Ted Kluck, writer of things sports- and church-related, is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. In Why We’re Not Emergent and Why We Love the Church, he offers the “everyman” perspective on why the emergent church movement doesn’t work and why the visible church deeply matters to the life of believers. But in his latest book, Hello, I Love You, he tackles a topic that’s perhaps closer to his heart than any:
In the last couple of years, adoption has been the topic of conferences, sermons, blogs, books… you name it. It’s been top of mind for many Christians.
While the resources that have been produced are no doubt beneficial, this book is different.
That’s because in Hello, I Love You, Kluck takes readers on a deeply personal journey into what he experienced becoming an adoptive father.
And a lot of the time, it’s not pretty.
Written in two parts, the first is based on notes taken during the adoption of his first son, Tristan. Kluck shares (with often hilarious results) the events leading up to Tristan’s adoption.
One of my favorite moments, strangely, is the painfully accurate description of the Detroit airport. While the Northwest side looks more like a mall than an airport, Kluck writes,
[T]he non-renovated Delta terminal looks like the world’s largest Greyhound station—a dimly lit hole strewn with garbage and smelling faintly of a mixture of Cinnabons, grade-school, and industrial-grade cleaning agents. (p. 34-35)
(If you’ve ever been in this airport, you know how true this is.)
What struck me most profoundly though was how the first half frequently broke from the traditional narrative model and became letters written to Tristan, sharing the events of the day, thoughts on life, music, sports and faith.
In this half of the book what comes across most clearly is how much Kluck loves his son, who at the time wasn’t even his son yet. In one letter, he writes:
I can’t stop looking at your picture on the digital camera. I feel silly, but I keep saying “lemme see Tristan.” And then your mom and I pull out the camera (again) and flip through the pictures (again).
And we prayed for you tonight, Tristan. We prayed that our Lord would keep you safe from evil and prepare your little heart to be loved by us… (p. 53)
Reading this, it’s amazing to see the love that God creates in the hearts of parents for their children—even those who are not biologically their own. Truly, it is inspiring.
Griping, Grumbling & Genuine Authenticity
Part two chronicles the Klucks’ adoption of another boy, Dima. Written more as a journal during the events of the adoption, the feeling is quite different.
The tone changes. It’s still funny, but there’s something else there.
It’s a struggle with despair.
The Klucks’ second adoption didn’t come out of, necessarily, the same kind of desire that their first did—it came out of necessity. In the time between the two adoptions, they learned that they were unable to have biological children.
Kluck doesn’t portray himself as a great man of faith or even a particularly great husband. He’s often painfully honest about his shortcomings.
He struggles with feelings of resentment toward his church and its extremely fertile congregation (pp. 95-101).
With a sense of failure as a man and a provider (p. 161).
He becomes a grumbler, and his complaining alienates him from his wife and blinds him to God’s grace in his life.
Kluck isn’t playing humble here. He doesn’t look to anything outside of himself as the source of his problems—he acknowledges his own sins and strives to move forward in repentance.
As the story of Dima’s adoption unfolds, he displays genuine authenticity.
A Refreshing Reminder
Reading Hello, I Love You gave me, as a husband & father who hopes to one day adopt, a refreshing reminder. Kluck’s honesty about the struggles he and his family faced during the process, to say nothing of the astronomical financial cost hit hard; but with every word of this book, he tells us, “It was worth it.”
It’s a reminder to me that every sacrifice I make for my daughters is worth it. And it’s a reminder that for Jesus, who paid the ultimate price for sinners like me to be adopted into God’s family—from His perspective, it was worth it. Not because I deserve it, but because He is so gracious.
Title: Hello, I Love You: Adventures in Adoptive Fatherhood
Author: Ted Kluck
Publisher: Moody (2010)
A galley copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher