Thoughts on Grace…

I think I’ve mentioned, I read a lot about adoption.  Not just articles about different aspects of adoption, but real-life experiences and perspectives through the eyes of those who live it.  Blogs by people like me, and blogs by people who are much more in the public eye.

This is a great blessing in the sense of being inspired, being educated, and maintaining a continual base for resources, ideas, and even encouragement.  The flip side (besides the comparison game we all — especially females — play when looking at other people’s “real” lives), is the tendency to take on what you read and hear as absolute truth or rather a blanket truth for all situations.

I’ve come to realize that — although we are all connected in a deep and meaningful way on the playing field known as “the adoption community” (and hallelujah for that!) — there are still very many layers and individual cases and even specific purposes for not just every different TYPE of adoption, but for each individual family.

What I have noticed is, unfortunately, much of what I read seems to take on a sort of smug, “let me educate you on this,” can-you-guys-beLIEVE-anyone-would-say-this-to-me kind of tone.  Almost a commiseration.  With good intentions.  Adoptions happen, life as a new family begins, and then somewhere along the way, possibly, the unintentional onslaught of what you other people need to know ensues.

For example, I will read about people’s number-one “adoption pet peeve” when it comes to the things other people say.   Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe in the practice and support of “positive adoption language” (which I actually just wrote about in my most previous post).  But I also know that people are going to make mistakes simply because they don’t really know what it is they are trying to ask.  Understandably!  They see a family that looks like they may not have been made a family in the most traditional way, and they are interested.  Without trying to be hurtful and often without really thinking about the implications of how it might make someone feel when they blurt out something dumb (who would ever do that?), they might not always phrase things in the best way.

When what they mean is, I find you interesting (whether that’s in an inspiring way or simply a humanly curious way), they say, “Are these kids yours?”  When what they mean is, How long have you all been a family? they might say, “Where did they come from?” or “Are they REAL brothers?”  I’m all for practicing and encouraging positive adoption language (actually, practicing diplomacy as a matter of common courtesy in general) — but people are going to mess up.  And if I can’t count myself as one of them, let me be the first to throw a stone.

I’ve also sensed a collective, indignant shudder among the adoptive blogging community against the common, well-intentioned thought that we are somehow “saving” children who “need a good home.”  Listen, my instinct balks at that as well.  In fact, you’ll see at the bottom of this website (if you’re not viewing from your phone) a quote from David Platt that deeply resonates with me:  “We adopt not because we are rescuers.  No, we adopt because we were rescued.”  Just like in missions, I fully believe that we cannot take a “we” vs. “them” approach when it comes to “helping” people.  Our desire to help others must come from the love of Christ that is within us, and the knowledge that we are ALL broken — but Jesus can fix us both.  That it is God, not us, who does the work, and yet in some merciful and miraculous way He allows us to be a part of what He is already doing.

But I also wonder if every part of that original thought deserves rebuke.  Because of our call as Christians to defend and to serve and to help and to bless others because of how we (only by grace!) have been blessed, then, yes, there IS a sense deep down that I desire — out of my relationship with Him — the ability to provide a home for a child in this world who does, in fact, need a forever family (a child that Jesus loves more than I do).  All the while fully knowing that I will be blessed even more by the privilege of being their [imperfect] parent.  I don’t think there is anything to apologize or be ashamed of in that?  It should not for one second be the reason we adopt, but I can’t put myself so high as to say how dare you assume I would actually want to be a refuge and a provider of hope — when that isn’t that in the DNA of a follower of Christ?  And so instead of scoffing at the reference of having any desire to “take up the cause of the fatherless,” I hope I can humbly say this: that I don’t understand why God would choose me, but simply as a branch on the Vine, I pray that He will be the source for us both to know Him more and to produce the fruit of love in this world through being a family for EACH OTHER.  Yes, this is a child who needs it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t realize I’m broken, too.

I could be totally wrong on all of the above, and you are so right, adoption veteran: I have not been there yet.  I respect you and I admire you, but above all else, I am WATCHING you right now to show me what this should look like.  Part of what I’m observing from this side of the fence is somewhat of a lack of grace that looks an awful lot like entitlement, adoption community: and to THAT I shudder.  Because from somewhere else within I hear a different and subtle whisper in the journey I am embarking upon, and it says, “This is good — but you are not OWED anything for it.”

We will all have our opinions and our foot-in-mouth moments.  I don’t expect not to fall victim to climbing aboard my own soapbox — especially with a self-appointed platform like a blog — pre or post adoption!  But I hope to remember that in no way do I assume or expect anyone “outside” the “adoption community” to fully get it and always say the right things or understand why some things are (and should be) a big deal.  So, education, yes.  Keep it coming!  But, please, not in a smug way.  We were all once ignorant and unexposed.  Let’s help others develop a good and right perspective, with encouragement and understanding.  Let us not forget that our witness as a result is in direct proportion to the level of resentfulness or grace to which we respond.

I guess what I’m trying to say is…

As much as I want to parent with grace, I want to help represent the adoption community with grace.

Hold me accountable?

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2 responses

  1. Hi Emily, I just wanted to say thank you for this beautiful post. I absolutely agree with everything you said and have often witnessed a lack of grace myself among some in the adoption community. I see it has an incredible privilege to help educate others about adoption and see any “strange” comments as an opportunity to speak about the blessing of adoption (both for our family and for the child). Grace received, grace extended. I am learning, especially adopting a child of another race, that there will always be plenty of opportunities to feel a little off-put or surprised at what someone might say, but even if I sense malice, I pray always to respond with grace and to give the benefit of any doubt in my mind that there is ill-intention. Most of the time, I think it is pure curiosity out of a sense of wanting to learn more about this unique way to build a family. My favorite is reminding people that if they believe in Jesus, they too have been adopted into the family of God! :) I love to remind my biological children that they are adopted too :) How incredible that adoption was not God’s second thought, but a predestined desire for all of us. How blessed we are to experience this perfect design and the love of a child that God actually foreknew and created with us in mind. I could go on and on. But again, thank you for your thoughts! I’m so excited for you. love Gina

    • Thank you, Gina!! I appreciate your words so much, especially coming from someone who has inspired me greatly and has taught me so much in this process. I love to see the way you love your family (and others) with grace. Thanks for these great reminders!

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