“A child born to another woman calls me mom. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me.” – Judy Landers
Adoption is a wonderful, challenging, beautiful, patience-trying path to walk. It’s simultaneously a glorious picture of what the Lord has done for us, and a mirror into which I am forced to see how far short I fall in loving others like the Lord has loved me. As it turns out, I’m not always a joy to parent either, huh, Father?! I’ve been on this path for 4 years now, in 2 different ways, and have a learned a few things that I’d love to share with you.
Love in Adoption is:
The LORD is in charge! If you ever want to feel deeply emotionally involved in something, yet completely out of control of ANY of it, try adoption! In all seriousness, it’s a precious reminder that the Lord is in charge of every detail as He faithfully weaves His story into each family. While walking the road, however, it’s FRUSTRATING and full of ups and downs, as you jump through a million hoops and constantly think, “Why is this so hard?!!? Anyone who delivers a baby in the hospital is allowed to take it home, no questions asked! Why do they make adoption so hard when we’re just trying to do the right thing?!” Every aspect is out of control of the adoptive family (choices the birth parents make, decisions that judges make, government entities that are not interested in your timeline, etc.) and it’s tough being face to face with the fact that you have no control over something so important. What a gracious reminder in every step of grasping for some piece of influence that the LORD is in and though every aspect and all we’re called to do is let go of our expectations and just follow obediently where He leads. That’s not always easy to do, by the way.
The OPPOSITE of the movies. I enjoy movies like Annie and The Blind Side- stories of bold love and happy endings. However, in real life, adoption is more like marriage: a sacred covenant that is hard work. Trust and love have to be earned. All parties, including birth families in open adoptions, are figuring it out as they go. Things that were easy to idealize while you were reading and dreaming and preparing are much harder to actually live. Questions plague decisions: “Are we doing this right? What is the best way to handle this? Please Lord, cover our mistakes!” In real life, if there is a happy ending, I can assure you it has been hard won through lots of grace, training, professional support, and tons of prayer.
It VARIES in every circumstance. Just like no two families are alike, neither do any two adoptions mirror one another perfectly. Open, closed, domestic, international, foster care, infant, older child, special needs, sibling groups...the picture is unique each time. Some common threads apply to all (see L above!) but each family has their own story. Just as important, each adoptee has his/her own way of dealing with his/her story. Some like to share, some don’t. Some need to find their birth families, some can’t. In the same way that 2 children raised in the same home can be completely different from one another, 2 adoptees from the same home can have opposite experiences and needs in processing their story. When you interact with adoptees and their parents, please respect that. It’s the CHILD’S information to share with whom they choose, when they choose.
EVERY adoption involves loss. Loss and gain. Pain and redemption. Hurt and healing. They are inseparable pairs in adoption. We often prefer to focus on the hope in the new situation, and rightly so. But we must also acknowledge the loss. Children adopted beyond infancy must mourn the loss of their previous life. Even when rough lives are all they knew, it must still be acknowledged as loss. Children adopted as infants represent immeasurable love and loss by the birth parents who lovingly and self-sacrificially made an adoption plan for them. Every adopted child needs to process and reprocess this reality as they pass through the developmental stages of childhood. Loving them through this and supporting their realities are ways that parents can create a safe place to talk about and validate their thoughts and feelings. It should never be us (the adoptive family) against them (the birth family), even in the hardest of situations. The child should never feel stuck between competing loyalties, but rather that we’re all on the same team building into the precious soul we all love.
As adoptive parents, we often hear what a wonderful thing we’re doing. The reality, though, is that only the Lord can love perfectly. As an adoptive momma, most days I feel like my life is less a picture of God’s perfect adoptive love for us, and more a picture of my sinful-self walking the narrow path. ONLY the Lord can redeem. Only the Lord can fully heal. I pray that He will do both those things for my adopted kiddos AND my biological kiddos. Being adopted is part of their story, but it’s not their identity. They are all God’s children first, and my children second.
“So he decided long ago to adopt us. He adopted us as his children with all the rights children have. He did it because of what Jesus Christ has done. It pleased God to do it.” Ephesians 1:5