The Birth Order theory has been around since the late 19th century. Of course, firstborns didn’t need theories and research to tell them they were natural-born leaders, with higher intellect than their siblings. The basic theory is that a child’s personality is formed, in part, by their birth order in the family. The firstborn in a family is bossy, confident, and responsible. Middle children tend to be competitive but peacemakers, adaptable but impatient, and often feel forgotten. The baby of the family is outgoing, charming, and doesn’t take life too seriously. Sound familiar? Are you picturing your siblings—maybe how the baby got away with everything? Me too.
I was the baby: charming, quite adorable, and a natural entertainer. My mom always said, “Someday, you’ll make the stage.” But I often felt more like a middle child: always trying to make peace and please everyone. As time went by, I became a confident leader. Of course, there are negatives associated with the birth order personalities.
As the adorable baby of the family, my brand of humor was sarcasm. Not everyone thought my sarcasm was as funny as I did. I may still struggle with that from time to time. My middle-child personality was a little overly competitive. Winning was everything. There was no second place in my world. There was winning and losing, and heaven help the teammate who didn’t play to win. I don’t struggle as much in this area anymore. And the firstborn personality’s sense of responsibility resulted in being a rule follower to the letter. For everyone. If you weren’t following the rules, I let you know. Rule following seems to have left my life at the same time as my gall bladder. Who knew they were related? Positive or negative, I didn’t fit into just one of the birth order personalities. Now what?
Lots of things mess with the birth order theory: twins, age differences, blended families. My story makes mincemeat of it. I was the baby in my adoptive family. But recently, I learned that I am the firstborn on my birth-father’s side and a middle child in my birth-mother’s family. Finally, my complicated personality makes sense.
But I have my own twist on the birth order theory. The biggest change in my personality came when I was born again at 16 years old. That’s when the firstborn traits began to appear. My confidence grew as I learned my identity was in Christ as God’s own adopted child. And my middle-child tendencies grew as peace took up residence in my heart. Even the baby in me grew, allowing me to hold loosely to this world and look forward to the future.
I was born to an earthly family and adopted into another earthly family. Then I was born again into a heavenly family and adopted by a heavenly Father. Yes, my birth order is complicated. For the first four months of my life, I had a name, and I lived in foster care. Then I was given a new name, new parents, and a new home. But that’s not where the story ends. When I was born again, I was given a new identity and position in the family of God, an heir with Jesus of the glory to come.
I have met several members of my birth families. It has been exciting to learn about them. Most of them never knew I existed. What a difference from my heavenly Father, who has not just known me but chose me and substituted his own Son to die in my place so that I can live forever with them. As the firstborn, Jesus has gone on to prepare a place for me, and I look forward to the day our Father gives me a new name and welcomes me home for the last time.
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined usfor adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” Ephesians 1:3-5 (ESV)