Adoption and the Gospel: Some Reflections

IMG_6385Nine months ago this week my wife and I found ourselves in the delivery room of a west valley hospital. As adoptive parents awaiting the birth of our daughter, we had been graciously invited into the delivery room (a gift from the birthparents for which we will be forever grateful). We were nervous and excited; anxious and teeming with anticipation. It’s difficult to summarize the amount of work it took to get to this point. Let me rephrase, it’s difficult to summarize the amount of work my wife did (with occasional help from me) to get to this point: countless prayers, many tears, much conversation, endless research, more prayer, never-ending paperwork; fundraising, hoping, waiting, wondering, more prayer. In the midst of what had been a long, emotional, expensive journey, we stood in the delivery room that Tuesday afternoon exhausted – spending the previous night on the waiting room floor probably didn’t help. But the weariness in our bodies could not erase the glow of hope in our eyes and hearts. We were about to receive a priceless gift we didn’t deserve. And our world would never be the same.

Nine months later, Esther continues to be a priceless gift we don’t deserve. And while there are many aspects of our experience worthy of reflection, there is one thing about adoption I have found particularly true and beautiful. Adoption displays the gospel.

Despite the fact that several passages of Scripture use the image of adoption to describe the gospel (i.e. the saving story of King Jesus), it wasn’t until the last two years that I began to see the connection more deeply. And for me, the beautiful similarity between adoption and the gospel can be summed up with one word: belonging.


When asked how parenthood is going, my answer usually revolves around joy and gratitude. It’s hard to find words to describe the sheer delight I experience during playtime when that giggle turns into a squeal or at bedtime when those big, rambunctious, curious eyes peacefully close as she falls asleep in daddy’s arms. So vulnerable. So much trust. Such a privilege. I’m sure any parent can relate to these experiences of pure bliss.

But it’s not always blissful. And as many know, being an adoptive parent comes with its unique burdens. Mine often take the form of voices whispering faint, anxiety-evoking questions. Will she feel different? Will she wish she wasn’t adopted? How will her status as a biracial daughter of white parents affect the formation of her identity? Will she ever say things like, “You aren’t my real parents”?

These questions cut like a knife. And yet beneath them all is a basic and good desire for her to believe what my wife and I know in our bones to be true – family is not a matter of blood but of belonging.  And Esther belongs. My soul aches at the thought of her ever believing the lie that she is unwanted or unwelcome. I long for her to know, not simply in her head but deep in her heart, that she is our daughter, that we are her parents, and that she belongs in our family. Because she is, we are, and she does.

The Gospel

And this is where the gospel comes into view. Can you see the reflection? Can you hear the echo?

When you look at Jesus; when you are confronted by his life, death, and resurrection; when you seriously consider who he is, what he’s done, and what it all means for your life and the world – what message can you possibly hear other than a resounding, “YOU BELONG”? According to one story Jesus tells, God is like a loving father, willing to recklessly trample over his own dignity in order to welcome home a rebellious, runaway child. Whatever your story, God’s heart aches at the thought of you ever believing the lie that you are unwanted or that you don’t belong, both of which I’m tempted to believe often. This is why, as one who has committed my life to him, he delights in reminding me that I’m his child, he’s my Father, and that I belong in his family. Because by the sheer grace of God and through faith in Jesus, I am, he is, and I do.

Michael Carlson

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