As an adoptive father to foreign-born sons there are many things I will never know: The disorienting loss of a biological family. The crippling fear of separation from everyone that I trust. The gnawing pain of hunger as my little body fights for survival. The cramps in my belly due to parasitic infection. I can never understand the trauma of moving from everything familiar to a place so foreign it might as well be another planet. But my lack of experience in these things does not make them any less real to my boys.
As a white father to black sons there are many things I will never know: The frustration when other kids doubt me when I point out my white parents. The self-conscious feelings when people stare at my family in the grocery store. The secret longing I have that my dad could look like me and I could look like him. To wonder why another child on the playground calls me brownie or black doughnut. Or to know how it feels to be asked why I am not playing in the designated place for people like me. I’ll never know the confusion of being separated from my culture and the efforts it will take to find my place in this world.
I don’t know what it’s like to have to anticipate prejudice from those in authority: The anxiety caused by learning special protocols for dealing with police officers. The fear that I may do something wrong and accidently create a conflict. Seeing people who look like me on TV who are often mistreated. Facing false accusations based solely on my appearance. Or even being isolated from the black community because I come from a white family. But my lack of experience in these things does not make them any less real to my boys.
As an adoptive father I do not know how to tell my boys about this broken world. The concept that they may be hated for their skin is just barely beginning to dawn on them and I dread the day when they see that horrible sin in the full light. I don’t want to tell them about it but I must. I don’t want to shatter some of the last shreds of innocence they have. As they heal from the loss of their homeland and biological family I cannot stand the thought of introducing more hardship into their lives. I don’t know what to say but I know I will have to engage in those difficult conversations.
There is so much I do not know and for that I feel inadequate as a father. But there are some things I do know.
I know that this world is broken. Because of sin there is evil, prejudice, injustice, and pain.
“For the wages of sin is death . . .” Romans 6:23
I know that Jesus Christ has come to defeat sin and its consequences. He offers redemption and new life to all who call on His name.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
I know that our hope is not in this world. We look to a better country: a new Kingdom established by God where all wrongs will be made right.
“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” Hebrews 11:16
I know that while we wait we are called to love. We are called to be light in a dark world: to stand up for the oppressed and seek justice for the wronged.
“. . . hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” Hosea 12:6
I know that our identity is not found in earthly things. For the Christian, it is not family, nor appearance, nor culture, nor gender, nor politics that define us. We are one in Christ. He defines who we are and our allegiance is to Him alone. He is the one thing we all have in common as the head of a diverse body of believers. When one member hurts, we all hurt. When one member suffers, we all suffer. When we can’t easily see the perspective of another we show patience and grace and seek understanding.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
And I know that I love my children fiercely. Whatever their future holds I will be there as long as the Lord allows to fight on their behalf, listen, encourage, support, and point them to the foundational truth of God’s love for them and the hope that we have in the Gospel.