What adoption is teaching me

Waiting for my children and facing my fears

November 12, 2020

It’s nearly Advent, but my mind is preoccupied with a different holiday. Four years ago, on Father’s Day weekend, my wife Chelsea penned an open letter to her father. I can only describe it as the most tender description of adoption I have ever read. Reflecting on her own adoption, Chelsea shared what her father’s love taught her about belonging and family: “Blood is the least of what makes a family. Godly love is the real lifeblood of a family.”

Love—and lots of paperwork.

The hard task of waiting

As I write these reflections in 2020, Chelsea and I are on our own adoptive journey. We hope to bring two little ones from India into our home in the near future, and are awash in paperwork. For any couple that has trod this road or is traveling it now, the rote act of filling out forms is a simple reality of adoption, and completing them is an infinitesimal price to pay for the inexpressible joy of building a family.

But in a way, the paperwork is deceitful. Or at least, it deceives me. When I complete a form or upload another document, I feel productive and preoccupied. And rightly so, for there is no way for us to bring children into our home apart from completing it. But the hustle of paperwork is really a façade that covers the deeper reality of adoption: waiting. 

Waiting for restoration. Waiting for healing. Waiting for them.

Chelsea and I can control the pace of paperwork, but we can’t control bureaucrats on the other side of the world. We can manage the tempo of appointments and fulfill obligations on our timetable, but we cannot bind God’s timing. We can position ourselves for success, but no amount of preparation will erase the brokenness and pain our future children will feel—for adoption always, always originates in loss. All we can do now is wait for our children’s safety, pray for their hearts, and hope that, by God’s grace, our meeting is soon.

The waiting of adoption is turning my gaze away from things and people beyond my control, and revealing my own desperate need to be restored and healed.

The lengthy nature of adoption is teaching me to sit in stillness and make peace with these truths, but, in honesty, I’d rather not. Deep in my heart, there is an innate discomfort with waiting, one I would rather avoid. As an American accustomed to the immediate, this disposition isn’t terribly surprising. But this fear goes beyond our cultural milieu to a deep place in my heart, beyond the reach or scope of paperwork or human power.

Facing fears

I want to believe the illusion that, just as it’s possible to perfectly complete an application without mistakes, it’s also possible to build a perfect family without brokenness. When I think of the “origin story” of our future children, it scares me to think that, before Chelsea or I enter the picture, others are already there as “mommy” and “daddy”—and that our kids will never fully understand themselves apart from the parents who were there first.

To put a finer point on it: I see so much that could come between my future children and me. And the only way to know what that chapter will actually entail is to, quite simply, wait for it.

These fears loom large, but I am finding comfort in my wife’s own story. To be sure, no two adoptions are alike. The more I listen to friends and acquaintances who have adopted or are adopted, the more I see this plain truth. But Chelsea’s dear letter to her father reveals, I think, a timeless truth that pervades every single adoption: God’s heart for the orphaned and abandoned. 

He created man and woman knowing our sin would separate us from him (Isa. 59:2). 

He knew we would reject him (Isa. 53:5) and deny ever knowing him (Luke 22:54-62), and that we would even claim the devil himself as our father (John 8:44).

God knew it all. And still he chose not only to save us by dying in our place (Rom. 5:8), but to adopt us and be our “Abba” Father (Rom. 8:15).

When we rebelled against God’s perfect plan, he became our perfect Savior. He didn’t condemn us to utter darkness; he came to rescue us (John 3:17).

As I mediate on these gospel truths, my heart is slowly turning away from the unknowns about my future children and facing what I want for my own heart. Yes, I want my children to look like Jesus (even if they’ll look nothing like me). And I desperately want to look like Jesus too. Of course I want our kids to bond with Chelsea and me and see us as their parents by love, if not by blood—but even more than that, I want to bond with the Father and see myself for who I am: his adopted son.

The waiting of adoption is turning my gaze away from things and people beyond my control, and revealing my own desperate need to be restored and healed. As Chelsea and I wait for our children, my heavenly Father waits for me day by day, moment by moment, to heal me. Amidst the hustle of paperwork and the bustle of anxieties, he promises rest to his children. 

Oh Lord, regardless of what future Father’s Days, Mother’s Days, birthdays, or any other days may bring, give me grace to enter your rest today as we wait.

Michael Sobolik

Michael Sobolik is a policy analyst and former congressional staffer working in Washington, D.C., where he lives with his wife Chelsea. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24