Adopting Loneliness

I really ought to say this up front: if you love Jesus, you really need (yes, need) to read The Babylon Bee regularly. They’re like The Onion, but centered around Jesus. It’s satire the way satire is supposed to be: both funny and painful. And they’re equal opportunity cutters, but they do it from the perspective that the Bible is a true story and Jesus is the only hero of that story. Seriously, check it out. Now on to our regularly schedule programming…

I write a post like this with some trepidation. And for a guy who tends to have writings that are “weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing”, that’s saying something. But The Babylon Bee had a satirical post called “Report: 95% Of Christians Agree The Other 5% Should Keep Adopting” and it obviously caught my attention. Here’s the infographic from the fake report:

adoption-chart-696x394

Of course, I’m a big ol’ sinner because I read it and responded like I overheard a killer “Yo Momma” joke in the schoolyard. “Ohhhhhhhhhhhh–SLAM!!!” I might’ve even said it out loud. Like I was back in elementary school.

Because being an adoptive family now, we’re clearly in a position to judge the crap out of everyone that hasn’t done it. Isn’t that how it works with adoptive families and ministers and missionaries? We’re the chosen few who get the God-given privilege of looking down on everyone else.

And so my first thought after reading the post was, “Dude, I totally need to put that on social media. That’ll stick it to the non-adopters!” But once the dust from explosive, self-righteous pride settled, I didn’t. Instead, I left the post untouched, because at the end of the day, I really don’t want to be inflammatory. Nor do I want anyone to know how self-righteous I really am.

But a few months later, here I am posting it anyway. And I truly hope and literally pray as I type that it’s not to guilt trip, but to bring up something that most of us adoptive families dance around. My wife has already talked about it some, but I want to expand a bit. Here’s my thesis: adoption is really hard, but one of the reasons it’s so hard is because so few of us are doing it.

For instance, marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Being a light in a dark world is hard. But in each of these things, they’re common experiences. So, they’re hard–but we have a community and shared stories built around it. I can share a struggle or you can tell the difficulties you’ve faced, and we all go, “Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.”

But with adoption, it doesn’t work that way. Instead, we share our struggles and difficulties, and we get one of three responses: horror (“How could anyone ever feel that way about a child!?”), pity (“I can’t even imagine how hard that is!”), or awe (“It is so incredible that you all have adopted kids from hard places–you’re true heroes!”). The first just hurts, the second is nice but ultimately not very helpful, and the third feels really cool but does nothing but enforce my personal Superman complex. But more importantly, all three responses have a distance, an otherness to them.

The fact is, it’s hard to adopt because it’s so incredibly lonely. Our church–the people who are closest to us in our mess–fight for us in every way they can, but it’s still from the outside. And I don’t mean that as a critique, but as a statement of reality. And they’ve listened as we’ve tried to explain the ugliest parts and excruciating struggles, coming as close as anyone in our lives to truly understanding our struggles. So I don’t write this as a critique of them, because they are in it with us in every way they can be.

But they’re the exceptions. Most of our brothers and sisters in Jesus can’t figure out what to do with us or other adoptive families. And that’s a lonely place to be. As I sit here and think about it, I’m sure that’s what overseas missionary families or pastors’ kids or adult singles or divorced believers all deal with. The otherness and loneliness of experience is just plain hard to shake.

Then I circle back to the article I linked to at the beginning of the post. Because I also get angry. Unlike the overseas missionaries or pastors’ kids or singles or divorcees, caring for the fatherless is something every believer is actively called to. So in my worst moments (or maybe my best), I’m angry because we ought not be alone. Caring for the fatherless isn’t some new, hot trend. That’s an oldie.

What would it be like if 50% of Christian families adopted? 60%? 75%? How many of the fatherless would have fathers? How much community would be built? Would adoption finally tip from weirdness to commonality? What would it be like for a confessed struggle to turn from “Oh, really?” to “Yes, me, too!”?

On our parenting blog, we’ve not hidden the struggles. We’ve not done the pretty thing and given the impression that the best thing we’ve ever done for our family was adopt. I still don’t think I can say that. But that doesn’t mean I think we made a mistake. The call to come and die sounds painful, because it is painful. We’ve had to die and die and die again, day after day, to graft four wild branches into our tree. The lessons and parallels to my own adoption in God’s family are myriad, deeper and richer than I would ever have imagined. The rebellion toward the good will of my new father, the desire for the old way of life, the memories of brokenness and ruin–adopting kids has re-colored my own adoption.

I just wish you knew that, too, the glory and gory. I wish we weren’t so alone.

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Even with Our Kids

One of the banners I’ve been touting for a long, long time now on my journey toward home-based churches is that ministry is mutual. I tire of the traditional church model that basically says you only do diligent ministry if you get paid for it. Otherwise, you attend a class or bring candy to the trunk-or-treat or coach some Upward basketball, and you’re good to go! Otherwise, let the paid guy do the work you (the customer!) paid for!

No, ministry is one to another. Serving one another, doing good to one another, caring for one another, bearing one another’s burdens.

But it turns out (as usual) I didn’t press that far enough, didn’t see that the “one anothers” stretch even farther than I had imagined. Today, my wife went to Facebook to confess her sins to others, to be an open book to a world that tries to hide anything unsavory. She posted, “This mama just finished a bratty tantrum by literally screaming at my kids for their noise level (oh the irony is not lost on me). I went to my room to breathe and cool down. When I came out a few minutes later, [one of my daughters] was finishing putting the three little ones down for nap. I want to be like my kids when I grow up, ready to serve quickly even when things aren’t going well, loving even the one who was just unkind to me.”

Slam. My wife is so much more open than I am and sees so much more clearly her sins and her savior. I love her for that.

So, I’m all slammed because I rail at the kids all the time, they’re so undeservedly loving toward this daddy, so quick to forgive me in those rare times I do ask their forgiveness. I’m already ripped raw when our dear friend Carrie Quillo chimes in with this encouragement (among the many other ladies who spoke encouragement) in the comments: “I pray that you will see that the Holy Spirit is making you like that. You saw your sin, you saw [your daughter’s] love and God used it to turn your heart back to love and service to your kiddos. Ministry is mutual even with our kids.”

Even with these little people who disobey me all the time, who rebel, who fight with each other, who test limits all the time, who have so, so, so, so, so much they need to learn from me, their wise and discerning father?

Obviously, I still don’t believe my own manifesto. Parent to kid is a one-way relationship, right?

“Ministry is mutual even with our kids.” Amen, sister.