The Tragedy and Privilege of Adoption

Before they were three years old, both of my sons had already lost two sets of parents (birth and foster). There is such sadness in losing one set of parents in a lifetime, but separating from two sets of parents at the very young age of two is an immense tragedy. Yet, through their tragedies, our family gained the privilege of welcoming these two precious boys into our family through adoption. When my husband and I started our journey to adopt children, we knew that the path we were choosing to grow our family would be complex and emotional. I came across this quote recently and it beautifully encapsulates much of the emotion of adoption:

A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.”  – Jody Landers

Often when we speak of adoption, we think of the joys of a child being welcomed into a family – and there is much joy and celebration in this beautiful picture of a family being formed. Adoption has been one of the most impactful and faith-growing events of our lives. Bringing home our first son several years ago was such an immense joy. Oh, how we waited and waited for him to finally be able to join our family.

The waiting, the first meeting, the homecoming … every part of that journey grew our understanding and deep appreciation of what it means that we are all adopted sons and daughters of God. To feel even a sliver of how our Heavenly Father loves when he brings us into His family is an irreplaceable experience. And more recently, going through our second son’s adoption (he was finally able to come home just about a month ago!) has further grown our hearts for this really beautiful way of growing families.

However, there is so much loss in adoption, too. And for some reason, our second son’s adoption brought to the forefront of my heart more of the loss and grief involved in adoption. As adoptive parents, my husband and I think and feel through these losses often. We wish that we could protect our children from all the hurts and effects of sin in this world but we accept the reality that we cannot shield them from certain pains that they will experience as adopted children.

But as much as our initial inclination is to protect our boys from these hurts, we also realize that their unique pains will also grant them an opportunity to experience the sweetness of our Lord’s love for them in ways that others may not be able to. In a way, we want our children to accept these inevitable pains, not so that they will be overwhelmed by the tragedy of them, but so that they can grow in the experience of grace through them. We hope we can nurture our children not to deny the unique pains of having been adopted, but hopefully to embrace the special perspective and grace of having been adopted, even as they experience such pains.

Along the way, I know there will be many hard conversations to be had with our children, especially regarding their birth parents and the whys surrounding their adoption. While there may be many different scenarios surrounding an adoptee’s birth story, it seems likely that at some point the issue of abandonment arises. My natural response is to turn our children to us, to ensure that they know deeply and fully that they are ours.

However, even while we love our children as best we can, we know that this is not enough. There will be gaps in our children’s hearts that cannot be filled simply by our deep love for them. As counterintuitive as it may seem, I think the way to best help our children process and heal from their abandonment, is to help them understand that their father and mother are just as capable of abandoning them and failing them as any other set of parents they may have had … that we may (and likely will) fail at caring for them and loving them perfectly. To help them see that there is no earthly parent that will be perfect.

That there is only one parent that we should ever fully rely on, trust, and hope in … our Heavenly Father. The only one who can promise that he will always be there, never fail them, never break a promise, never leave them, never desert them, and never abandon them. He is the true Father to the fatherless, the true hope in the midst of all calamity and evils, the faithful One, the One who never changes. And that we have the great privilege and amazing ability to call him our Father … because we, too, have been adopted into His family.

I will never be able to heal my children’s hurts. My comfort in this is that I was never meant to be their healer. But I trust God, in His wisdom and grace, will use me and my husband, as our children’s earthly parents, to help them be able to see, accept, and believe in the perfect love of their Heavenly Father, even through our failings. What a grave and sobering responsibility we have as parents, to be good stewards of the children God grants us … naturally or through adoption … to be the earthly bodies that hold and comfort our little ones as they grieve and hurt, but ultimately, to point their little hearts to the one true Healer.

  • Tom Kim
    Posted at 10:38h, 17 March Reply

    This is so thoughtful and wise. So much of these reflections apply to “regular” parenting, but take on such special resonance with adoption…

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