Fourteen years ago, one day before Thanksgiving Day, I became Bill Dillon’s daughter with the banging of a gavel. As my dad smiled and gave his eighteen-year-old daughter a side hug, a courtroom teeming with strangers clapped and cheered.
Back when I was six going on seven, my biological father left the pastorate along with his wife and two young daughters in Kansas to become a flight attendant in San Francisco. From that moment on, God acted as a father to the fatherless for several years. Although there were many difficulties along the way, my mom, sister, and I had many good times of laughter and comradery. We girls took on the world together and served God in various ministries. Yet when I was thirteen going on fourteen, God sent us a wonderful man to complete our family. He sent my dad—Bill Dillon.
After Bill Dillon married my mom, we had to learn how to integrate him into our family. Even our cat struggled to adjust to having a man in the house. Gradually, however, Bill Dillon became an integral part of our existence. He introduced us to Star Wars. He established game nights in which I learned I absolutely detest Phase 10. He always opened the car door for my mom. And we all knew that if we were up at a certain time each morning, Bill Dillon would be sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee reading his Bible.
When the first Father’s Day approached, I got up the gumption to ask to call him Dad. He was thrilled, although it took some time for me to get used to speaking the new name. As the years passed, he taught me to drive, and he showed me that a man can choose to sacrificially commit to his family. By the time I was eighteen, I was ready to make it official—to legally become Carmen Dillon, daughter of Bill Dillon.
Missouri is one of thirty-nine states that allow adult adoptions. Although requirements vary from state to state, Missouri’s adult adoptions occur by the consent of the adopted and the adoptee. Thus, no permission had to be obtained from my biological father. We simply hired a lawyer to file the paperwork and represent us in court.
Although going to court the day before Thanksgiving shortened our time with extended family, I can’t blame the judge for wanting to make a positive ruling right before the holiday. My dad and I each took the stand and acknowledged that the adoption process meant the law would view Bill Dillon as my dad “as if I were born to him.”
The judge wanted to be sure I understood that, according to Missouri law, my adoption would terminate any inheritance rights relating to my biological father. But my adoption had nothing to do with monetary inheritance. It had to do with becoming Carmen Dillon and forging a legal relationship with my dad.
And, by law, today I can say that I was born to Bill Dillon. If I showed you my new birth certificate that I had to acquire from my birth state of Texas, you would find Bill Dillon’s name and address from the time of my birth. My social security card and driver’s license declare that my surname matches my father’s. And, as a teacher, I am very grateful to be identified each day as “Miss Dillon” by my middle school students.
Sometimes I reflect on the beauty of living out this biblical illustration of salvation. In some places, the Bible speaks of being “born again” (John 3:3). In other places, it speaks of being adopted into God’s family (Galatians 4:4–7). Yet I’ve come to realize that these illustrations are interconnected. When I was adopted by Bill Dillon, I was legally born into his family. In the same way, I was born into God’s family upon my spiritual adoption. When I testified with my mouth to accept Bill Dillon as my dad and when he testified that he claimed me as his own, we finally—legally—became family. What a glorious picture of the Gospel! Just as I became Bill Dillon’s daughter by the banging of a gavel, I became a child of God by the banging of a nail.
. Tim McDuffey, “Adult Adoption: A State-by-State Guide,” Legal Hearsay, August 20, 2023, https://legalhearsay.com/adult-adoption-a-state-by-state-guide/#states-that