Adoption has always played an important role in my life. My youngest brother is adopted. He has a lot of special qualities and relationships unique to him in my family. Where the rest of us are dark-haired and have a lot of British in our blood, he’s a proud, red-headed Irishman. Where the rest of us tend towards intellectual and artistic pursuits, he’s happiest when he’s making or repairing something with his own two hands. He has two half-brothers and several extended family members that he keeps in touch with that, though I like the ones I’ve met, I have no relationship to.
And yet, for all of these differences, he is still my brother and still a Bugg.
When I married my wife, she brought as a bonus into the relationship a then seven-year-old girl. Though I’m perhaps foolish about human relationships on many levels, I knew early on that when one dates a woman with a child, you have to build a relationship with the child too. We always made sure that we included her daughter in many of our dates, and I worked at building my relationship with the little one as well. When I proposed, after I put the ring on my future wife’s finger, I also knelt down and gave her daughter a necklace and asked her to be my daughter.
A couple of years later, as the possibility that my wife was pregnant became very real, I remember that my daughter seemed to be a bit on-edge. Of course, any child might feel a bit unsettled at the possibility of a major change to the family, but I suspected that in this case she was struggling with a concern that once I had a child from my own body, she wouldn’t be as important to me.
One day as we were reading the parasha (the weekly Torah portion) together and we came to the section on redeeming the firstborn son (Exo. 13:1-16; Num. 18:15-16) and I think the Spirit gave me the right thing to say to her: “You know, Leah, if you have a little brother we won’t be redeeming him. Do you know why?”
“Because you are my firstborn.”
A tension went out of her that day, and she has been completely devoted to her little brother in a very touching way ever since he was born.
Having seen a brother and a daughter go through crises of identity and position because they were adopted, and having seen the anxiety that the prospect of having to share a place in the family after being used to having it to one’s self, has given me a different sense of the conflict between the Jews and the Gentiles in those early days of the Messiah’s Assembly–and of the true relationship between Israel, “Messianic” Jews, and Gentile Christians.
To be continued . . .