Father to Son: One Father's Journey from Adopting to Adopted
- Stephanie S. Smith
- 2010 7 Jul
The year I graduated high school my parents decided to follow in the growing evangelical trend of foster care, and for the first time I had "brothers". DJ and Ozley (as whimsical as the wizard he is named for) quickly settled into our hearts and home which they tore through daily with the little-boy thunder of a pair of tumbleweeds. If need be, we would have adopted them in a heartbeat.
Many families in our circle of friends have adopted: a single mother who adopted a disabled child from Kyrgyzstan, a couple who suffered through a miscarriage and later adopted a boy and a girl from South Korea, a crisis pregnancy of a local teenager that turned into one of the biggest blessings a young couple could ever receive. The church is beginning to tell more and more of such stories. Ministries such as Focus on the Family and Family Life Today are championing the need for Christian adoption, driven by the conviction that to bring an otherwise estranged child into a family is to reenact the gospel. To adopt is to practically live out the metaphor of the new birth we have in Christ in our own living rooms and kitchens.
My family desired to open our home as such, but with foster care there is always the inevitable fear of letting go. And that summer, this fear hit me head on in the form of a compact vehicle that plowed into my rear passenger door at 50 mph.
DJ could have been in the care that day, joking with me about how funny it would be to have strawberries for noses. Ozley could have been singing in his car seat, "Oh the Lord is good to me..."; his "oh"s like the Fruit Loops he had for breakfast: small and enthusiastic.
But In God's great mercy, I drove alone. The impact was a tangle of sounds, airbags, smoke. After it hit, I saw that I was generally unharmed and stumbled shaking out of my car. The other driver was young, she gnawed at the tip of her hair. On my way to a wedding, she said. Late for a wedding, her boyfriend said. Her dress was funeral black.
"Can I ask you something?" She ventured, measuring out her syllables as if they were fragile, "Do you have kids? Because I saw the car seats and I..." She did not finish; I felt ready to punch her if she tried. The airbags began to wilt, and between them I saw it: two car seats, vaulted against the wall of the front seats, forced to the floor by the crunched-in passenger door. Hauntingly and blessedly empty, like the third day tomb. This is when I start to cry, broken by relief.
Reading Hello, I Love You: Adventures in Adoptive Fatherhood, I am reminded of the way a child under your care can make your heart skip hourly through cycles of tremendous love, frustration, defeat, and relief. Author Ted Kluck is a sports aficionado and looks the part, yet even a rock like him couldn't write this true-life narrative without admitting, "There's nothing like adoption to make a grown man cry. Repeatedly."
Hello, I Love You is a story about making a family. In Kluck's own words, "[It] is the story of two Ukrainian adoptions, told from the perspective of a father who desperately wanted children, who felt called to adopt orphans, but who struggled to enjoy the process."
Ted and his wife, Kristen, navigated through foreign customs and culture shock, the painful reality of infertility, and even a few near-death experiences to bring Tristan home with them. Even to their Christian adoption agency, it was the most turbulent adoption process they had ever seen. Then, a few years later, the Klucks went through it all over again to welcome Dima into their family. Yet in all of this, God's faithfulness marks every turn, threading the events together with the grace of One who risked everything to adopt His church.
Adoption Requires a Cost
Kluck's first chapter is aptly titled "The Price of Love". Not only would adoption cost Ted and Kristen at the bank, but it would also cost them emotionally. The Klucks were broken time and again by phone calls bearing bad news, thorny government procedures, and the strain of procuring a five-figure sum, but most of all by the fear of losing a child. "I feel like Kristin and I have been to hell and back, twice, through all of this," Kluck writes; and while this comment sounds tongue-in-cheek, the truth is this is exactly what Christ did to secure our heavenly adoption. Galatians 4:4-6 teaches that God's Son came "to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive adoption as sons." The cost of the cross culminated in our spiritual adoption, and like the Kluck's journey to bring home their sons, the cost is far outweighed by the relationship.
Adoption Requires Fatherly Discipline
Ted Kluck is the first to admit that his numerous trips abroad trained him to be a world-class complainer, yet it was his son's misbehavior that revealed to Kluck his own need for discipline at the hands of His Heavenly Father. "If [Tristan] has been whiny and petulant, I've been the same...And God, thankfully, has gotten my attention and forced me into a closer, more sanctified, more joyful relationship with Him as a result." Scripture affirms this, "The Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes those He accepts as His children" (Hebrews 12:6). The Father's punishment is not without purpose, rather it is intended for us to "share in His holiness" (Hebrews 12:10). And for Kluck, who would not have known the deep faithfulness of God without faith-testing times, this purpose was mercifully achieved.
Adoption Requires New Identity
When the Klucks left the orphanage with little Dima in the stroller, their new son experienced the world outside for the first time. He was spellbound by the city sights, and his delight in buses and street vendors reminded his father of the joy experienced by a person who has been reborn in Christ. No longer bound to a history of abandonment, child illness, and estrangement, Dima now knew love and care from those who called him their own. "As my boys climb on me, smiling and laughing, I'm reminded of the fact that the difficult circumstances in their past...are washed away in light of the new life they have with our family," Kluck says. Like Tristan and Dima, we have been pulled from darkness and are sensitized to a new world of being in which we are no longer slaves but sons (Galatians 4:7).
The joy of bringing a family together is deep, perhaps because it gives us a glimpse of the glory of the King who went to hell and back to make us His own. Just ask Ted Kluck: "...It was these adoptions, more than any other event or events in our lives, that truly taught us to find our peace, comfort, and identity in Christ."
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