Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Ugly Side of Me

I slammed my fist on the table and shouted words from my mouth as quickly as they entered my mind. My hands shook with anger and I stomped out of the room feeling justified in my reaction, considering her offense. 

“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Anger. That is what I found to be abundant in that moment of unrestraint. 

Truth be told, this was nearly five years in but that was not the first time this had happened. I remember vividly those early days feeling out of control of my emotions. So full of anger and frustration that I could hardly see straight. And while time has certainly taught me self-control, there are still moments when my humanity gets the best of me. And in turn, her.

The reality is we were unprepared when we boldly chose adoption. We were naive and innocent and oh so sincere. But also very keenly unaware of the trials that lay before us. 

I wrote once not long after bringing in our adopted daughter about the ugly side of adoption. We found ourselves in the turbulent waves of bringing in a child from a traumatic background. We were all alone in the middle of the Amazon with no communication and certainly no training in regards to caring for children with special emotional and psychological needs. 

It was trial by fire. And we were being consumed. 

But in as much as we were made aware of hersinful nature, ours came glaring back with even greater force as the days progressed.

For every action, there seemed to be an unequal and more forceful reaction on my part. 

The more I came face to face with my own depravity, the more fearful I became. I could feel it when it would creep up, stealthily threatening to overtake me, and often succeeding. 

Fear of the future. Fear of what she would do next. Fear of my own reactions.

In the same way I was never told of the hardships of adoption, no one told me this part either. No one told me that adoption would reveal in me my greatest need: to be changed by Christ. 

I guess on some level I figured I had already been changed. After all, I had spent days crying, praying, begging for God to make her our own. I wept thinking of what she was experiencing on the days leading up to her arrival at our door with that tiny backpack full of ill-fitting and stained clothing, her only earthly possessions at the time. Was this compassion not evidence of a change only Christ can bring?

We wanted to rescue her from that life of pain and suffering. A noble desire. 

I didn’t know that I also needed to be rescued from my self.

 “I can’t even look at her,” I said through tears sitting in the office of the counselor. We had just unexpectedly moved
back to the States and I had, in desperation, searched and found a counselor who specialized in cultural reintegration and family conflict. “When she walks in the room, my whole body tenses up. And I hate myself for it.”

For two and a half years she had bore my last name and yet there I was, sitting on a couch still battling my self. 

She listened. She didn’t judge me like I was judging myself. Instead she said three simple words: 

“You are human.”

It gave me pause. 

No, it wasn’t an excuse to continue down the path of bitterness on which I found myself. It wasn’t meant to let me off easy or defend my off-kilter actions.

It was actually a proclamation of hope, an offer to forgive myself and start over.  It was a call to surrender my self-given title of “savior” and realize that I was trying to play a role that didn’t belong to me. 

I needed to let the true Savior take that role instead.

From that point there began to be slow progress. There were deep conversations and tears together and we began to learn one another. 

And then the next cycle would hit and I would find us spinning out of control again. 

Deep breath. Forgive. Repeat. Sometimes this feels like a second by second routine.

Honestly, I didn’t know this part of me existed before she was mine. I was the one pinning the cutesy adoption quotes on Pinterest and daydreaming about a muli-ethnic family. But as painful a realization as it is, I am forever grateful that it has been revealed to me. Otherwise, how could it ever change?

Let one thing be clear, I have not “arrived”. The battle rages on in my flesh and the trials come in waves that threaten to overwhelm me regularly. I still have to ask forgiveness and I still have to forgive myself. 

But there is freedom in the release of control. There is freedom when I realize that her future does not depend on me doing it “right”. I cannot control the outcome of her life, her choices, her actions, nor was I called to do so.

I can do one thing and that is this: I can love her well. 

I can teach her truth and consequence. I can forgive. I can listen. I can instruct. I can try my hardest to understand, though I’ll never fully be able to do that. I can take deep breaths and seek wisdom from God and the community He has given me, even though it is far from where I am physically. I can take care of my own mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual self. 

I can love her as Christ loves me. 

There is space for you, too. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the weight of caring for a child from hard circumstances and you are discovering that it brings out the ugly in you, let me tell you something: you are human.

You are not called to be God. You cannot change your child.

Repeat after me: I am not called to change my child. 

You can’t. I can’t. But God can and it is completely up to Him when and how He does that. 

You are called to parent your child as though you are doing it for Him.

You are called to love your child well. 

And it is quite possible the hardest thing you will ever have to do.  

So I hope we let the fire refine us and not destroy us. I hope we don’t resent the process but rather learn to lean in. I hope we learn to let go of our selfish ambition, our egos, our pride. 

And most of all I hope we learn to love well. 

At the very end, may there be a beauty revealed that we could never stake claim to. 

Because only God Himself could create beauty from ashes.

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