Formations 05.22.2022: Our Adoption

Ephesians 1:3-14

A solid foundation of trust and security is essential to healthy child development. Research indicates that the first three years of life are the most fertile for building this foundation. A Research Brief by the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center at Vanderbilt University summarizes the conclusions of several scholars: “The brain is…the most plastic during [a child’s first three years]; in other words, the brain is the most adaptable to the conditions it experiences during this period of life. Because of this plasticity, young children are especially vulnerable to the conditions in their lives and their interactions with key caregivers during the youngest years.”

I’m fortunate that I felt safe, loved, nourished, and encouraged during my childhood. In spite of normal arguments and personality clashes in our family of five, my parents ensured that my brother, sister, and I had comfortable places to sleep, sufficient clothing, three meals a day, and opportunities for social and spiritual growth. Every child deserves this kind of upbringing, but many don’t receive it. Some children are removed from their homes and placed in foster care. Some are eventually adopted out of their birth families. While their trauma from early childhood affects the rest of their lives, adoption offers a chance to rebuild a broken foundation and move forward in a healthier way of life.

Maybe this is why biblical writers use adoption language to describe our relationship with God: for example, Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 68:5-6a; John 1:12-13; Acts 7:21; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 4:4-5; Romans 8:14-17. Today’s lesson text is another example: “[God] destined us for adoption as [God’s] children through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:5). No matter the circumstances in our birth families, we are all candidates for adoption by God. Because even if we come from the healthiest homes, we still need Jesus Christ in our lives.

To all of us who are adopted through Jesus, God gives an “inheritance…so that we…might live for the praise of his glory” (see vv. 11, 12). This inheritance belongs to everyone who sets their “hope on Christ” (v. 12). No one is too broken, too traumatized, too neglected, or too harmed to become a part of God’s family.

Source: “Why Do We Focus on the Prenatal-to-3 Age Period?” Research Brief, prenatal-to-3 policy, January 6, 2021, https://pn3policy.org/resources/why-do-we-focus-on-the-prenatal-to-3-age-period-understanding-the-importance-of-the-earliest-years/ (also see footnote sources).

Discussion

• What was your childhood like? How has the foundation built in your first three years affected the rest of your life so far?
• If you had a healthy childhood, how did you discover your need for God?
• If you had an unhealthy childhood, how did you come to recognize God’s love for you?
• What does it mean to you to be adopted into God’s family?
• How can you share the good news of God’s gift of inheritance with people who feel too broken, traumatized, neglected, or harmed to be included?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.

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