Adoption really does reflect the Gospel story. Ephesians 1:5 says, “God’s unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ, and this gives him great pleasure.” In this verse when the Apostle Paul is describing how we experience being restored in our relationship with God he uses adoption as a metaphor. Being restored in your relationship with God isn’t just about knowing that one day you will go to a place – Heaven, but it is also knowing that you are now in a family – God’s very own family. Becoming a Christian is so much more than just gaining salvation. Becoming a Christian is becoming a dearly loved child of God.
That is the Gospel story, and it’s reflection is adoption. As any adoptee or adoptive parent will tell you, the adoption story is very complex and at times can be down right difficult. Whenever I make that statement I have grown accustomed to seeing puzzled faces looking back to me. There are a lot of people who don’t understand the adoption narrative. Or perhaps they have only heard an impartial adoption narrative. The impartial adoption narrative is romanticized and can come across almost like a fairy tale.
It goes like this. There once was a cute little baby in distress who needed a family. There were these brave, beautiful and selfless parents who wanted a child. The parents found their child and through an incredible miracle adopted him or her. And they all lived happily ever after and never had any trouble because this is supposed to be how these stories go. Fairy tales are compelling and make for great stories, but they rarely are true.
The full adoption story is just as compelling, but the truth is not washed over. The full adoption story is incredibly redemptive, but what makes the redemption so rewarding is in understanding the pain and struggle along the way. The glory of the cross is the sacrifice required and the cost that was paid in anguish and blood. The adoption story finds its beauty and meaning inside the story of the cross because that is what is reflected through it. We would never white wash around the cross and we must not white wash adoption either.
So, let’s take a look at the full adoption story. Let’s understand all of the parts. Let’s go into this thing called adoption with our eyes wide open. Let us know the sadness, the grief and loss. Let us know the frustration of hard work. For it is in knowing the difficult emotions, which allows us the satisfaction when healing comes. For our adoption story just like the cross ends in redemption and when redemption does come it is thrilling.
The first part of the adoption story begins with “Tragic Loss and Great Need.” The Gospel story begins with a fallen world and adoption always begins with a child in need. A child who was supposed to be loved and nurtured isn’t. Poverty, disease, drugs, abuse, neglect, war, abandonment and death – When those words are used they typically are never used to describe something good for a child. The adoption story begins with those types of descriptive words. When those words are used to describe a child it usually means that there is a child who does not have a mom or dad to care for their needs.
Thank goodness that the adoption story begins there, but doesn’t end there. The second part of the adoptive story is when “Grace and Hope Intervene.” This part of the journey is about God pursuing and doing the work to redeem us. Adoptive parents’ work is seen here also. Grace and hope intervene because God is at work in the adoption story. God is the Father for the Fatherless. His heart is for the orphan. He places the lonely in families. God makes all things new. In every adoption story God the Father has prompted earthly fathers and mothers to intervene in the lives of these children who are in such desperate need. This part of the adoption journey is about adoptive parents working on behalf of their adoptive child. Paperwork – background checks – home studies – money – waiting – matched – more money – travel – family united – home.
In the impartial adoption narrative we would next move into the happily ever after phase, but not so fast in real life. Just like in the Gospel story when after we have been adopted by God through the cross, life is not automatically perfect or easy. The long road of dying to self and becoming more like Jesus has to take place. Even though we theologically understand this we have a real hard time living it out. So is true in the adoptive journey.
Even though most adoptive parents have had the pre-adoptive training where they are taught how hard adoption can be, many of them think to the contrary. They still believe that they will have the fairy tale ending. This marks the beginning of the third stage of the adoption journey – the “Fairy Tale Delusion.” Adoption experts are correct. Adoption is hard. Later on I will expand on what I’m calling “The Rejection Wound Spectrum”, but for now just understand that every adoptee has a rejection wound. This wound was birthed in trauma and for every adoptive family it will have a big impact. It’s not a matter of if – it’s a matter of when. The fairy tale delusion stage lasts as long as it takes for “when” to occur.
When the “when” occurs you enter the most dangerous stage of the adoption journey, the fourth stage – the “It Just Got Real Up In Here”. It is the most dangerous because like in the Gospel story it is where the unrealistic expectations of the fairy tale life die and the realization that the journey ahead is going to be very difficult comes alive.
In the Gospel story this is where most who abandon their faith drop out. They don’t understand how God could make bad things happen to good people, or some other beef they have with God and they decide that the cost is to great to follow Jesus. So, they quit and walk away from the faith.
For adoptive parents it goes like this. Instead of being seen by your child as the great rescuer and being appreciated and loved, you are on the receiving end of all of the pain that comes from having a rejection wound. Because of the pain of the wound, your child is giving you their very best “fight, flight or freeze” response. Instead of connecting and attaching, you are getting dis-regulation and meltdowns. Instead of the picture perfect family, you can’t even bring yourself to go to church because of the judgement you get when your kid has a full on fit during the children’s time.
And when that truth sets in, it is very tempting to take the easy way out and hit the eject button. The reason this stage is so dangerous to the family is because it is easier to run away than it is to roll up your sleeves.
If you are reading these words and are considering running away, let me offer you some encouragement. Don’t run away. Running away might be easier, but it is never worth it. Running away brings short-term relief, but also brings long-term pain. Rolling up your sleeves will bring short-term pain, but it is the only hope of having long-term pleasure. Don’t hit eject. Instead move into the next stage.
The fifth stage of the adoption journey is “The Road To Hope and Healing.” In the Gospel story we spend a life time growing in our faith. We make a lot of messes out of things. We have to cry out to our Heavenly Father and He has to meet our needs. When he meets our needs we learn how secure we are in Him. We may not start out whole and mature, but when you walk with Jesus for a lifetime that is where you end up.
In the adoption journey it is at this point of the journey that parents know that they need help. And with as much zeal that they had to complete all of the paperwork needed to bring their child home, they begin to attack how they might be able to help their child. The help is there, but it is fragmented in its approach. There are great experts who are working on a lot of the different issues that adoptive children from hard places are dealing with. But most are working in silos. In some instances it can appear that their work is contradictory. But nonetheless, the work is being done and the help is there.
As an adoptive parent in this stage, you are leaving no stone unturned. You are working the problem and getting the help that you need. You are making mistakes and asking for forgiveness. You are meeting your child’s felt needs and connecting with them on a deeper level. You are taking one step forward and two steps back. You are fighting with school systems and competing meds. You are reading every Dr. Karyn Purvis book, attending every Empowered to Connect Conference. (And you should be doing this!) Deb Jones at PACT (Parenting Adoptees Can Trust) is on speed dial. You know what TBRI stands for. The Refresh Conference is required vacation time each year. You are advocating for your kid because your kid is worth it. You are fighting the fight and you get tired. You have days where you wish you had never adopted, but then you have days where you would adopt 100 more if you could. This may not sound like happily ever after, but it is the road to it.
Slowly and surely you begin to have good days with your child. Breakthroughs and progress is made. Your family begins to function in healthy ways. Then adolescence begins and you start over. Just kidding! (Kind of.) But you never give up and you always trust in God because He is on your side.
And one day you will reach the sixth and final stage of adoption – “Celebration.” In the Gospel story our ultimate celebration will be on the other side of glory. Even though our ultimate healing is on that side of eternity, we do experience great times of victory and advancement on earth.
So is true in the Adoption story. One day our adoptive kids will find ultimate transformation and healing in heaven. But also on this side you will see them have breakthroughs. One day the struggle and hard work will cease. On that day your child will be grown. Your child will be on the road to healing. Your child will no longer be a mess but will instead be able to live the best possible life they can. It might take awhile, but “He who began a good work in them and you will see it through until completion.” And on that day you will celebrate. And during the celebration you will know that all of the hard work was worth it.
If you are on this adoption journey, I commend you. I pray for you and I walk the road with you. Don’t hit eject. It’s worth it. “For I consider this present suffering as nothing compared to the vast riches that await us in heaven.” – Romans 8:18