Updated: Jan 27
If you are a foster or adoptive parent, you have most likely experienced rejection in some form or fashion. The smiles in these pictures are genuine, but rejection is just part of the game, and we are learning how to deal with it in healthy and loving ways.
Let's be real, you've probably experienced rejection if you're a human being. BUT rejection from a child you have poured out your life for is sorrow on a whole different level.
Maybe you've spent a long time trying to figure out what would be most helpful for a struggling child in your home, only to find that all of your efforts have failed and you are three steps back and discouraged.
Maybe you spent months and months of building rapport with a teenager in your home, being the safe landing place when everything else goes wrong, but your teenager still treats you like a chauffeur, a manager, a chef, a professional cleaner - definitely not their parent.
It can hurt when you lean in to kiss your child goodnight and they move their head away.
It is painful when a child is dealing with inner turmoil and trauma or is experiencing racism at school and doesn't talk to you about it.
It will break your heart wide open when your child runs away or chooses criminal activity or unsafe behavior instead of accepting your love.
Rejection stings in the deepest parts of our souls. It's like tearing off a little piece of our heart, giving it to someone else, and watching as they rip it up right in front of your face.
But the rejection from your children is not intentional; it is a direct result of their past, of the trauma they've faced, and of the internal struggle they deal with on a day-to-day basis.
from Sherrie Eldridge helped me understand a bit more about "unintentional relationships" and how a previous harmful relationship can affect a current healthy one. I constantly have to remind myself that every single decision that they make is affected (at least in part) by the trauma of their past, and that gives me compassion to deal with the rejection differently and to run to God's open arms for the love and approval I need.
When I am face-to-face with my rejection wound, I turn to the wounds in the hands of my Savior. I fall back on these truths and remind myself that we are over-comers through faith. I can overcome anything when Jesus is fighting my battles and God himself is "lifting my weary head," as one of my favorite worship songs says.
Here are some truths I lean on:
1. Jesus, the Son of God, was rejected by man.
Jesus is the Son of God, so I guess you could say He is pretty powerful. And yet He gave up His divine privileges (Philippians 2) to come to Earth to be Emmanuel, God-With-Us, even though we would reject Him and kill Him and treat Him like God-We-Don't-Want-You (Isaiah 53).
Jesus was rejected by the very people He came to save. He came before me, was rejected before me, and He is with me now as I experience rejection.
Isaiah describes Jesus like this:
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
Jesus, a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief, can sympathize with your rejection.
2. Jesus, the Son of God, was rejected by God.
Jesus is the Son of God, so He has known the love of the most perfect Father. And yet He gave up that perfect love to come to Earth to be The Savior, The Deliverer, The Messiah of a people who simply cannot love Him return (at least in the same way that He loves us). In order to save us, he chose to "become" our sin. And when He took on our sin, His Father abandoned Him. Jesus chose to save us despite knowing that He would have to experience the unfathomable pain of losing His Father. Jesus not only sacrificed His body and His blood, He also sacrificed His Father's approval
Jesus purposefully and intentionally walked into the pain of rejection for the sake of His children. He has walked this road of rejection before us, but in a way that is infinitely more painful than any road we will ever walk. We can trust Him with our pain because He walked it, He experienced it, He embodied it.
3. We didn't sign up for this in order to receive love in return.
When we signed up to do foster care and then adoption was the natural next step, we knew that we were signing up to love without expecting love in return. This is, of course, not the dream that we envisioned for our family, and that is something that we need to recognize and grieve. However, the Gospel enables us to love without the expectation that reciprocal love will happen (especially right away). This is not a wrong desire, and of course we should hope that this will eventually be the case for our family, but we, as stable, Christ-filled adults, are equipped to love and care for vulnerable children even when they don't return it. This means that we do need to take care of ourselves, take breaks, and fill ourselves up elsewhere.
It helps me to know that Jesus fills our weak spots and shows His power in our moments of weakness. He fills up our emptiness, He loves us in our weakness, He provides.
4. Our kids are doing the best they can with what they've been given.
last year, one of the break-out session leaders said, "Your kids are doing the best they can with the tools God has given them to survive. And praise Him for that!" It totally gave me a new mindset on my children's behaviors. Children from hard places have experienced more suffering, trauma, and rejection in their small lives than most people will experience in their entire lifetime. In order to survive, they were forced to develop "skills," such as control, manipulation, and selective memory. They come to us with these behaviors and we feel the need to change it all, but in their hard lives, these behaviors are the tools God gave them to survive. Although they no longer need these behaviors, we shouldn't expect them to just all-of-a-sudden disappear, nor should we shouldn't expect the love to come bursting from a broken heart. Persistent, consistent love and connection will eventually lead to change, and patience and the continual showing-up is what will get us there. Through it all, we need a community who will love and support us and our kids in the middle of our rejection.
5. The rejection we face is nothing compared to the rejection our children have suffered.
When we consider the rejection our children have faced, we can stand to experience a small fraction of that rejection for their sake. When we can recognize that the rejection we face from our children is unintentional, we can start to set healthy expectations for the love in our home. We can start sowing seeds of love, with Christ before us and Christ in us. Foster and adoptive love is a patient, long-suffering love. It is the kind of love that stays in the bedroom until she falls asleep and reaches for the hand of a little boy who may seem "too old" for physical touch.
When we sign up for foster care and adoption, we are signing up to encounter a small glimpse of the patient, long-suffering love of God.
6. I am approved and loved by the Creator of the stinkin' UNIVERSE!
Through the Cross, Jesus stands in my place and is my righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). And he DELIGHTS in me (Psalm 18:19)! If I have the approval of the God of the Universe, what else do I need? With His approval and His love, I have all that I need. I can love my children, even if they reject me, because His love covers me, His grace lifts me, His peace calms me.
I've been thinking a lot about how I would rather my children be here, in my house and family, and totally reject me than sleep in CPS offices because I was too scared to experience rejection from a child who may not be fully capable of love quite yet. I'll take the angry meltdowns over them feeling unwanted or undeserving of a family or of love. I can take the rejection because once it becomes my burden, it becomes Jesus' burden. I believe, as foster and adoptive parents, we aren't just signing up for a hard, painful journey. We are signing up to carry our children's hard, painful journey.
I can take the rejection because once it becomes my burden, it becomes Jesus' burden.
When we sign up for the hard, painful journey of rejection, Jesus carries the pain for us AND He carries us.
And because Jesus is carrying me, I can yell from the highest mountain and scream from the lowest valley:
I GOT THIS!
And so do you.
Some Truth for Ya:
Read it, meditate on it, write it down, memorize it.
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
2 Corinthians 5:21
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”
Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”