Trying to Make Them Lovable

We’ve addressed many topics in our adoption series. We’ve been raw on here, slicing our hearts wide open in order to expose our weakness with the hopes of exposing Christ’s power. And it’s been painful–painful to say it all in such a public manner, painful to be rejected by those who disagree, and painful to have more and more layers pulled back in my own heart.

In the final post of this series, I want to write about my latest reflections, several months after typing my first words on the topic.

The second post of the series was titled “Loving the Unlovable.” Every adoption resource we’ve seen out there seems to have a mutual goal in mind–to make adoption easier by helping you see your children as lovable. This is done mainly by helping you understand how your child thinks so you sympathize with them. The conclusions they draw almost always end with “proving” how their reactions to situations aren’t their fault: it’s a brain disconnect because of their past.

And when parents like me–who know the truth of Scripture and are shocked when I see what a struggle it is to love a child from hard places–hear this, I think, “Thank goodness!!! That makes them far easier to love now that I see them as innocent.” And I cling to words like that because I have my answer and feel so much better.

But this makes a whore of the adoption story of Scripture: “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.(Rom 5:10-11)” God doesn’t adopt us as his children because we were good enough or we somehow convinced him we were. No, we’re adopted while still his enemies, dead in our trespasses and sins.

He didn’t first say, “Well, she’s just a child, so sweet and innocent,” or “She can’t really help it because she’s been harmed in the past,” or “She doesn’t know any better” first so he could have the ability to love me. He said, “You’re my enemy, and you know it. There’s nothing good in you. Nothing. You don’t even want me to save you. And I’m going to show my great mercy by saving you anyway, giving you life and love you’ve never deserved. And I’m going to make you my child, because my love for you has nothing to do with how much you deserve it, but everything to do with how covered you are by the blood of my one and only Son. You’ll take my name, and when you do, you’ll be able to love people who are even as bad as you.”

I know this last story personally, though not deeply enough. And it makes me tear up to know how hard we work to try to make our children look lovable instead of how hard we work to reflect on the truth from the last paragraph. The former feels so much easier because none of us know the truth deeply enough. We all believe we’re more lovable on our own than we are. We believe we were loved by Christ because of how lovable we are. We forget that we “were dead in our trespasses and sins”. We forget that there was “no one righteous, not even one”. We forget that “every inclination of the thoughts of our heart was only evil all the time”. When we see absolute depravity in our kids from hard backgrounds, we can’t accept that we’re that awful, that we were loved when we were in that stage. So we can’t love others either, unless they first look more lovable.

The things that happened to my children aren’t their fault, but the way they respond is. The same is true for you and me and anyone else in the world. They have no more good in them than I do. And it was when I was this evil that God in human flesh gave his life for me and adopted me as his own. Even when we display more and more grace to children in situations of correction and guidance, their responses are still their responsibility and will be judged by a holy God.

Adoption is the central point of the gospel, because it’s where we find ourselves a new family, a new hope, and a new inheritance. Our new family redefines our future and sets a new course for our lives. In adopting children, we take them in with all their sin and unloveliness and problems and trauma and issues. Sometimes we even take them in as enemies, pitting themselves against us in rebellion and anger. They’re not lovely–they’re a mess. Just like we were. Just like we still are, save for the righteousness of God we are in Jesus. The kids we adopt are no different than our biological children–they’re born in iniquity, without hope and without God in the world. They’re just like us. No amount of rationalizing or psychologizing or normalizing can change that.

Through the past few months, this is the hardest pill I’ve had to swallow, and yet the most freeing. My “unlovable” children are nothing more than a mirror to own unloveableness. And I don’t want to see that ugliness in me any more than I want to see it in my children.

But the good news of Jesus tells a better story. It gives a better answer to our dilemma. The answer to loving the unlovable is still to know that “we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

Here are all the posts in our adoption series:

  1. Getting Real About Adoption
  2. Loving the Unlovable
  3. Sin in the Adopted Child
  4. Support for the Adoptive Parent
  5. Broken-Hearted Parents
  6. Some Clarifying Thoughts on Our Adoption
  7. Examining Adoption Resources (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 1)
  8. Normal and Healthy? (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 2)
  9. A Matter of Foundations (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 3)
  10. The Sins of Neurology  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 4)
  11. Idol Swapping  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 5)
  12. Setting the Course  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 6)
  13. Another Way Forward (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 7)
  14. The Therapy Our Children Need
  15. Who Are You Calling Normal?
  16. Optional Adoption
  17. How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)
  18. What About “Those” Kids?
  19. Trying to Make Them Lovable
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Babies: The Most Important Thing You Can Know About Raising Them

I have a hard truth to tell you about raising babies–you’re going to be terrible at it. No, really, I mean it. Not trying to tear you down here (some of you before you’ve even started), but I can’t do you any better favor than to tell you this truth. You’re in good company, though, because NO ONE has ever been any better than horrific at it. So hooray for fitting in!

Yes, yes, yes, there are many parents full of wisdom who have had much success with how their children turned out. Biographies upon biographies have been written by children about their amazing parents. But I promise you every single one of those parents have done multiple things that should have royally jacked up their children forever, sentencing them to a lifetime of therapy.

So why in the world were they successful?! One word–grace. Just grace. For some of them, it’s common grace given by God to all who are created in his image. For others, it’s grace through the work of his son, Jesus. This one is far more powerful and lasting. Either way, grace is the answer.

Some of you may be tempted to feel defeated by this truth. I, for one, am a control freak. I like earning everything that’s good for me. I don’t accept handouts well.

But this grace isn’t binding. It’s freeing. Freeing to know when we’re so sleep deprived we stop liking our baby for a while, when we yell at our spouse because we think everything’s their fault, when we leave our babies screaming in their crib longer than we should because we don’t feel like we can take it anymore, when we’re sure our child isn’t hitting milestones because we’re not giving them enough individual attention. In those moments, grace frees us. In those times of absolute weakness and horrific parenting, God looks at followers of Jesus as though we’re perfect parents because Christ was perfect for us and died in our place. Our verdict is “not guilty.”

If you believe you are a good parent or are going to be a good parent, this whole series will be a total waste of your time. There’s nothing I can offer you. For the rest of us, the ones who spend far too much time reflecting on how badly we fail, read on. There’s still hope.