Facile expectations hurt everyone in the process, including my new son.

A few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, after putting my three kids to bed one night, I streamed a National Theatre production of Jane Eyre while squeezing in some exercise on our stationary bike. A chill crept through me as I found myself identifying not with Jane but with her vindictive aunt, who unwillingly becomes Jane’s adoptive mother.

I was horrified to share Mrs. Reed’s resentment toward Jane for being an outsider, an intruder, a bringer-of-problems. This was the same sentiment I found myself fighting daily toward our five-year-old adopted son, whom we’d welcomed into our family over a year prior. Watching my own feelings manifested on screen in Mrs. Reed—a villain—brought home to me how defective my moral compass had become.

As a child who always wanted to make the world a better place, I’d taken to heart the value that Christians, from the early church to modern American evangelicals, have placed on care for orphans. And the way adoption was portrayed in sermons and the Christian books I read was universally positive: Adoption was a metaphor for God grafting us into God’s family (Rom. 8:14–17, Eph. 1:5); adoption met a crucial need; adoption was a beautiful act of love. Being a gregarious evangelist or an on-my-knees prayer warrior might not be my strength, but welcoming a child I could do.

When I started dating my future husband, I had just returned from a summer volunteering with disabled children in a Chinese orphanage. Adoption was always part of how we envisioned we would build our family and extend God’s capacious love to kids in need.

After getting married and having two biological children, with my medical training finally complete and our lives relatively …

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