angelic rays beaming down onto the child of promise. No running through the meadows in slow motion. Nothing. And so I hide behind the lens of my camera – “Do You Trust Me?”

Fast forward a few days later and he asks if he can come home with us forever. We would ask him, “How long was forever?” He would respond, “One hundred” (which was apparently the largest number he knew at the time). I was thinking “Till you’re twenty-three then you’ve gotta launch buddy,” but thankfully I was not thinking out loud. My son, whose name means “bearer of light,” moved into our house and our hearts almost eight years ago.

My son bears my family name, as if born to me.

Adoption and the family of God

So what am I learning through all of this?

• The prime language God uses to relate to us is that of family. No surprises then that his primary characteristic is that of Father with strong imagery of protector, provider and saviour.

• Because sons were more desirable than daughters in many cultures in biblical times, it was not uncommon for newly born girls to be thrown over city walls into rubbish heaps. The early Church distinguished themselves in their response to this practice in that they would continually scour these dumps and sewers in search of these new-borns and adopt them as their own – as if born to them. Talk about faith and works in action.

• If adoption is the heartbeat of the Father, what evidence is there that it is the heartbeat of his Church? How is it that general society has been trail blazing in this adventure while the Church lags behind?

• No experience, good or bad, is without value in the kingdom of Jesus. We cannot enter the kingdom of the Father without having a name change and without being adopted by Him.

• “What marvellous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it – we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are” 1 John 3:1 (MSG).

• My son calls me “Dad” because that is who I am.

My son, who is now taller than me, is on the path to be a greater man than me. He has a strong sense of justice, is comfortable in his own skin and is a gentle hearted warrior with a quirky nature.

He also has no body fat and sports a 9-pack. Clearly adopted.