Adoption is an amazing picture of the gospel. It greatly displays the idea that families are not formed by blood alone. It’s beautiful to see families made up of different races and ethnicities, mirroring the body of Christ. Adoption, however, does have it challenges. Recently, Noah and Brandy Lee shared about one of those challenges with our Assistant Director Katie Van Dyke.
Katie Van Dyke: First off, tell us a little about your adoption story.
Brandy Lee: Our adoption was a 3 year process and while we waited to be placed with a child, I got pregnant and our baby Grace was born. As we cared for our little newborn, we prayed that her sibling would be close in age and hoped they could grow up as friends. God certainly delivered on that prayer and only two months after Grace was born, we found out about baby Nora and our special “twin” girls were brought together.
KV: Oh, wow! They are so close in age. There are some people who wonder if there is comparison that takes place between biological children and adopted children. Has that ever been a factor in your family?
BL: The girls are now almost six and since they’re so close in age, it’s always been easy to make comparisons between them. I can tell you which one outgrows her clothes faster and which one likes school more and which one is better at making new friends – but beyond these comparisons, I think our girls present a good opportunity to ask the unspoken question many people have about adoption – is there one that we love more?
KV: And how would you answer that question?
Noah Lee: The answer to that question is a definitive “No.” While our emotions towards our children may ebb and flow, our commitment to love them equally remains the same. You see, as Christians, our understanding of love is shaped by God’s Word. Jesus taught us the greatest love by laying his life down for sinners (John 15:13; 1 John 3:16), and so a simple, Biblical definition of love is “a commitment to self-sacrifice for someone else’s good.” If Brandy would have known all there was to know about me on our wedding day, I would probably still be single. But the commitment we made to each other on that day was to sacrifice ourselves for the good of our spouse – for better or for worse. A similar principle is at work with our children: when a new person joins our family (either by birth or adoption) we are committed to love them through thick and thin.
KV: I think most parents would automatically say they love their children equally, whether biological or adopted. Especially Christian parents since, as you pointed out, the word of God commands us how to love. However, some may think it’s easier to love differently in a situation where one child is biological and another child is adopted. In your experience, is there ever a tendency to play favorites?
BL: To be honest, yes, our commitment to love our children is tested all the time. If left unchecked, my heart will absolutely play favorites and overlook my less-than-loving responses to any child pushing my buttons. And that’s just under normal circumstances! Adoption provides even more temptations and excuses for sinful parenting. When we chose to adopt, we chose to love in unnatural circumstances. I didn’t get the benefit of maternal instincts and the early months of mother-baby bonding. And we took in a child whose first year of development was chaotic and traumatizing. These factors make for many moments of conflict and frustration – noticeably more than with our biological children.
KV: How does the gospel and love of Christ speak into these moments?
NL: The wonderful reality about the love that Jesus has for his people is that it’s not merely an example for us to follow, it’s much more! The radical, self-sacrificing love of Christ displayed on the cross has the power to transform our self-centered hearts into self-sacrificing hearts (Galatians 2:20). In the Gospel I am reassured of God’s faithful love for me, and so I am motivated to live by faith in the same way.
KV: And how has this affected your parenting and relationship with your children?
NL: While there are times I may not feel affection as easily for our adopted child, I can still practically love her because I have been loved by Christ. I can pull her close even when she doesn’t smell like me. I can listen to her express her heart even though she doesn’t sound like me. I can love her even when that love does not come back to me. At the end of the day my goal is not merely to love Nora and Grace equally. My goal is to love them with the ever-faithful, self-sacrificing love of Christ. If they see that in me, I’ve loved them in the best possible way.
KV: What else would you say to those who may think parenting biological and adopted children together looks way too hard?
BL: Parenting our adopted and biological daughters together has been hard because we are so easily tempted to love inadequately. But it’s also been wonderful, because we’ve seen God constantly answer our prayers to save us from those temptations. And not only that, He has deepened our love for both our girls well beyond what we ever thought possible. So if you ask us if we love our children the same, the answer is “yes.” But that’s because we’re praying constantly for that to be true. And by God’s grace, it actually is.
KV: I appreciate your transparency and honesty! Your words are greatly encouraging.
Noah and Brandy Lee are church planters in Missoula, Montana where Noah serves as preaching pastor for Redemption Church Missoula and Brandy is a work-from-home mom to their four kids – Nora, Gracie, Henry, and Liam. They adopted internationally in 2013 and are eager to help families see the gospel hope they have for overcoming the unexpected challenges of adoption.