It’s hard to believe that so many months have passed since our incredible journey to the Congo and back with our children. We barely got out of the country with both kids, and arrived on American soil exactly six months ago today.
There are so many things that are so much different from six months ago: our kids are speaking (mostly) English, the daily Palmer-tantrums are gone, the incessant Addie-belches are gone, we know that they are significantly older than they were alleged to be, and the incredible fear that resulted in bizarre behavior has relaxed as our kids are learning to trust us, and maybe even love us.
I knew one of the hardest things about adoption is awaiting love to be returned. One thing I didn’t anticipate was how hard it would be for me to love them in the first place. Oh, I had adored every picture, memorizing every crumb on Addie’s face, every time Palmer lost a tooth, every flash of a smile. But truthfully, I only loved the idea of them — the idea of rescuing two orphans from a miserable plight, the chance to introduce them to Jesus, the chance to live out the Gospel in such a tangible way.
Suddenly I had to transition from admiring two pictures to raising two children.
I didn’t realize how hard it would be to love two children who really only loved each other, who weren’t interested in communicating with me or being affectionate, who bristled at my touch and glared at me with hateful eyes.
“Do you not know how hard we worked to adopt you? Do you not know the expense, the hours of praying, the paperwork, the torment of just trying to bring you home?”
No, they do not. We were some strangers who suddenly and mysteriously entered their lives in the Congo, carried them away from everyone they ever knew, and planted them in a country where they are the minority, no one else speaks their language, and forced them into school that is much beyond their capability.
“Adoption is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful.” — Reverend Keith C. Griffith
It’s a wonder we’ve survived at all.
But this is the awesome nature of living out the Gospel. The Incarnation was not a pretty process either. Sometimes we tend to want the glory of the resurrection without the suffering of the cross, but we cannot experience the fullness of the Gospel without each.
As we wait for our children to return our affection, and accept themselves as part of our family, I can only recall what my Savior did for me, and wonder how many times He has waited patiently, crying out, “Do you not know the torment I went through just to bring you home?” How many times do I still bristle at His touch, or only love what I have here-and-now more than eternity? Meanwhile, He is inviting me to a deeper and more rich relationship where I see His Kingdom through His eyes instead of my own.
The more I know adoption, and the more I reflect on spiritual things, the more I realize that the model of the Incarnation — dwelling INTO suffering, not standing outside of it, is the key to knowing more of the heart and mind of Christ. I cannot stand outside of our children’s lives and merely wish them well or pray about them. No, I must whisper admist the tantrums, wade through impossible homework, wrestle through language barriers, and wipe the snotty noses of these children. My children. They will never know that I love them otherwise.
If we’re not intentionally wading into the suffering of others — the poor, the widows, orphans, the trafficked, the enslaved, the foreigners — how will they ever know our love, and ultimately, God’s love? This is the heart of the Incarnation, and the incarnational life: intentionally loving, even when it means that the mess of others splashes onto us.
And I do love them. I adore Palmer’s wit, his funny faces, his wild and adventurous spirit, his disciplined nature, and his tender heart. I adore Addie’s genuine giggle, her willingness to help at any task, her happy spirit, the way she plays with my fingers during prayer time, and her insistence that even the worst of times can be survived with a wistful sigh and the bat of an eyelash. My love for my children is love not born out of labor and delivery in the physical realm, but in the spiritual realm.
I cannot love them because they look like me. I love them because they look like Him.
There are no shortcuts to the glory of the resurrection. And even though incarnational living has been exceptionally painful at times, I’ve experienced God in an entirely new way in the last six months.
What could be more magnificent than that?