An Adopted Child’s Perspective

Rev. Paul Prange, Michigan Lutheran Seminary President

I was born to a single mother at an age when she was either a senior in high school or a freshman in college. She placed me with a Christian adoption agency, which then placed me six weeks later into the home of a Christian couple. They became my parents. After they picked me up at the agency, they took me to the home of some friends to “show me off,” and then to a concert at the college that would eventually become my alma mater.

My parents were structured Lutheran Christians, where we engaged in regular church attendance, Sunday School, and home devotions after every meal. I learned many of the songs of the ancient church even before I could read. I grew in grace and in the knowledge of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I felt secure and loved.

Following my adoption, my parents added an adoptive sister, another brother, and finally another sister. Ten years after adopting me, they had their own natural-born boy. Our family of five kids came from ten different birth parents! We could easily have become a study on which traits come from nature and which from nurture.

I don’t know whether my parents wanted to adopt more children, but it became increasingly difficult after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which happened soon after my youngest brother was born. I cannot begin to describe the horror I feel about the children who are denied being raised in a stable Christian home, because the law allowed an easier approach in ending their lives through abortion.

As I grew up, it became clear that I had at least one birth defect. In my senior year in high school, my parents took me to a specialist to find out whether my birth defect could be treated. He said that it could not, that I would just have to get used to it. He named the birth defect and mentioned that it was more common in children whose birth parents were close relatives.

After college I developed back problems. I decided to check whether the adoption agency had a medical history on me. They sent me a one-paragraph description of my birth parents. I had thought that my birth parents were of German descent, but the description indicated Scandinavian heritage. I copied my parents with the document, and they contacted the adoption agency. The description, it turned out, was that of my adopted brother. The descriptions of my own birth parents were a little less precise. There was some mystery in the circumstances of my birth.

After I was married and we had our first child, my wife encouraged me to contact my birth mother and tell her that everything had turned out well and that she was a grandmother. I filed the appropriate papers and did not have to wait long. The agency called to say that they had found my birth mother, but that she preferred not to have contact with me, since she had not told her present family about me.

What very little I know, my conception and birth were undoubtedly traumatic for my birth mother. I wonder if she still suffers on my birthday, especially since she indicated to the adoption agency that she could not even talk about me with her immediate family.

Because my birth mother placed me with a Christian adoption agency, I assume that she is Christian. So she knows the grace of God. I just want to assure her that my life is just another example that God can take awful, unspeakable things and use them for good.

What good? In my vocation I have the privilege of talking about Jesus every day. God’s grace is obvious in my life, and that helps me keep my perspective when I share the message of God’s grace with my own wife and children, my friends and relatives, my students and colleagues, and the Christians who come to the churches where I preach.

Even though I like drama, I generally do not tell my personal story too dramatically. So I was stunned when my daughter wrote recently for her Lutheran elementary school teacher: “I am thankful that my Dad’s birth mother did not get an abortion. Then I wouldn’t have been born!”

I am thankful that my church body continues to look after widows and orphans in their distress, single parents and their children who yearn for the unconditional love of an absent father or mother. My wife has pointed out that I have a soft spot for fatherless students, the ones who have some difficulty in their lives because they have not known the consistent love of an earthly father. I do always look out for those kids and try to introduce them to the perfect love of our Heavenly Father.


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