What were we thinking? Adopting a baby when our girls were 10 and 11 years old? I could leave them alone for short periods of time, they could help around the house, and get themselves ready for school! It was January of 1984 when God put the thought of adoption into our hearts and minds.
This wasn’t the first time He had planted this idea. God began preparing our hearts years before He brought His plan to fruition. In 1971 we talked about adopting a child. Jerry was finishing pharmacy school, we had been married seven years, and had no baby. At this time I was not even a believer, but God was already preparing me to become His adopted child and for Zachary to become our adopted son. “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) It was not until February 14, 1984 that the Lord put His plan into place.
What does it mean to be adopted? Adoption is the process through which a person—the adoptive parent—assumes permanent legal responsibility for a child. Once adopted, there is no legal difference between an adopted child and one born into a biological family.
So what does it mean to be adopted by God? Adoption is a legal act of God on our behalf. We come before the judgment bar of God as hopeless sinners, condemned to death. But Christ stands before His Father at the judgment bar, and offers His perfect righteousness—His full atonement for our sins and His perfect keeping of God’s law—as our substitute. So God the Father declares us “not guilty” through the perfect and complete work of His Son Jesus Christ on our behalf. Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Not only have we been declared “not guilty” by God the Judge, but God the Judge has adopted us as His own sons!
The adoption process for us took eight months, beginning February 14 and ending October 18, 1984, when a three-month-old baby—a beautiful black-haired, dark-eyed ‘China’ doll from Seoul, South Korea came into our hearts and lives. He flew with a Korean escort from South Korea to Greenville, SC. We decided that Jerry would be the first one to hold him. When the case worker brought Zach off the plane and put him in Jerry’s arms, Zach looked up and smiled the most beautiful smile, as if to say, “I am finally home!”
When I accepted Christ and was adopted into the family of God, I knew I was finally home in my Father’s arms. Now I have a new relationship with God as my Father, and I have adopted sisters and brothers in the family of believers. Romans 8:14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
And so Zach began a new relationship with a new family (his forever family), in a new land, with a new language, and a new culture. He thrived in his new home. He began to learn about what it meant to be in America. He learned how to speak English, how to dress like an American, and, most importantly, he learned that he was loved by each of us.
When I became a believer, I began learning about what it meant to be a Christ-follower. I began learning how to imitate Christ, how to read His Word, and how to treat others like Christ would have me treat them. But most of all, I began learning how much God really loved me.
My adoption into the family of God means I have a new relationship with other people. I not only have new relationships in my local church, but I also have new relationships with the people in this community, other states, other countries, as well as with the ones who have gone on to glory. Even though all believers become one with Christ in the same way, we are still individuals. We don’t look, dress, or talk alike. God uses our unique personalities and gifts in the body of Christ to edify His church.
In addition, even though Zach was now a member of the Byrd family, we didn’t look the same. Our biological children were blondes, Zach was Asian, and for a year we had a beautiful little foster son with ebony skin. The Byrd family got lots of looks from others. There were many sweet comments, but some were not so sweet. We hurt for our children. They didn’t understand why people would say such ugly things, nor did we as parents. One comment Zach received when he was older was, “Why don’t you go back where you belong?” Seriously? We are a family, by love, whether by blood or not. I carried my biological children in my body. I carried Zach in my heart.
We have always told Zach that we chose him. We chose him just like God chooses us. God says that there is no difference. Colossians 3:11 states, “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” God also says in Ephesians 1:5, “In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.”
Some people asked us if Zach was “like our own child.” I always reply, “No, he isn’t like our own child. He IS our own child.” Zach will inherit the same as our biological children. There is no difference in the way we treat Zach, in the way we love Zach, nor in his inheritance. God does not treat His children any differently. He loves us all the same, God’s own children. We are joint heirs with His only Son. There is nothing that can make God love us more or less. He loves us unconditionally! Nor is there anything my children can do to make me love them more or less.
Now, there have been times when we have been disappointed in their actions. There have been times when they misbehaved or didn’t do what we asked them to do. And there have been so many times that I have disappointed my Heavenly Father when I have disobeyed. But when I ask for forgiveness, He forgives, just as I have forgiven my own children. The difference is that He forgives and forgets my sins. He removes them as far as the east is from the west. Praise the Lord that He forgives and forgets.
Being a member of God’s family also means I have a new relationship with unbelievers. I am no longer part of that family. I am no longer of the world. Jesus prayed for us in John 17:14-16, “for they are not of this world any more than I am of this world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.” I have a different family name, the name of Christ. I am to be a witness to the world. Just as God the Father loves the whole world, I am to imitate that love. God’s love is not self-centered. It reaches out and draws others in. Our love must be like this. I must be willing to give up my own comfort and security so that others might join us in receiving God’s love.
Adopting Zach was one of the highlights of our lives. We live in a time where a world full of orphans need to be adopted by loving families. God guided us every step of the way. He brought just the right son into our lives at just the right time.