A few weeks ago Jonah (2yrs) met a man who knew Amharic. We encouraged the man to try and speak to him in his former tongue. Danae and I held our breath waiting to see how he would respond. With a sense of confusion, Jonah looked at us to see if we approved. He then looked at the man and said, “My name is Jonah!” While Isaac (4yrs) remembers some Amharic, Jonah has forgotten most of his former vocabulary in a matter of five months.
This is something I don’t feel guilty about. Not because English is better than Amharic, but because it is the language of our family, their family. There are even English words and phrases more unique to us than other families. There is a thick Haskins’ dialect that you would hear from them, even if they were adopted from within the U.S. This is what adoption does.
The barriers in communication that we have struggled through the last five months are not new to my family. They are not new to any family who has adopted internationally. It is the residue of an ancient curse.
In Genesis 11, the consumation of man’s pride is met with the judgment of God. Protecting man from sinking further into his exaltation, God separated men by confusing their language. The story God is telling went from one family to many families. And yet, the curse of many words is not the final word.
Immediately, following the episode of Babel, the story of Abraham’s adoption begins. God calls Abraham away from his family into a new family. He tells him He will create through him a great family with a great name. This family will bless all families.
Adoption is God’s way of redemption from the curse. Throughout the Scripture, we see God speaking His word into the world full of many words. Those who believe His word are adopted from the many families into one family, God’s family.
In Acts 2, we see peoples from the many words coming together at Pentecost to hear one word. It is the word of the gospel. It is a word about the man we call the Word, the Promise God gave Abraham in Genesis 12. The Word is overcoming many words and creating one family with one word.
Adoption meets the separation that occurred at Babel head on with one language. In Christ, it is the redemptive sound of the gospel. It transforms words rooted in pride that bring corruption into words seasoned with grace. This new language spoken by your new family is to overwhelm all other competing words, especially the words of your former father, sounds you should remember but can’t quite make them out.
I long for the day when I hear the sounds of my former wickedness and like Jonah all I know to do is turn to my Father. And all I remember is my new name.