This last week, I was asked if adoption had become an addiction for me. At first I wanted to argue that this was ridiculous and explain how this was not true. But, I actually sat back and thought about it and I came to the following conclusion. Yes, adoption has become an addiction and let me explain why. The very definition of addiction is as follows –
Addiction – noun
1. the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
I became an adoption addict the moment I first held that drug-exposed newborn in my arms. I looked down at this tiny, fragile scrap of humanity and saw the gaping need and I was exhilarated to fill the gap. Even when I walked the floors with this screaming baby, I didn’t mind. Even when my heart was crushed when the baby returned home, I wasn’t deterred. Instead I found myself listening for the siren’s call of the DCS phone for the next child. I was hooked.
I had my fix every time the phone rang about a foster placement, and DCS arrived at my door carrying a toddler in a dirty onesie with a trash bag filled with an assortment of non-essential baby items. They would hand me the scrawny, unkempt 2 year old that swung his tiny fist at me in anger and fear. Each day we traversed a landmine of trauma behaviors and medical pitfalls. I was never perfect in my parenting, but the children were always forgiving of my shortcomings. I learned that love doesn’t fix everything and many wounds that I tried to bandage, were actually a deeper hemorrhage. I learned I was in far over my head, and all the parenting skills I had learned with my children would never work with my foster children. I learned that love is a choice and even when I didn’t feel it, I dug deeper to pour it out. I cried, I laughed, and I sat in anger over the injustices. But as I loved the hurting child, I breathed in the high that was found in a healing transformation. I watched miracles unfold every day amongst the imperfect mess, as God looked down at the least of these and touched their weary souls through the kiss of a mother and the gentle touch of a daddy. I sat as a daily witness to the coaxing of a tiny flicker of light, as it turned to a bright flame. And my job was not so hard.
I became addicted the day I stood in a court room with each of my foster children and swore to love them as my own children. I stood before a judge and promised permanent, lifelong commitment as tears slipped down my face. I stood with pride as I looked at the toddler with one shoe untied and a mischievous glint in his eye. I couldn’t believe my luck looking down at the baby with crooked glasses and a sideways grin. I burst with love at the little, dark-haired ball of joy with two pigtails dressed in a frosty whirl of pink. I loved as deeply, and completely as I did the day I birthed my two oldest. And with the joy, there was also the bittersweet loss and with that we carried home a bit of extra baggage that we would spend years trying to unpack.
My addiction became most evident each time I said, “this is our last adoption” and then it wasn’t. Because there’s a funny truth in the foster and adoption world, ‘once you adopt one, you will most likely adopt again”. Why is this? The reason is that adoption is the heart of God, and watching the redemption of a lost life is the stuff that takes your breath away. Watching a child that was broken and unwanted become a cherished child is the most beautiful thing that you can watch unfold. It’s never easy, and I’ll never pitch foster care and adoption as a pretty little fiction, but it is always worth it. And when we say there is room for one more, we know that we will be tired, we will cry tears, we will be scared, we will be on our knees and cry out to God for help. We know that we will pour our time, our energy, our money into a child that may never be able to be filled; a bottomless pit of need and pain. We may bring home a child that will never understand the sacrifice. But any sacrifice of creature comforts or material wealth will always be outweighed by a child’s need for family.
I would say that my addiction was not a “problem”, until I walked into an orphanage in Eastern Europe. The day I heard the silence of a building filled with children, touched the broken child caged in a crib, and breathed in the misery of loneliness. That was the day that I became enslaved to a practice that has changed my life. That was the moment that God dropped the scales from my eyes and thrust me headlong into the world of the Fatherless and marginalized. That day I realized that my suburban bubble is so far from the real world, that it’s scary. And what is even scarier was to realize that the comfort I was living in; the American dream I was pursuing was hollow. In that moment my whole life sat suspended and I realized that I had bought the lie, I was not living the American dream, I was living for myself. I was drinking from the cup of the privileged life and it tasted bitter.
And where I land now, is that my addiction is deeper than adoption. My addiction is Jesus Christ and what is sad to me is that more are not feeling addicted. I once sat numb in the pews on Sunday morning and went about my week after church. Sure, I did a little bit of ministry here and there, but it truly cost me nothing. My life made perfect sense, and that was the problem. When we are comfortable, we are not growing. And if you are feeling pretty good, I’d say you should look for “uncomfortable”.
The last part of the definition of addiction is what I live with every single day. When we stop adopting we need to realize there is a cost. “cessation causes severe trauma” Church, please hear me, adoption is the gospel. If we are not adopting and supporting adoption, we are causing severe trauma. If we are not fostering and supporting foster care, we are causing severe trauma. God is the Father to the Fatherless through us. And if we are living lives that make sense to non-believers then we are doing something wrong. Our lives are not supposed to be safe, secure, and comfortable. When we choose to stop living for Christ, we are choosing to be unmoved by the deafening silence of an orphanage filled with children, we are choosing to allow children to sleep in DCS offices and age out of a system never knowing family, and we are making the world wonder where is the church.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.