Moses, adoption and the Church - Part 2: Identity

Exploring the ongoing identity challenges many looked after children may have.

This is the second in a three-part series of articles, exploring key themes in Moses’ story that we believe will encourage and equip the Church to better understand and support adopted and fostered children and their families.

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

Having been born during a time of conflict, in danger of death, it was clear that God’s hand was on Moses from the beginning. The courage of the midwives, the love of his birth mother, the bravery of his sister, and the compassion of his adoptive mother, all combined to ensure that Moses was safe from initial harm.

For the first few years of his life he lived with his Hebrew birth family, a people trapped in slavery and oppression, and by the time he moved into the Egyptian palace where he could grow up in luxury, he was old enough to understand where he had come from.

As a grown man, Moses leaves the palace to discover more about his Hebrew heritage, which results in confusion, righteous anger, a hastily covered up murder, and Moses running away to Midian (Exodus 2.11-25).

Moses knew what it meant to be caught between two families.

It is now quite rare that children are relinquished for adoption as Moses was. Sadly, most often it is that birth families are unable to provide the safe care that children need and authorities must step in to remove children from chaotic, abusive, neglectful, or desperate situations.

But while Moses’ unique story might not be particularly representative of the experiences of fostered and adopted children today, the confusion he felt and the tension of being torn between his two families is very real for many children. However wonderful and loving adoptive and foster families may be, many children will still feel connected and drawn to their birth family. It could be a sense of loyalty, rose-tinted glasses, guilt, rejection, confusion, or a desire to understand more and make sense of their story.

Whatever this may stem from, as the Church we must recognise and respect the inescapable pull that many children will feel to their birth family, and the internal conflict that this can cause. Moses was forty years old when he went searching for answers (Acts 7.23), and this tension can be a lifelong struggle for those who have been fostered or adopted.

We recently asked some adoptive families what assumptions those around them have made and many adoptive parents referenced the difficulty of ongoing issues they face as a family, and the lack of understanding that adopted children can struggle with the same thing (or new and different things) for many years.

At the Burning Bush, when Moses was 80 years old, he was still battling with his identity.

Reading the narrative in Exodus 3 and 4, Moses clearly struggled with confidence and self-esteem. Obviously, many individuals face these challenges and God wants to restore all of us to a full and secure identity in Him – but children who have been fostered or adopted will very often have a particular struggle with this.

Moses hides his face from God (Exodus 3.6), and continually questions his calling: “Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3.11), “Suppose I go…what shall I tell them?” (Exodus 3.11), “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” (Exodus 4.1). Even after God has promised to be with him and given him miraculous signs to show people, Moses continues to make excuses: “I have never been eloquent… I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4.10).

God offers Moses further reassurances of His presence, His protection and His power, and yet still Moses begs him to “please send someone else” (Exodus 4.13).

At this, God allows Aaron to partner with Moses and speak on his behalf, and God promises to speak through them both (Exodus 4.14-17). God commands Aaron to go to meet Moses as he returns to Egypt and he does so willingly, with love and compassion (Exodus 4.27).

Even though Moses continued to battle with his identity issues, God never gave up on him. God put things in place to reassure Moses and offer him help and comfort. God still used Moses without forcing him to ‘fix’ all his problems, ‘get over’ all his struggles, or ‘deal with’ all his issues.

God still had a plan for Moses and Moses was still used by God.

We believe in a powerful God who can bring healing and restoration in all circumstances and we hope that all children might be set free from pain, trauma, and inner conflict. But we recognise that in so many cases this will be a lifelong process.

Experiences both in the womb and in the world can leave children scarred in ways seen and unseen, and could also lead to specific conditions such as FASD, attachment disorders, developmental delay, or a variety of other things. Once again, God is mighty and can do all things but these early experiences can have permanent effects.

Regardless of where children, young people, or adults are on their journey, and regardless of what challenges they face, God still has plans and purposes for them.

Could we as the Church in the UK be willing to recognise the depth of the struggles that those who have been fostered or adopted may face, and understand that the outworking of this can last a lifetime? Could we commit to loving and accepting all people, without forcing them to ‘fix’ their problems? Could we look to the Lord’s example and be willing to offer practical support and adapt plans where necessary to accommodate and reassure?

We love how so many individuals, families and churches are already doing this. We hope that being reminded of Moses’ identity struggles and God’s divine reassurance will spur you on to continue in this wonderful work of being the Church – a place of compassion, acceptance, and lifelong commitment.

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