It happened again this morning. I was dropping off our youngest son at preschool when someone asked me if we could meet sometime so they could hear his story. You see, my husband and I are white, and my son is black. So even though people might not always assume adoption, they notice that our family doesn’t match and it often piques their curiosity.
Adoption is an incredibly diverse and nuanced topic that many people outside of the adoption community are inquisitive about. To be honest, our family is thankful for people who recognize that the curiosity about our family’s makeup isn’t a drive-by conversation, but one that requires time, carefully chosen words and grace. And as for our son’s story, it’s not ours to share fully. We must be good stewards of this responsibility. But most of the time, people aren’t voyeuristically curious about his personal details; they are curious about adoption in general and our family’s story.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and it’s also the month that our son’s adoption was finalized. Because of these facts, our family celebrates this month enthusiastically, and I jump at any opportunity to share the heartache, redemption, devastation, utter joy and ongoing learning that adoption has ushered into our family. I believe it holistically points to a good and redemptive Father. So, when I was invited to chat by this new friend, I gladly said yes, but per the usual I wondered what her reaction would be when I couldn’t wrap up our adoption journey with a neat bow. I wondered if she’d leave discontent with the story we tell, or whether God’s grace would fill in for the empty spaces.
And I wondered the same about you, dear reader, when I was asked to write this piece. Typically, when people ask they really do want to hear a happy-ever-after story, but in order to appreciate the beauty that is adoption you must take in the whole picture. Because here’s the deal: The story we tell is beautiful. It is redemptive. But redemption and restoration are only needed by broken people. To understand the beauty of adoption, you have to see the pain that birthed it.
The redemption we see in Scripture is birthed from mankind’s brokenness and great need. Christ came to earth, because all of us are in great need of a Savior. Creation groans in eager anticipation of restoration (Romans 8:22-24). This is why the Messiah came. Jesus entered the picture to heal the sick, love the poor and offer redemption for all of mankind. However, after his death and resurrection, we were left in this in-between state where our adoption in Christ is finalized, yet we wait for Christ’s return to be fully restored.
This is adoption in a nutshell.
Our son was given a family, chosen by his brave birth mother. And although we love him with the deepest love, our love cannot remove the wound of being removed from his biological family. We cannot remove the wound of having parents that do not look like him. We cannot remove the trauma that adoption is birthed from. We will not erase his history or the hard parts of his story, and we cannot shield him from the hurt that comes from navigating relationships with both his adopted and biological family.
But we can love him. We can raise him in an intentionally diverse Christian community. We can point him to the Healer of all wounds. We can walk beside him through the unique attributes of adoption that will mark his life. We can apologize when we get it wrong, pursue outside support and resources when we need help, and we can give him the home that honors the wishes of his birth family. We can point to a sovereign God who loves him deeply, and show that God, in his goodness, has a plan for his life. And we can teach him by example that grieving our losses, weeping over our wounds, is not in conflict with joyfully trusting God.
A rose-colored picture of adoption is not the full portrait; it’s but a mere glimpse. Adoption is beautiful. It’s messy. It’s complex. It’s nuanced. It is both loss and gain, hard and sometimes incredibly easy. It is fun and sad and traumatic and redemptive.
And so dear reader, this National Adoption Awareness Month, I ask you to celebrate adoption with our family. Celebrate adoption, in its fullest picture. Celebrate and love the birth families who place their children in safe and loving homes. Walk beside families that choose adoption. Donate to adoption agencies that are ethical and care as much about preventing the need for adoption as they do placing them. Choose to listen to and celebrate the fuller adoption story, not simply the rose-colored one.
Adoption truly is beautiful, but only when you see it for what it fully is.