The halls of the local women’s hospital often ring with banter. Banter is our human response to the intensity and immediacy of birth. It is how we sometimes respond to the mix of blood, sweat, tears, and laughter that hangs in the air anywhere life and death struggles take place. The hallowed halls, where the most poignant human dramas unfold, are often filled with raucous humor that can be a balm to sore souls. “Adoption! Can you get morphine with that?”

Adoption is my passion. I love its intricacies and complexities . . . new life springing up in the midst of a sea of contradictory emotions. Pain and uncertainty intermingling with hope, with newness, with embrace . . . a rush of acceptance as strangers choose connection, laboring against all odds . . . a gasp of joy as something new pushes forward into the world. Then a new family emerges, and a child is tenaciously embraced by so many who are loving her. There is gracious release and the widening of a welcoming circle.

It is, of course, a choice to adopt one another. Adoption means letting go of our exclusive claims to identity, to outcome, to sameness. Adoption is work, a lifelong labor. It is calling, and it is bliss.

Being the church is adoption. We make our way toward each other half expecting to find slight variations of ourselves. Surely our brothers and sisters will act like us, think like us, vote like us, worship like us. We gasp with surprise (and maybe a tinge of pain) when we find instead a glorious mix of “not like us”!

Still, we recognize one another! We see in each other a wished for child of God with unlimited claim on the family name.

It is, of course, a choice to adopt one another, to be church with one another, to claim kinship and belonging with one another, to love each other so much that we are willing to be forever altered by each other. It is a choice to stand in the midst of life’s blood, sweat and tears as one family, holding each other and loving each other against all odds.

Sometimes we cry out with the pain of bumping into our differences. We cringe as we are stretched, as our hearts are widened, and we move over to make room for each other. Sometimes, we throw our hands in the air and exclaim “Adoption!  (Insert: Being church!) Can you get morphine with that?”

Then the tenacious embrace and gentle release of God who planned our adoption from the very beginning rushes over us, sustaining us and pushing us on as a new family emerges! We are church. It is work, a lifelong labor. It is calling, and it is gift.

Stacey Buford is an ordained Baptist minister, having worked extensively in pastoral care, hospital chaplaincy and  building families through adoption/foster care. She lives and works in Duluth, Georgia, where she and husband, Jon, are raising three amazing children.