|Mani rides a pony|
Most of all, I believe that it is God's desire for us to enter into the complicated, life changing relationships that adoption brings to bear. Because really, if you want to know the heart of God, try explaining to a four year-old that it doesn't matter at all whose tummy he grew in ... he's just as much a part of your being as the little one he feels kicking under your ribs this very minute.
Adoption has done amazing things in my family. I have seen my husband open his heart wider and wider and wider still. I have watched Jo grow into a young lady who has no fear or awkwardness around people with physical or mental disabilities, but instead a deep, abiding compassion for those people who so many others can't even make eye contact with. I have had Logan approach me and ask why it is so that so many children wait for homes around the world. "Don't people know they're there?" I have felt a warm glow when hearing Atticus plan out his own future family. "I don't know how many kids I'll have. But I know we'll adopt and have biological kids." I have had to explain time and again to Seven that no, she is not adopted and that yes, that's an o.k. thing, too.
And, of course, I have had the honor of raising, loving, knowing children who share no biological link with me at all, but still call me Momma. Without adoption, there would be no Bee telling me about her science exams, no Oli chasing the new puppy, no Mani asking endlessly if I will read him "just one more" book.
Adoption is a good thing. It is a worthy cause. It is a gift from God.
And yet ... I still fall into the camp that cannot believe that adoption is for every individual or family.
The truth is, I cringe when I see the phrases tossed out: "If every Christian adopted just one child, there'd be no more orphans on the entire continent of Africa!" "Adoption is so affordable, everyone can do it!" "Adoption saves a life ... YOURS!"
Adoption is complicated. It is messy. It is painful and hurtful and beautiful and awful and terrifying and blissful. Adoption is so many things, all wrapped up in an amazing bundle of emotions and spiritual growth. But one thing that adoption is not is easy.
Now, please don't take this as a negative ad for adoption. Please don't think that I'm saying that only the toughest of the tough need to apply. And definitely don't think that I'm advocating for only those people with a stomach for self-abuse should sign on. What I'm saying is that people who walk into adoption should do so with eyes not only wide open, but with hearts prepared to take whatever comes.
Adoption, people ... it's not about you. Truly. It's not about your new child, your new baby, your growing family. If you think it is, you've got it dead wrong. Adoption is about your new child. It's about your new baby. It's about your growing family. It's about people with faces and pasts and futures and problems and dreams. You are only a player in the story. Just one in a cast of hundreds, really. It's not about you.
But so many (too many) Christians I meet who are adopting don't seem quite ready to grapple with this reality. They have given birth to a dream child, waiting for them on another continent or in some corner of their hometown. They know what pattern quilt this child will adore, how his or her personality will fit into their family, what sports he or she will want to play. They already know that this dream child will be gracious, and kind, and will never question why God chose to place him or her in the category of "adopted kid" because their adoptive family will just be so fabulous, so unique, so perfect for them, that it will all be crystal clear. This child will not have a difficult time attaching, will love American cuisine, will take to English as easily as a fish to water, and will forget all about the first (or second, or third, or fourth) mothers who came before. This child will not hoard food, curse when angry, have developmental delays, set things on fire. This child will, in short, be perfect and unscathed, despite having walked through hell to get to the comfort of that middle class lifestyle he or she now enjoys.
Put that way, you can see the recipe for disaster. But no one thinks that way in real life, right? No one is in that much denial. Think so? Think again.
I'm going to say it as gently as possible, so that I don't scare off every single hopeful adoptive parent who might ever stumble upon this post: That parent you'll never be? The one surrendering their child because the dream has turned into a nightmare? Listen to her. Learn from her. Because while nothing can every truly prepare you for every twist and turn you might possible encounter, sometimes just hearing the horror stories can open your eyes that much wider and bring you to a place where you're at least willing to look at the dark side before you commit.
Some people just shouldn't adopt. If you are already overwhelmed with the number of children in your family, your home situation (marriage, job, difficult child), your circumstances ... you shouldn't adopt. If you think that an adopted child is going to fill a still aching void in your life left by infertility or loss, you shouldn't adopt. If you have never picked up a book on attachment, you shouldn't adopt. If you think that children--even infants-- who have suffered loss will not be affected by their past, you shouldn't adopt. If you are uncomfortable welcoming--even just verbally-- another mummy and daddy into your world, you shouldn't adopt. If you are adopting to "save a child," "do the right thing," or"be a good Christian," you shouldn't adopt.
I have personally known some very well-intentioned, good people who adopted under the wrong motivations. It is not pretty. In fact, it's so not pretty that one has to step back and ask the horrible question: Would this child have been better off remaining an orphan? I never thought I'd be at a place where I could even consider that as a possibility but there it is. Sometimes, it's just that ugly.
This is a very un-PC statement that goes against a huge movement currently taking place in the evangelical wing of the church right now. Record numbers of Christians are adopting and yes, by and large I am sure that this is a good thing. The stigma is gone, and the culture of ignorance is largely being stripped away. People who may not have even considered adoption before are now familiar with families who have been there, and done that, so a certain comfort exists. For this, I am glad. Truly. The world will be a richer place for it, and the lives of so many people are being blessed with an abundant, beautiful gift.
What I worry about are the people who jump on the bandwagon without counting the cost, or who go in with blinders on. These are the dangerous folks, and frankly, I haven't been impressed with the ability (or willingness) of agencies to screen them out. Christian agencies, especially, seem more concerned with simply making sure that prospective families line up with their statement of faith than of vetting the background and stability that a child will be moving in to. This terrifies me. I have seen the effects of this practice in day to day life, and it is every bit as heartbreaking as a child languishing in a children's home or bouncing from foster home to foster home.
Are we all called to help the widows and the orphans? I believe we are. For some very blessed people, that will look like a family portrait that is more of patchwork quilt a simple afghan. For others, it will look like donating to a missionary working with children or supporting an orphanage on a monthly basis. For others, it will be opening their home to latch-key kids after school and being the ear to listen and the mom with the cookies. For others, it could be collecting clothes to donate, or becoming foster parents, or volunteering, or buying Christmas gifts for kids whose parents are in prison.
So yes, do something. Get involved. But please, weigh very carefully the full measure of whether or not adopting a child is the right thing for your family. Ask God to be more clear in His calling than He has been with any other message to you in your life. So much is riding on this one decision. Make it the right one.