Moses, adoption and the Church - Part 1: Family

Exploring family and all its complicated and wonderful variations from Exodus 1 and 2.

There’s an obvious reason why we so often use Moses’ story in relation to adoption.

As Krish and Miriam identify in the Home for Good book, Moses was the first ever recorded relinquished, fostered and adopted child. His story shares many parallels with contemporary adoption and God can and does use it to teach, challenge and inspire many individuals and families to consider adoption.

[If you’ve not studied Moses from this perspective, reading the Home for Good book is a great way to do so!]

As well as the personal impact that Moses’ adoption story has had on so many, we believe that this narrative has a huge amount to teach, challenge and inspire the whole Church. Not every family is called to foster or adopt, but as the Church we are all called to care for the vulnerable, advocate for the defenceless, and welcome the broken.

We’ve produced this three-part series of articles on a few of the key themes found in Moses’ story because we hope that exploring these ideas will encourage you to play your part in our calling, and as the Church in the UK we will all be better equipped to do be a place of welcome, acceptance and support.

Part 1: Family (from Exodus 1 and 2) Part 2: Identity (from Exodus 3 and 4) Part 3: Support (from Exodus 17)

It begins with a family.

A starving family arrives in Egypt. In desperate need having fled a famine, they come seeking help and a place to call home. Time passes and the family multiplies. Over a couple of centuries they now number many thousands, and when a ruthless tyrant comes to the throne he fears losing his power to them. Rather than seeking to understand why this people group are there or pursuing peace with them, he chooses to oppress them and takes them into slavery.

Many more decades pass and despite this oppression, the Israelites have continued to grow in number, but there is now another new king, even worse than the one before. Not content with slavery, he initiates infanticide, telling the midwives they are to kill every boy born to the Israelite people. When the midwives bravely disobey his orders, he decrees that these babies be thrown into the Nile.

Into this context, Moses is born. A vulnerable child in serious danger. A defenceless baby in need of an advocate. A victim through no fault of his own, in desperate circumstances, at risk of death.

Similarly, the thousands of vulnerable children in the UK who are currently being cared for by foster carers or are seeking adoptive families, who are placed with kinship carers or special guardians, or who remain in birth families experiencing abuse or neglect, are in or have been in the most desperate of circumstances.

Thankfully, due to the courage of five individuals, Moses survives.

Firstly, two midwives must risk their own lives to save his (Exodus 1.15-21). Their defiant act of courage in disobeying the king’s command meant that Moses had a chance to begin with – not to mention the countless other Hebrew babies whose lives they saved.

Then Jochebed, Miriam (Moses’ mother and sister), and an Egyptian princess, must each step up in different ways to not only ensure that Moses would live, but that he could remain in his mother’s care for a few precious years and then be adopted into the royal family where he could grow up in safety (Exodus 2.1-10).

In the actions of these five women we see traces of what foster care and adoption can look like today. As well as the fundamental act of the princess adopting Moses as her own child, we see a type of fostering in Jochebed’s loving care of Moses for a short time, before being willing to let him go as he becomes a part of his forever family, and we also see the professionals working around the child to do what they can to help.

But it’s complicated and challenging and deeply painful at times.

That Jochebed is likened to a foster carer is awkward because she is also his birth mother, so although we recognise the similarities we also know there is a vast chasm of difference. That Moses was an older child when he moved from his birth family/foster home into the palace meant that he went with a level of understanding that will have made it all the more difficult.

Miriam’s daring request of the princess (Exodus 2.7) meant that she had a few more years with her brother, but then he moved on and would likely have had other siblings that were not shared with Miriam. Moses was a part of both families. He was likely influenced by both, troubled by both, and much-loved by both, and the two families were forever connected through him.

It’s messy. It’s family. It’s what fostering and adoption can often look like.

These days it can be rare for ‘family’ to look like the traditional picture of mummy, daddy and a couple of kids. Step-families, single-parent families, blended families and extended families, are all relatively common in our society – but perhaps not quite so much in our churches. Often, the traditional picture is the way it is for many, and this is a great thing!

But without us even realising, this might lead to unintentional ways of thinking and a general understanding of what family is, what family looks like and how family fits, to the detriment of what family could look like and what family could be.

Jesus continually challenged these ways of thinking. He claimed his followers as his brothers and sisters (Mark 3.33-35), stated that they were each other’s brothers and sisters (Matthew 23.8), suggested that some would have to give up their earthly family for the sake of the Kingdom (Luke 18.29), and said that prisoners and strangers were his brothers and sisters (Matthew 25.40).

Even as He hung on the cross Jesus was rewriting the script, asking his disciple John to care for Jesus’ mother after his death (John 19.26-27).

Just as Moses had a unique experience of family, Jesus calls us to look beyond and embrace the fullness of being a part of His family.

Foster and adoptive families rarely look like the traditional picture.

Foster families are regularly expanding as more children are given a place to call home, whether for a few days or forever. Looked after children will often still have contact with birth family and for some this will continue throughout their childhood. Sometimes children will come and go and return again. Sometimes their coming and going is planned, but often it is a surprise.

Adoptive families are usually bigger than you might at first think as adoptive parents do all they can to respect and recognise birth family, pursue positive sibling relationships from afar, and hold on to links with foster carers. Anything that will help their children fill in the gaps and make sense of who they are.

This is a different kind of family. One that usually has far fewer blood ties but is bonded through love, commitment and shared experience. One that expands beyond the brick walls of a house and irrevocably connects people together. One that puts the children in the centre, sacrificing expectations of the traditional picture to prioritise their needs. One that can be complicated and painful, but really, really matters.

Could we as the Church in the UK be open and ready to embrace the fullness of family? Could we walk with ever-expanding foster families and adoptive families seeking to find the right balance? Could we put vulnerable children high on our agendas and be willing to adapt and change to ensure they are always made to feel welcome and accepted?

We love how so many individuals, families and churches are already doing this. We hope that being reminded of Moses’ jumbled family tree and Jesus’ encouragement will spur you on to continue in this wonderful work of being the Church – God’s great family.

Author:
Home for Good


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