Have you ever poured your heart and soul out into a relationship and had it gone unappreciated? Or have you ever worked diligently to love someone well only to have them flat out reject you? Maybe that person even went a step further and betrayed you. Betrayal feels like someone has taken your heart and thrown it on the ground. Perhaps if you’re a parent you know the feeling I’m describing.
It is this feeling that all parents, but especially adoptive parents, are called to. It is the calling of all parents to give and hope for nothing in return. But that kind of unconditional love can only come from one place, and that is the Father heart of God.
Something I have discovered too often working in child welfare is that people look at adoption not as a covenant, but as a contract. I communicate to the family all of the child’s past history with trauma, their needs, and behaviors. I predict for the family how that child might react or respond upon entering their home. I tell them the services I think they might need as well as the supports. I train them and prepare them for as much as I possibly can. But inevitably, no matter what I say or do, no matter what the family is prepared for, there is only one thing that is going to make an adoption work: unconditional love.
Too often, the child gets into their adoptive placement and displays a behavior that no one foresaw, or another child reacts in an unexpected way, or maybe everything happened exactly as we thought it would but the family didn’t realize how difficult it would truly be, and I get that dreaded call. “We can’t do this anymore.” I hate hearing those words. Then we come pick the child up, and the process starts all over again. The child broke the “contract” and so the family feels they can give up on the adoption process.
Something I have discovered since being married is that I idolize emotional comfort. By this I mean that I idolize a stress free emotional state. When my husband and I are in conflict I am rarely frustrated or angry at him for something he did. I am frustrated and angry just at the fact that he is angry! Its crazy I know. But because of who I am and the way I was raised I have this false idea that every conflict can be resolved without anger or emotion. I idolize the idea of a marriage and family with no difficulty, and no emotional hardship. If there is no emotional hardship than the relationship doesn’t take any real work. We all have these unspoken expectations for our family members and when they don’t meet them, we think we are justified in acting inappropriately or in the most extreme cases, cutting that relationship off completely. This is not how the marriage covenant or adoption is designed to work. How do I know? Because God designed them.
The book of James describes this phenomenon of our own desires getting in the way of healthy relationships:
[Jas 4:1-6 NASB] 1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; [so] you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; [so] you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend [it] on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore [it] says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
Man sometimes it is so painful the way God reveals our sinful motives behind our desires! For so long I prayed and asked God for a husband. I claimed it was for the purpose of my sanctification and His glory, but then he gave me what I asked for and BAM. My true motives surfaced immediately. I really wanted a husband to make me happy and to fulfill my life dreams and goals. I really wanted a husband so that I wouldn’t feel lonely and left behind.
I think sometimes it is the same way with adoption. Families know that children need to be adopted out of the system, and they know that God calls us to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27; Isaiah 58;5-7). We know that adoption is a very good thing. But with all good things our flesh and the devil are always going to try to creep in and ruin them. We believe lies that adoption exists to make our name great, or to bring us more fame in this world. We secretly love the fame we get from telling everyone that we are going through the process to be a foster/adoptive parent. We let the love of instagram likes and facebook posts overshadow our joy in simple obedience to Christ. Children are not a product that we buy off the shelf to fulfill our purposes. They are souls, unpredictable and wild.
The result of this is that when you have that child in your home and they punch you in the midst of a tantrum, chuck an ipad out into the street, or keep you up until 4AM screaming, the thought comes: Is this worth it? Maybe this isn’t the right child for us. Maybe we can’t handle as much as I thought we could. No one ever told us about this. I don’t think they really want to be adopted here anyway.
I’m not writing this blog post to suggest that dealing with any of these behaviors is easy. Far from it. We are finite beings and we truly will not be equipped to handle every single behavior/disorder/issue that arises in parenting. It is important to know our limits, and when we need to call the body of Christ. I am writing it to say that just because parenting traumatized children is hard does not give us a right to give up on them. The only way we can persevere through this is remembering what Jesus has done for us.
Aren’t you thankful that Jesus never looks at your sin and says “this is too much”?! Aren’t you thankful that your sonship doesn’t depend on your behavior? It only depends upon the unwavering character of God. It does not matter how we have rebelled against Him, no sin is too great for Him to heal and to cleanse. There is no mess too messy for Him. There is no brokenness that He will not accept. He invites everyone to come and to find forgiveness rest and healing through the blood of the cross:
[Mat 11:28-30 NASB] 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
If you are in Christ then you are redeemed. This means that you were bought at a high price. He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf, that we might be given His righteousness! What an unfathomable exchange!
It is this truth and this love that drives us in adoption. When the pain seems too dysfunctional, or it seems like more than we can manage, we remember that the One who manages all things lives in us. When it seems like there is more hurt and brokenness in these little people than we could ever heal, we remember that the Divine Healer is the one watching over them. When we have been up all night worrying over where our adopted teen is, we remember that only the Holy Spirit changes hearts. When we are afraid how we will be perceived because our children are not well behaved, we remember that only the opinion of our heavenly Father truly matters. We adopt because God wants to the glory out of our obedience, not because it will bring about positive outcomes.
[2Co 5:14-15 NASB] 14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
Let us live for Him, and in so doing find a greater joy.