Last night, I had the opportunity to speak for a few minutes at an orphan care meeting at church. Over 100 people had gathered together to talk about foster care, adoption, and orphan prevention. There were veteran adoptive parents who still shudder at the mention of the five little letters USCIS. There were foster parents who could rattle off the names of dozens of placements who have been in and out of their homes. There were wide-eyed couples completely overwhelmed at the whole shebang.
I have a crystal clear memory of sitting in a similar meeting at church years ago. We were in the very early stages of adopting, were convinced we knew exactly what we were doing, and were still rocking our rose-colored glasses. Because all we needed was love, baby!
My, how things change.
Instead. Last night, as we were just about to pull up to church, I said to Matt, “Man, I don’t know about this. This topic, it just feels really heavy and raw to me.”
Here’s the thing- adoption is beautiful and redemptive and is, hands down, one of the best decisions Matt and I have ever made. But it can also be crazy hard. And that was precisely the premise of my talk: Adoption is hard. Adoption is messy. And you need help.
In the short time I had last night, I threw out terms like poverty orphan. Family reunification. Orphan prevention. I discussed how we, as adoptive and foster parents, need a village and how that village better include a really stellar therapist.
Rainbows and unicorns, be gone. Catherine is in the house.
In all seriousness, I get that this message is weighty. Tossing ideas like this out to a room full of potential adoptive and foster parents may seem a bit unconventional. However, it’s so. very. necessary. Because, at the end of the day, orphan care is not about us. It’s not about us “getting a kid” or how we can be little orphan-saviors.
When we’re busy making these big decisions about agencies and countries and fundraising, you know what’s going on behind the scenes?
Loss and trauma.
Adoption is inherently rooted in this reality, and MAN have I seen it at play.
Last night, I shared that I had been chatting with Elizabeth and had asked her what she’d want people to know about adoption. Her response?
“It’s kinda hard sometimes. I don’t get to see my Congo family, and that’s hard. And I know my Congo family misses me, and that’s hard too. But it’s also kind of awesome. Because now I get two families that love me.”
You guys, she’s five. And yet she’s already acutely aware the intersection of loss and redemption. She gets that it’s messy.
But as I hear Elizabeth’s little voice pray for her Congo family, and as we email pictures and videos and cute-kid-anecdotes halfway across the world to her biggest Swahili-speaking fans, we see redemption and beauty creeping in.
As I try desperately hard to shed light on the dignity and respect these first families deserve.
As we all continue to learn dependence- dependence on the village God has given us and dependence on the Giver Himself.
As I’m able to share some of our story and our mistakes, wins, and experiences with others- as I’m able to point to God’s faithfulness and goodness in it all.
Tragedy meets redemption. Loss meets beauty. And we find ourselves in the middle of a big, tangled, beautiful mess.
Is adoption hard? Heck to the yes. Is there beauty in the mess? Absolutely.
So, potential adoptive parent, don’t let the stars in your eyes cloud your judgement and your ability to make sound, ethical decisions. For the love, don’t assume that “all you need is love” to make a hurting child whole again. Only God can fill that role. And good counseling can sure help a ton.
Similarly, don’t be paralyzed by the prospect of hard. Because the reality is that there are kids who desperately need families. And we, as the church, have been explicitly commanded to take care of orphans.
And teenage moms who have made the brave decision to parent. Who are struggling to make ends meet.
And first families who have made the equally-brave decision to place their child for adoption. And who just want to know that their little girl is okay.
Y’all, as I’ve said many times before, we can do hard things. We just can’t do them alone.
So, open your eyes. Wide. Wider still. Ask hard questions. Find your village. And practice these words:
“We don’t got this. We. Need. Help.”