I’m going to tell you that there are days that fill me with fear. Days that I feel breathless thinking about raising a child that may never live independently. I swallow this large knot of insecurity every time I see the distance we still have to walk, trudge, crawl. I try not to, but I look at other children, I compare, and feel discouragement heaped in my path. Adoption is HARD! It’s not “instant love, just add water” moments. Nope, “it’s this kid is freaking me out” and “do you think this behavior is in the realm of normal…for any family”. It’s post orphanage terror and daily reminders of a traumatized child. It’s changing the diapers on a 5 year old, and hearing “mom” for the 700th time…who’s counting? Adoption is verbal mimicry, crying in his sleep, and trembling with fear. It’s a depth of sadness with wounds I cannot reach to heal. It’s deep emotional cuts that hemorrhage over the simplest reminders of a previous life. Adoption is reading books late into the night on how to heal and cover these wounds and the hopelessness when the simple emotional band-aid you provided doesn’t work to staunch the floods. It’s the day to day with a child that thinks life should be steeped in trauma, and survival is the goal for the day. Adoption is looking at him and believing he is fine, then realizing his smiles and compliance are part of his survival toolbox.
And then there are reminders and moments. There’s the realization that he has come so far and worked so hard. A few hours slip by and it all seems “normal”. The child that was just a shell, peeks out with stunning moments of potential. You realize that all the fears and pain you’ve been chipping away, have actually started to bring forth a real child. Not this terrified, hyper vigilant, facade of a child, but a real boy. And then the moment leaves, skitters away to hide back in the corner of shame, pain and worthlessness.
You remember the day many months ago when you looked across your dining table and realized, yes, we could fit one more. And when you saw his picture, you saw this little boy without a mom or dad. And you thought, there’s room for this “one more”. And in a moment of God-given naivety, you took a step to bring him home. You prepared, you anticipated and no one really told you that he’d be smelly, scary and not like any other boy you’d ever known. And no one told you that your fear would ebb and flow, and you’d rock between victories and failings. But in the middle is the sweetest blessing. And at your table is sitting the “room for one more”. And the alternative to bringing him home is standing behind him as a dark reminder. It’s fingers curled over his shoulders, whispering in his ear dark memories of prior hours and days, living alone and scared.
Deep within you lies your own broken pieces, exposed by the child’s very presence. You have learned that you cannot bring home this broken, and not experience it yourself. You cannot care for this abused boy without remembering the silence of an orphanage packed with tiny bodies, the smell of bleach and urine mixed with dental decay, the sound of a baby rocking herself because no one else will. Life will never be the same, because you’ve unpacked this darkness and gave it a place in your home and a spot at the table. You will never be the same because you have seen, heard, touched and smelled the dark depths of human nature. And it’s a constant reminder of our need for love and redemption. And even in the darkest moments of pain and terror, there’s always light and it shines the brighter because of the dark. And you see that this is so much bigger than you, bigger than your fear. And there’s peace in that, as God works in the little boy and in you. And the fear is chiseled away…and the light shines brighter, and the darkness grasping your boy is slowly losing it’s grip.
I saw the angel in the marble and I chiseled until I set him free – Michelangelo