Christianity Today online this week carries a heartfelt and insightful article from Kelly Rosati – a VP at Focus on the Family, adoptive mom, and also a good friend: Adoption Doesn’t Fix Kids.
Rosati isn’t saying there aren’t countless children and adults whose lives and hearts haven’t been profoundly changed by the love of adoptive parents. But she issues a tremendously important warning against the “fix it” mentality that any parent can fall into – whether with adopted or foster children…or even those born to us in the hospital.
Certainly, there’s a tension to keep here. As Rosati points out, parenting that is nourished by the wisdom of Scripture, an understanding of trauma, and a consistent blend of firm structure and unconditional nurture does help cultivate health and healing in even the most wounded children.
Yet we must also know that our first call is not to “fix” but to love. Faithful, wisdom-guided love does bring forth good fruit over time. But often it comes far more slowly, or in a different form, than we’d have wished at first. And sometimes for long stretches its hard to see any change at all.
Of course, this is true of all expressions of love – whether embracing foster youth or orphans or recovering addicts or returning prisoners or the cranky neighbor or even our own spouse. Love always leads with unconditional gifts — things like quiet presence, grace, and faithfulness. Only in this context does it seek change in the other — never as a condition of further affection, but simply because true love desires to help the other grow into the person God intended them to be.
As Rosati expresses so well, when we approach others in this way – loving first and working to help others grow only in a way that is truly secondary to that conditionless love – we find that we are changed in the process, too…maybe even more than they are.
Now, I see how God is changing me through the challenges of raising kids with trauma histories: fetal alcohol effects, in-utero drug exposure, Tourette syndrome, mental illness, sensory process issues, and the list goes on. God has taught this recovering type-A, control freak parent more than I could have imagined. I regularly must confront my own pride and selfishness. I sometimes want to make sure my kids know I’m right and they’re wrong more than I want to stay in relationship with them.
But I have also discovered that God’s unbelievable forgiveness, extravagant mercy, unfathomable grace and relentless, unconditional love are far more real than I could have ever known. They are more real to me in my abundant failures, and I pray they are more real to my children through me.
God has used my children to change me in profound and meaningful ways. My prayer is that I will continue to be refined and to become more like Christ through this messy, challenging, and beautiful process.