It’s been a little over three months since we returned home with Eden. Since then, life has been in perpetual motion. Change is the new norm and adjustment has become our new family pastime. We were anticipating this, generally, but specifically, we really had no idea what to expect. It has definitely taken me longer than Sonia to process all that has transpired. Yet, in the midst of the mental haze, so far there are two things that have become clear to me: Adoption is easy. Family is hard. Let me repeat that:
Adoption is easy. Family is hard.
For those of you who are deciding to adopt or are in the process of doing so, I am not downplaying the gut-wrenching process of sacrifice, commitment and prayer that you are going through. I know it’s not easy. But in comparison to family, it is. Adoption is a process with an unmistakable goal that grows in clarity with each passing step. It’s like hiking a trail that leads to the top of a mountain that you cannot yet see but trust is there. With each grueling step upward, there is greater hope as the peak grows near and evident. There is a definite goal, definite steps and a definite end. Adoption is like that. Family is not.
Our adoption of Eden ended when we received her in Nanning on July 2. She was no longer an “orphan” or even an “adopted” child. She immediately became our daughter. Adoption’s conclusion inaugurated a new journey of learning to be family. I didn’t realize what happened when it did. It was so subtle and I am so dense. Upon our return home, I still had an “adoption mindset.” I assumed there was a few clear steps of adjustment to become a family and then we would move on with life. But family doesn’t work that way. Unlike adoption, family has few universal steps that mark progress. In fact, with every step forward, it feels like we take two or three steps backward. Being family is messy because relationships are messy and unpredictable. Adoption is a one time action motivated by love but family is love in action on a daily basis. Adoption is easy. Family is not.
Some of you may assume that being family is difficult because Eden is difficult. Yes, she is very immature for her age, is easily distractible and can be very, overly emotional. But she is not the main problem. Our other three children are not perfect either. I have never seen them display so much jealousy, selfishness or pettiness in such a short amount of time. But they are not the main problem either. For me, being family is difficult because of me. As I shifted my attention to family, I discovered so many things about me that were shameful and embarrassing. I am so immature for my age and am divided in my attention. I never knew just how selfish and petty I could be.
Family is all about learning to love and I am not very loving. I thought I was but I’m really not. One day, I was walking with the kids in Lowe’s and Eden ran up next to me, grabbed my arm and wrapped it tightly around herself. I immediately pulled my arm away from her and then slowly wrapped it around her loosely. Later on upon reflection, I realized that I pulled back because I felt manipulated. Why? Because Eden’s need for love was outpacing my willingness to give it. There was nothing wrong with what she did. I was the problem. And that’s why I think I stopped blogging for the past six weeks. It’s not because I didn’t want my kids to look bad. It’s because I didn’t want to look bad.
I have been praying, “Father, show me your heart” and “Father, give me your heart.” Since it didn’t take long for him to show me his heart, I figured it wouldn’t take long for him to give me his heart as well. I thought my heart just needed a minor realignment but what was required was an entire renewal. He has had to break my heart of stone before he can replace it with a heart of flesh. This is not easy or glamorous.
In talking to other parents who have adopted older children, I have discovered that, they too, feel a lot of guilt in the first few months of transition. Many withdraw from writing in their blogs or even privately sharing with close friends or with their own spouse. They hide because they feel like the only ones who feel this way. Personal experiences may vary but the shame of unconfessed sin is consistent. It’s humbling and humiliating to come face to face with your sin especially when it is so raw and deep. It’s been freeing for me to confess my shortfalls and realize that I am not alone in feeling the way that I do. Turns out all of us adoptive parents are sinners in great need of a Savior.
Adoption is more like a blockbuster movie-an inspiring story with a happy ending but family is more like a documentary-a gritty story with an open ending. I guess that’s why it was a lot more fun to blog about adoption than it is family. That’s also why I probably stopped blogging-I didn’t want to discourage people from adopting. While I wanted to be honest about the difficulties I was experiencing over the past few months, I also wanted to come to clear conclusions why. After all, if someone is going to be scared away from adoption because of this blog, I want it to be based on the truth.
I want to make it clear that we have never regretted our decision to adopt Eden, not once. We are not hopeless, just helpless. We desperately need the power of the Holy Spirit to transform each of us from the inside out. We need the Son to unite us as a family of faith. We need the Father to give us his heart.
Three months post-adoption, I have come to realize that this ongoing process of family adjustment is normal and needed. This is not the end but only the beginning of a journey of learning to love. God does write grand narratives that include parting of oceans and the resurrection of a Jewish carpenter. But I appreciate that he also produces documentaries where the gospel is revealed in the midst of the subtle struggles of daily life. I have experienced some “blockbuster moments” of faith but more often I have seen his power manifested in the mundane. So, even though being family is hard, it is truly glorious and divine.