In yesterday’s press there was a fascinating article about adoption parties, held by some local authorities to bring together groups of prospective parents and children so that social workers can find the right match between them. Some people are critical of the idea. They say it’s like speed dating for toddlers. It’s just not the right way to decide. And at such gatherings, emotions are fraught on both sides, prospective adopters wondering whether the right match will be made, some of the children fearing they will never find a forever-family.
Regardless of the merits and demerits of deciding this way or that, the story made me feel all over again what an extraordinary gesture it is to adopt a child, creating a bond of kinship by an act of choice and love. And it reminded me of one of the most unexpected stories in the Bible.
It occurs near the beginning of the book of Exodus. Pharaoh had just decreed that every male Israelite child should be thrown in the river and drowned. One Israelite woman had a son and was able to hide him for three months. When she could no longer do so, she waterproofed a basket, placed the child in it and set it afloat on the Nile, hoping that someone would take pity on him and rescue him.
Someone did: none other than the daughter of the man who had issued the decree of genocide in the first place. Pharaoh’s daughter noticed the basket, had it brought to her, saw the child, realised what had happened, and decided to adopt him as her own. She gave him a name: Moses. Eventually he grew to become the man who would lead his people to freedom.
Few stories tell us more eloquently about the power of compassion to transcend ethnic and religious boundaries. No name is given to Pharaoh’s daughter in the book of Exodus but Jewish tradition calls her Batya which means “the daughter of God.” They said that God told her, “Just as you adopted this child although he was not of your people, so I will adopt you as My child though you are not of My people.” That is testimony to the way adoption can heal some of the fractures within families by an act of uncommanded love.
So let us pay tribute to all those who adopt a child, for we are all God’s adopted children, and whenever adults adopt a child, a fragment of Divine love shines within our all too human world.
(First broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day)