Every time my family goes somewhere all together, we end up causing a stir. One time during a road trip, we stopped at McDonald’s for lunch, and I let my kids go first up to the counter. The five of them–two Asians, two Africans, and one skinny white kid–noisily talked over one another trying to decide what to order. The guy behind the counter stood there with his mouth open. “Uh…is this some kind of an event?” Yeah, it’s an event, alright, I thought. You have no idea.
We’re kind of a walking billboard for adoption, and we know it. Most of us get a kick out of the perplexed looks we first get from people, but it also warms my heart to then watch their confusion melt into a sort of wonder and introspection about what it really means to be a family. It’s tempting to tell you a fairy tale story about how adoption made our dreams come true and taught us about love, but that would be misleading. Don’t get me wrong–those things are true, except our story is far from idyllic. But that’s exactly what makes it real, and what makes it love.
We never set out to have half the United Nations at the dinner table every night. We certainly didn’t plan to have two teenage girls who are eight days apart, or four teenagers who all happen to be born in December. It wasn’t our original plan to adopt two older children after being a ‘completed’ family for twelve years. And we never anticipated the heartbreaking process of trying to bond as a family, when all our kids were miserable and two of them wouldn’t even acknowledge that they were our kids. It wasn’t that any of them opposed their adoption. They all wanted it, at least as far as they knew. We wanted it, as far as we knew. But once we all were together under the same roof, none of us seemed too sure of that anymore.
And looking back at that awful, awful time, when there seemed to be no love at all in our home, that’s when we learned what love really looks like.
And this is what adoption taught me:
- Love is steadfast. It hangs in there, remaining ‘for’ those you love no matter what, just the same way God is always for us. Love is a choice, and it is also a posture of the heart. When I was a kid, my grandmother would come up behind me to straighten my shoulders, telling me if I kept slouching, my posture would stay that way when I grew up. We have to do the same thing with our hearts. When your heart begins to slouch in defeat, hurt, or offense, you need to straighten it back up to its posture of love. The deliberate exercise of that choice, of that posture, is commitment. I have learned to position my heart to love others this way because of adoption.
- Love grounds itself in hope. When relationships are at their most challenging, love keeps an eye on the prize that lies ahead. It envisions what God sees: their potential, their healing, their freedom. It imagines restored or renewed relationship. And it never loses sight of that hope. Because of my adopted children, I see people differently and I’m able to love them more.
- Love will transform. It has the power to lay down new tracks for a life headed the wrong way. It heals old wounds and guards against new injury. Love will soften a hardened heart and allow more love to enter in. It covers a multitude of sins. Though our love won’t fix everything, we must believe that it ultimately matters, because it does. I have watched love transform my children, my family…me. I will continue to pursue the transformation of other relationships because of adoption.
You might not have a family like mine–in fact, I’m quite sure there are no families just like mine. Every person in this world is so different, so unique, so precious. Certainly adoption has taught me this too. But there is also a ‘oneness’ that exists amidst the diversity. My family, if you lined us all up side by side, looks very much like you, and your friend, and your neighbor. Picture that, if you can. People from different backgrounds and origins, under the banner of family.
Grounded in hope.
Believing in transformation.
I’m telling you from my experience, we can love one another this way.