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

You Make Life a Song

My Love,

In lieu of the usual paragraph tribute I give to you on Facebook, I want to write something more substantial and permanent than that. But I also want to share it on the interwebs to give others a peek into the inner beauty most see glimpses of but don’t even know exist. And I think this is the closest version of praising my wife in the gates that I can come up with. My adoration of you is so profound that, like Luigi, “I must scream it to the world, my excitement from the top of someplace very high.” So here goes…

Like Daddy Warbucks/Will Stacks sings about Annie, “You’ve made life a song; you’ve made me a singer.” That phrase has been bouncing around in my head for weeks, because it’s truly what you’ve done for me. It’s like (nerd moment coming, love) all my life up to that point had been listening to scratched up LPs with a bad needle when suddenly you came along with digital clarity. I’d heard before, but never really heard. I’d sung before, but never really sung.

How do I even explain this?

Like John Nash’s beautiful mind needed his wife’s sole encouragement to find hope, you have centered the wild musings of my mind into a Jesus-centered focus on forever. Like Christian and Satine, I “never knew I could feel like this, like I’d never seen the sky before.” Like Sun and Jin, time and space and crashing planes and sinking submarines could never keep us apart. Like Darcy’s poorly expressed ardor for Elizabeth: “In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

It’s like all that and more. Far, far more. The song didn’t start until you came. And it wasn’t just enough that you started the song, you somehow roped me into singing along with you.

Worse: you got me to like singing with you, no matter if serious or frivolous or silly or wild or earnest or intense.

More profound than what you did for me is the fact that you do this for the souls you touch. You’ve left behind a trail of grace through your encounters over the years. There’s something about you—a spark, a vivacity—that is irresistibly contagious. What bothers me more than anything is that I find describing it so difficult. Your influence is so subtle, so understated. It’s not that you make people laugh (though you do). It’s not that you’re the life of every party (though you are). It’s that you bring out the hidden trueness of someone without them ever knowing you were doing it. Never have I seen anyone who can draw out even the shyest person like you can. Never have I seen anyone convince other people to do these silly, crazy things like you can. It’s astounding.

This gift from God would, of course, be despicable if you used to for self-seeking gain. You don’t. I don’t think it’s ever even occurred to you to do that. This gift of yours that finds the truest part of a person’s soul and helps them draw it out is also the truest part of your soul, too. Not that you would ever see that. You’re so blinded by failures and missed expectations and ludicrous goals and unrealistic hopes that Superman would have trouble pulling off in one 24-hour period that you don’t see this gift at work in you.

I’ve been watching it for fifteen years. I’ve been on the receiving end of it for fourteen years. I’ve been one flesh with it for twelve years. And I’ve seen it spread to our offspring for ten years.

You make life a song and you make us all singers.

What would life be without music? That’s not really any different than wondering what life would be like without colors. Or soft fleece. Or warm summer days. Or mighty mountains. Life without any of these things would be cold and drab and flat. Life without music , the music of the Creator weaved through our very souls, would be stunted and empty. Your gift to me, to our kids, to so many others has been the gift of song. Your life is a song—shoot, you practically live in a musical. But more deeply, your clear, luminous soprano voice has only ever been an outer reflection of your very soul. I still remember Dr. Black telling me that every singer’s personality leaks into their voice. A whiny person has a peevish voice. A timid person has a feeble voice. But your singing voice has always matched your soul voice: strong, clear, pure, and unafraid.

Your voice matches the song you present to the rest of us, the song you’re always tacitly urging us to sing with you. It’s like you’re walking up to each of us and singing, “My gift is my song; and this one’s for you.” This gift you pass on has been the Spirit’s gift to you. So, lest anyone be confused about the song you give each of us, let me be more explicit.

The songs you give are songs of life, rooted deeply in the gospel of King Jesus. Even the saddest songs from you are gilded with the hope that godly sorrow must always carry intertwining. Your songs are a reflection of the same joy that could look at all of creation after six days and call it very good. The songs you give are filled with jumping dolphins and early morning sunrises and crashing waves. Your songs are ardent greens and luscious purples and bold blues and deep reds. Yours songs are laughter and joy and sadness and togetherness and filledness. Your songs are the closest glimpse I’ll ever have to the cries of “Worthy is the Lamb!” that John heard and saw.

“How do you solve a problem like Maria?” Maria was never a problem—her song was bursting forth and needed a place to burst. You’re more like Maria than you know. I’m probably far more like Captain Von Trapp than I know. You’ve done for me what she did for him.

Fourteen years ago, we were wandering the streets of Rome, jet-lagged and clumsy. I had no idea this gorgeous woman who kept tripping over thousand-year-old cobblestones and who slipped down the Vatican steps would be the beginning of a radical change in my life. Our Father steered us together and showed us a new path he had for both of us. His hand has always been active and powerful, though seemingly in the background of the mundane and the everyday. But he was there then and he’s here now, shaping and molding us into a creation we would never have become without each other.

Today I want nothing more than to praise you for being the singer and the songwriter. For being exactly who God created and called you to be. For being able to laugh at the darkness and sing away every fear. For being the most amazing person I’ve ever had the joy of knowing.

And I want to thank you—again—for saying “Yes”.

Happy anniversary, Courtney Brooke.