Adoption used to feel normal to me. I was adopted, so it was normal. That’s part of the reason I was so blindsided by the upheaval of adopting our own child. Her adoption has never felt normal. Our kiddo won’t let it feel normal. She punches normal in the face.
That’s because adopted kids, like biological kids, are all different. I was adopted as a baby. I never knew my biological parents. But our adopted child didn’t arrive until she was seven. By then she was already fully convinced that she didn’t belong anywhere. Abused, neglected, and abandoned by her biological family, she was geared up for a fight for survival to keep us from destroying her heart like they had.
Some people labeled all her problems with an alphabet soup of acronyms from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: RAD, ODD, ADHD, ... So when a tall police officer in a dark blue uniform stood in my hallway recently, rested his hand on his gun holster and asked me what diagnoses we had, I began to rattle off these letters. I was mumbling; tired of having to explain to complete strangers the intimate, heart-breaking issues we deal with every day. But this officer was smart—or seasoned beyond his years.
“Is she adopted?” he asked.
How did he know that? What had he seen and understood in his young life that made him connect a teenager screaming at me, and adoption? It’s common for kids who are adopted after they’ve already endured enough trauma to drown a fish, to be difficult. That’s because sometimes, traumatized kids don’t realize what adoption actually is. They don’t understand themselves as being rescued or gaining a new family. Instead, they grieve over their losses.
Even kids adopted without trauma, like me, may not realize adoption is something way beyond normal.
Adoption is not about becoming someone’s child by chance; it’s about being chosen.
Adoption is how God chooses us, too. When we reach our small orphan hands out from the darkness and toward Jesus, God gives us a new Spirit. He makes us his kids. In fact, the Bible calls it the “Spirit of adoption.” (Romans 8:15) It’s because of this Spirit that we can cry out to God as our Father. He’s our adoptive Dad.
Maybe someday my adopted child can understand God this way. I hope she can somehow understand how amazing being chosen is. Maybe she can accept our love, God’s love, and this way of belonging. If she can ever leave the past behind, as part of her identity, but not necessarily a foretelling of who she will become, then she may start to feel normal. But I hope she can feel more than normal. I hope sometime it will occur to her that her story is spectacular. I wish she knew she was cherished—not only by us but by a God who sent his biological son down to die so that all of us could be adopted.
Rebecca Barnes is married to an amazing man, who encourages her faith and listens to her typing a lot. She has three daughters and a son-in-law. She loves to cook for anyone who likes good food, and she feels competitive about weeding her flower garden. She lives in Old Town Lafayette because it’s a little eclectic, like her.