The idea of adoption is easy.
The act of adoption is hard.
I have been thinking about this at a steady rate since I finished reading Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty. Mostly a chronicle of her long ache with barrenness, Sara’s debut title also shares the story of another area of her pain: the unexpected challenges of adoption. She and her husband Nate adopted four children– a boy and a girl from Ethopia and two girls from Uganda. Almost immediately, the Hagertys realized that the weight of their children’s past would be theirs to shoulder, as well. Their children needed love so badly, but acted as if they didn’t want to be loved at all.
Sara and Nate were not prepared to see their daughter run away from her mother instead of toward her. But Sara chased her anyway.
They hadn’t imagined their daughter would fight against her father’s arms. But Nate held her and whispered that he loved her again.
They were shocked when their daughter yelled hurtful words. But Sara and Nate turned to the Lord for supernatural help and comfort. She writes,
Motherhood forges its own hunger.
And my hunger is revealing this: motherhood’s greatest fulfillment is not when children become vibrant God-followers who change the world for Him. Though this goal is certainly high on my list, I would be left bereft in the day-to-day reality of parenting if my eyes were on this alone. If this is my highest goal, then what am I to do when anger floods her limbs and his heart seems stuck, when I’m waiting and praying but not yet seeing fruit? If my chief end as a mother is anything less than knowing [God] and carrying His glory in my life, I will walk through these years empty.
I have an opportunity that neither the mundanity of motherhood nor my children’s not-yets will ever thwart. I can find Him, right here. And in searching Him out, I can invite His technicolor majesty in and through what might otherwise be grays (Hagerty 155).
It seems that Sara Hagerty would agree with me; When facing a storm, it is not an option to hide away, sheltering our hearts as we wait for a brighter day. No, we must stay engaged, even in the rain. Our hearts must remain uncovered, if we are to love and live well.
“I have come that they may have life,” our Good Shepherd promises, “and have it to the full.” Notice that He did not mention tomorrow. I think He means that, through Him, a full life is possible today.
Even when today is hard.
Even when you are trying to love someone who acts as if they don’t want to be loved.
All of us know why adoption is hard, even if we have never legally adopted a child. For one thing, anyone who has in-laws has experienced adoption. A wise friend of mine suggests that when you enter marriage, you are drawing the zipper pull, and two families become one– even as two people become one at the altar. What a perfect picture. Both sides of the chapel merge behind the bride’s train.
The wedding aisle is a zipper.
But you couldn’t tell it from the number of mother-in-law jokes you hear these days. More than once, I have heard a smiling young woman talk about her joy during their adoption process. But, later, when I heard her complaining about her mother-in-law, I could see that her enthusiasm about adoption has its limits. She would adopt into her family the people she wanted to adopt into her family.
In the name of full disclosure, I am not married and do not have a mother-in-law. I have neither adopted a child nor been adopted myself. But I am writing this because there is a verse in the Bible that stings me like a wasp cloud.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:8-10, NIV)
This is both the best and worst news I have ever heard. It is the best news because this verse frees me. I am saved only through Jesus’ sacrifice. I never did anything to earn salvation, which means I cannot do anything to lose it, if I stay in relationship with Christ.
This verse is also the worst news because it says that God reconciled me to Himself when I was His enemy, meaning I had not yet shown any love or attention or favor or respect or friendship to my heavenly Father. And He loved me anyway.
This verse is instructing me do the same.
But just like you, I know some people who are difficult to love, and they are easy to avoid. That is how I cope.
You can see why I don’t like this.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Jesus tells me, “that you may be children of your Father in heaven … If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?” (Matthew 5:44-47, NLT)
But I don’t want to love people who make my life miserable. I want to steer my way around them.
I mean, I do want to be a child of my Father, but I don’t want to love my enemies. Even though God loved me when I was His enemy, I do not want to love anyone when they are my enemy. See, Jesus didn’t say to “be nice to your enemy.” I wish He’d said that. Be nice? I’d be willing to try it. Being nice is something I can fake. I can fake nice like a champ.
No, He said “love your enemy.”And just when I start thinking I can conjure a counterfeit love, Jesus ups the ante in John 15:12, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
As He loves me.
As He loves me.
I am to love as He loves me.
His love is a love that is TRUE and not fake.
You know how He loves us, right? He adopted us. He brought us into the family while we were still His enemies, not later, after we’d improved. Not after we were lovable. Therefore, to love our enemies the way God loves us is to bring them into the family while they are unlovable.
To love our enemies is to adopt them.
I’ll say it again, Why is adoption so hard? You’d think it would be easier in light of what I’ve been given in Christ.
Adoption and reconciliation are actions that will never be easy. They are heavenly truths that we will have to fight to win in our hearts and homes. We don’t get to select our family members the way we pick and choose from the bins on a salad bar. Sometimes a family is more like a frozen TV dinner. You unwrap the foil cover and make the best of what’s there. There won’t be any substitutions.
So when I say I’m for adoption– and I am– I am trying to mean it more every day. One way I am doing that is by speaking the Word of God over people and situations. He created the world by His Word. God is not only the Creator, but the Re-Creator. Anything that is broken can be made whole again in Him.
I am joining Him as He speaks Life over my life. I am agreeing with what He has already said. When I pray for those hard-to-love people, I call them my sisters. I call them my brothers. I speak relationship into being. I say it outloud– I pray it outloud– before it feels true. I call them family. I ask God to bless them the way I would want my family to be blessed.
I am banking everything on the fact that actions follow words, and feelings follow actions. I start to adopt my enemies by saying so. This is how I begin to love.
If there is a fight in our lives, then let it be a fight for love. In this, we are more than conquerors.
Love always wins.