The One Thing

October 3, 2015 Jennifer 2 Comments

“To be alive as a human being with indescribable mysteries at every turn, and to have in front of us an eternal destiny of spectacular glory or inexpressible horror is a weight that can either press you down with fear and trembling or bear you up with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” – John Piper

If there were one piece of advice I could give; one thing or one morsel that would trump all of the other advice in an adoption journey, it would be making your priority knowing who you are in Christ and knowing it to your core.


To purpose to have an identity in Him so secure, that nothing else matters. Not the paperwork, not the travel date, not the Gotcha, not the embassy, not the attachment or support groups. Just Him. Those things are all important and vital, but if given more room than they require, I’ve noticed they can deceptively push Him out in the guise of “important adoption business.” They can smother a voice calling deep within to know Him in order to know who I really am – that voice can call louder in the adoption process than ever before. Piles of paperwork and anticipation smother that cry and that eternal moment can be lost. To purpose to know Him in order to know my true identity. He knows we will need to know it on this adoption journey so I believe He starts to call louder in the adoption process – if we are willing hear Him.

If there is any wisdom to be had in this post, honestly it is not my own. I’ve taken it as my very breath, but I have no authorship. I realize what becomes ruffled when we start talking about identity and though we might not admit it, the eye rolling over scriptural truth we’ve heard a thousand times. In a hidden thought of “Please don’t preach to me” we are annoyed and we don’t even know quite why. This wisdom is available and necessary for us all, and we’re annoyed by it because we don’t live there like we should. We visit like a lovely beach condo we long to reside in, but we don’t live there. We might stay the weekend but that’s about it. At least that’s been my story.

There is an aspect in the process of adoption of indescribable mystery. The mystery of a child somehow belonging to you across the world, the mystery of a family formed and the redemption awaiting – where orphan turns to adopted and adopted turns to beloved. There is a mystery in the process of how it all works out somehow and there are pieces of eternity carefully and intricately woven into every notary stamp and every delay, every fund raised and every prayer whispered in expectation. That mystery is full of glory if your identity is in Him. Peace and hope abound when you trust and know the One who really does see it all. I’ve journeyed here with this One Thing not out of some lofty religious pious place but instead through gritted teeth, pressing fear and limping to the other side to grasp it.

Romans 8 says that I am “in the Spirit” and 1 Corinthians 1 declares in unison that I am “in Christ Jesus.” There is a tendency in the process of adoption for us to “pocket size” these truths so they fit in our suitcase to travel – Christ lives in me like some carry on luggage I can take on a plane instead of the glorious and truly freeing reality that I am IN Christ. Not only that, Romans 6 says I am united with Him in both death and life. I am His possession according to 1 Peter and I belong to Jesus. He bought me with a price and I am not my own. When this offensive truth becomes the safest place – the audacity of choosing to be a bondservant before a good and loving Father – when that reality sinks way down deep, it is liberty to start casting crowns. The first crown I throw in the adoption process is that of “the adoptive mom.” That is not my identity. You will know if it is yours if you work something about adoption into every conversation within the first few minutes of talking with others or meeting someone. If you are planning how to fit it in and it becomes your motive for speaking, then it is an identity.

Yes, we talk about our children because they are such a gift – that is natural. But if it is woven into communication so that this is what others associate you with, then it has become the One Thing. And as precious as that one thing is, it is not THE ONE THING. Adoptive mother is a role that I am privileged to walk in, charged with the responsibility of raising this sweet girl for a while. This sweet one who I love dearly. She is my adopted daughter but that is merely her role too. She, like me, is a child of God. And if a child, an heir, and oh what glorious mystery, an heir with Christ. That is her identity, more than being Chinese, more than carrying my last name now and more than anything that wants to yell out a false role or persona. She is a child of God.

So in the process of adoption, the one thing is to be IN Christ. Consumed. Covered. Abiding. It becomes a natural response to cast every other crown that competes when one listens to that voice calling deep in those months of expected redemption in the adoption process. It really is perfect timing. That voice calling deep will start to unlock hidden doors in the attics of your heart where you are banking that this adoption somehow gets you extra points, even though in your head, you know it doesn’t work that way. Hidden boxes get cleaned out where you would never admit to wanting special eternal treatment, but secretly wish that this at least gets you preferred seating, or minimally, an aisle seat. And if you know the eternal is set, there is still the praise of this world and nothing causes applause in social circles quite like adoption. “We put our money where our mouth was and did something radical!”

We don’t show off these hidden boxes but they are in there tucked away sometimes. Please hear me, I can only write about what I know. These are crowns I’ve tossed and boxes I’ve carefully examined before I ever saw a waiting child file and a sweet face staring back. Casting these crowns quickly is easy in the process of being IN Him. In the process of adoption, cast them quickly.

In the trenches of adoption, maybe in country or just home for a while, the mysteries continue to unfold at a rapid pace. It is a knee jerk response to run for advice and education in those trenches. It is true, we really do need each other. But what if we could stop and be IN Christ? Not pocket sized carry on Jesus in us, but us IN Him. What if in the “pressing down” moments, we could indeed “Put on the Lord” like the promise of Romans 13? What if we get so covered by His grace, and in that so reminded of His nature, that we die with Him to live with Him?

The most freeing moment of my adoption journey thus far was when I died to my absolute that this little girl would have to love me back no matter what. I most certainly wanted her to but my identity was getting eaten up inch by inch with her initial rejection. And the truth is, if I am really IN Christ, nothing can touch it. So freedom came when all of that pressure and that self inflicted absolute was removed. IN Christ, I could swallow freely the true absolute that her love back didn’t define me at all; His love did. And if His love did, then even her rejection, short lived or long term, just made me understand being IN Him a little more. How many times had He loved me and I turned away? How many times had He reached for me and I reached for something other than His perfect love? To be united with Him is to die in order to live.

Putting Him on in the trenches was like releasing every bit of pressing, crushing, stifling air in my lungs and breathing in life. Eventually I breathed out and the air was much much clearer. Not just for me, but for my daughter too. She could actually breathe when her forever mama got her identity back in alignment with the truth. It is not about me. It’s about Him. There was more glory in that death than any projection of white – washed life in the character of “perfect adoption mother.” If I’m united with Him, I should expect some dying and equally expect some resurrected life. It is not about me at all and if I’m in it, even somewhere hidden, in order to pay penitence for a bad choice in college, to ramp up a lackluster spiritual life or to check a box of obedience; the trenches in adoption will remind me quickly that I brought nothing to the table. He did it all. He is all. The One Thing.

1 Peter 5 blesses with “a peace to all who are in Christ.” Adoption is at once both glorious and horror producing, and peace can be hard to come by. In the process, the journey and the trenches, it is peace we long for. We have to know it before we even start. IN Him there is peace that passes any understanding of government documents, a child waiting alone and even a child who shows up with issues beyond our natural ability. If we listen to that voice that calls from the start of the process from way deep within, our identity becomes secure. And knowing Him is our purpose, our drive, the first thing on our lips in a room full of strangers. Our heart’s first tug in the morning and our last thought at night. In pursuit of IN Him. This is my One Thing.

– photo by Tish Goff

2 responses to “The One Thing”

  1. Kristin says:

    This is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you for your raw, honest and beautiful words. My husband and I are currently waiting for a match, and we sense both the terror and joy that looms on the horizon. I know the ONLY way forward is in His strength, and I need His strength to be made perfect in this weak vessel. This was good for my soul.

    • Jen Barnett says:

      Thank you so much for your reply and you’re welcome. In adoption or anything else for that matter, I’ve found He is the only way. It sort of balances all the other stuff that wants to push Him out. Blessings as you wait for a match and begin this glory filled journey.

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