Six years ago, a little black boy rocked my white world. This short article is to help us all in Remembering God’s Grace in Transracial Adoption.
My husband and I wished to welcome a second child into our family by adoption, and by God’s design, our newest child was a little black person. And our newest mission was to parent him well. We felt up for the assignment.
As it turned out, we overestimated our abilities.
Our son is a precious gift from God to us. But adoption is complex. And transracial adoption? Truly, at times it has been overwhelming. Uncertainty, anxiety, and self-doubt are frequent companions. The new-to-us concepts of representation and white privilege and microagressions are intimidating. The idea of preparing our child for the probability of experiencing racism is mystifying. And these are just the insecurities generated from our own hearts. Transracial adoptive families know all too well the external voices that subtly (and not-so-subtly) suggest that we have somehow harmed our children by bringing them into a “racially-unmatched” home. Over time, these inner and outer votes of no-confidence chip away at our belief that we are fit to raise our child.
Armed with determination and love, we as adoptive parents throw ourselves at the immense task set before us. We consume as many resources as we can find. We look eagerly (desperately?) to thinkers and writers on the topics of racial struggles and transracial adoption. We research race identity, implement representation, explore racism, make terminology adjustments, and look for same-race mentors for our children. All the while, we wonder if we are doing a good enough job at covering our bases. We wonder if we are missing anything.
I believe we are. We are missing the most important piece of all.
We are missing God’s grace.
God’s grace. Oh yes…of course.
Can I be real and admit that those two words often fail to evoke the reassurance in my heart that they should? Grace can seem bland. Elementary. Even boring. Race study concepts that I’ve just mentioned are cutting edge, obviously relevant, and they feed my sense of idealism. God’s grace? I know that already. I’m a Christian, after all. I was not aware at the time, but for years this was my operational thinking. I listed “God’s grace” below the other really relevant considerations in transracial adoption. Rather than sophistication, this was my immaturity showing. The longer I parent my black son, the more assurance that God’s grace gives me.
God’s grace has many layers of meaning in the New Testament, but the one I am referring to here is that grace that equips us with power, strength, and the ability to do what he has called us to do; in this case, transracial parenting.
We must remember that it is not only our salvation that is brought about by God’s grace. Every part of our life, including transracial parenting, is dependent upon God’s grace. By displaying such frenzied activity around my child’s race identity and not his salvation, I show my lack of trust in His help for the former.
To be sure, a theology of grace does not mean that we ignore our responsibility to put in the effort to parent our black child thoughtfully and intentionally, presuming that God will give our kids a healthy race identity anyway. No. I am not arguing for careless presumption in our parenting. I’m arguing for the faith-filled assumption that we can take God at his Word, believe his promises, and work accordingly.
When we need to discern which “expert” voices to listen to, we can trust that, if we ask him, God will generously give us wisdom (James 1:5.)
As we try to surround our children with positive black representation, we can believe that God will graciously cause this good work to thrive (2 Corinthians 9:8.)
When we feel inadequate to explain race and racism to our young child, we can be certain that God’s grace is sufficient and that his power will be made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)
As we feel discouraged about the racial struggles in society and in our own hearts, we can confidently bring them to the throne of grace, knowing that our Father already knows our parenting needs (Matthew 6:8) and is ready to give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11.)
Yes, we will fail, but we need not fear. After all, we do not trust in our works. We trust in the grace of God that works through our works! What sweet comfort this gives us. What strength of joy and hope! Today, may we prayerfully parent our children in light of God’s grace.
- Pray that parents will be thoughtful and intentional in parenting children of a different race.
- Pray that parents will be strengthened by faith-filled reliance on God’s grace in their parenting work.
- Pray that transracial adoptees will become Christ-following individuals with a healthy race identity.