I’m adopted. I adopted my two children. There – all my cards on the table. Now let me share the quickest way to undermine that sacrament which bookends my experience of family – say it’s not natural.
I’ve heard it more than once, but read it more often now that blogs abound and adoption talk moves like a spark through dry brush. Adoption is harder because it’s not natural, so be patient through the process – that’s what they say. It always surprises me they put their names on the post, don’t cover up with a bandit’s bandana or whisper it in a dark corner of an abandoned house. The most sacred element of my life is so easily diminished with so few words – not natural.
If the holy scrolls in a synagogue were stolen, the cross in a church sanctuary pulled from the wall and defaced or the minarets of a mosque tagged, we’d all cry desecration! Local reporters would gather, scribble in tiny pocket-sized pads and rally the community to action. But call adoption unnatural or second best and all you get are sympathetic nods. My holy of holies gutted and no one’s outraged, no one notices, people even dare to applaud.
I know they mean well. But the message good but not natural doesn’t ring true to those who drink from the chalice daily, imbibing the family grace with each swill. We don’t feel unnatural in our God-ordained family. Most of us are naked and unashamed in our homes, crawling under the covers with our mothers and wrestling barefoot with our siblings and laughing with our super-hero fathers. We’re at home where we belong, naturally.
In my home, ringed by adoption goodness, I am many things: tantrum-wrangler, nightmare-whisperer, band-aid dispenser. I am oatmeal-maker, bedside-intercessor, conversation-partner, affirmation-muse and a conveyer belt of hugs, kisses and cheeky squeezes. I am not, however, unnatural. I’m not a second-hand mother, a lesser choice for these babes of mine. Nor was my own mother anything less than a natural fit for me. When God’s in the family way it might look mysterious, but never unnatural.
Family living doesn’t come easy – the tumble of personalities, insecurities and contending wills. We each struggle with identity issues, questioning our worth, wondering if we can contribute something of value to the world. What parent, adoptive or not, hasn’t had to battle personal anxieties while fortifying the healthy identity of their child? Isn’t this par for the course in family formation? Iron on iron, friction forging character and undaunted acceptance culling a child capable of self-love – this is indigenous to every family, right?
There’s one concession I’m willing to consider – maybe we are not only natural, but also supranatural. The company of the adopted live beyond the most elementary understanding of nature as mere biology. We know bone-deep that we are connected, part of God’s larger Family Tree that supersedes bloodlines, ethnicity or nationality. Our shared humanity bonds us, our commitment to love without condition and weather life’s storms together creates true belonging which is hallmark to any real family.
It would do my soul good if people accepted adoption as sacramental, not unnatural. It would be a balm to my bruised heart to hear people try and voice the mystery of how God shapes families in unique ways to His glory, to His redemptive purpose. It would sound more truthful if we all admitted that struggle and sacrament are a natural part of family life.
Adoption has created a sacred space in my life, a realization that family is a gift. As adopted child and adoptive mother, I know my life to be wonderfully natural and then some. Oh, I wish those looking from the outside would tread softly…