Have you ever held each hand two seemingly paradoxical items? Like coffee and water? A sugary drink and a carrot? A yoga mat and a Cheez-it?
It seems contradictory to hold two things so unlike one another at the same time. But I took a break from yoga today to put some frozen pizzas in the oven (another paradox? you be the judge) and grabbed a cheez-it for a quick little snack. Can we not enjoy a yoga session AND eat a delicious Cheez-it to hold us over? Shouldn't we be able to sip our favorite drink while also fueling our body with a nutritious carrot? Why do we feel the need to fit into our own "brand" 100% of the time? And why can't we simply be holding two things at once?
Before entering into the world of foster care and adoption, I was under the impression that adoption was a then-and-now scenario. Then they were sad; now they are happy. Then they didn't have a family; now they do! I viewed adoption from an Instagram lens, with beautiful before-and-after pictures. Unfortunately, that's not how anything in life works (surprise, surprise?), and I'm glad I figured that out before adoption became a part of our story.
I see the same lack of understanding from people when they ask us questions like, "Are they so excited to be a part of your family?" I mean, yes, I hope so. It would be pretty sad if they hated us. But they are also scared, confused, and incredibly, deeply sad. Yes, they are gaining a family, but they are also losing one.
I think ignoring the sadness and deep hurts of adoption derives from many different things, but here are two things I have noticed:
People view emotions in compartmentalized boxes. If you are sad, it is impossible or weird to feel simultaneously happy. And if you're mad, you cannot feel excited at the same time.
People view adoption as the adoptive parents "saving" the adopted children from their life before their family, and therefore they think that adopted children should be grateful for their new lives, no matter what happened to them before the adoption.
But a basic understanding of adoption is welcoming and accepting the beautiful and the difficult at the same time. Adopted children feel both accepted and rejected. They, as kids, love us, but they also love their biological families that they have lost. We, as parents, feel profoundly grateful and profoundly overwhelmed simultaneously. Being an adoptive parent is burdensome and rewarding; sad and wonderful; devastating and life-giving.
When we enter into broken places, we are abandoning our comfort in order to ease someone else's discomfort. Doing difficult things comes with a cost; it's going to hurt. We are laying down our lives for the sake of the poor, the hurting, the downtrodden, and in doing so, we are becoming the poor, the hurting, and the downtrodden.
But the truth of the Gospel tells us that it doesn't stop at the laying our lives down, at the picking up our cross. Jesus' time on earth didn't end at the Cross. As one of my favorite youth-group songs says - He ran out of that grave!
I told my therapist the other day, "I just get tired of everything being wrapped in trauma. I can't just be happy about something good happening in my life. Something always goes wrong when I'm happy."
Later in the conversation she responded to my comment, reminding me that Jesus' sacrifice didn't end at the cross. There was hope for his trauma when, three days later, he rose from the grave. I don't live in a perpetual state of the cross - of pain, hurt, and sacrifice. That's part of the puzzle, but it's not the whole thing. We, with all our trauma, sin, and pain, are being renewed because Jesus defeated the trauma, sin, and pain when He defeated death. There is hope for our trauma-filled lives. The hope is not that everything will change and suddenly our children's behaviors will change and we will feel refreshed and renewed.
The hope is Jesus.
And if we have Jesus, then we have everything.
Jesus is the King of holding two things at once: He experienced death and life within three days.
He wore the Crown of Thorns on the Cross, but now He sits at the Throne of Glory in Heaven.
He paid the price of a sinner, but He was the Son of God.
I feel more comfortable now in feeling both broken and renewed, both desperate and hopeful. I can feel the presence of God and also long for His constant, eternal presence. I can work for God's Kingdom as it exists now and await the glorious Kingdom to come.
Adopting my kids has helped me to reject the lie that we should feel happy 100% of the time. Following Jesus is wonderful, restful, beautiful, difficult, lovely, sacrificial, toilsome, hopeful, and worth it. Can we learn to accept and fully embrace all it means to follow after Him? Can we hold the Cheez-it and the yoga mat, so to speak, at the same time?