My adoption story is a common adoption story. It began in South Korea. Through a sequence of unknown events and decisions, I spent time in both an orphanage and foster home before I was adopted at the age of five months. I was welcomed into a family in Michigan with two parents who longed to love a child. They dreamed of all the ways that I would grow and mature and become…confident, secure, lady-like, successful. They prayed that I would come to know and love Jesus. They prayed that I would come to know his love for me. They created an environment that set me up to move forward in my story in many healthy and beautiful ways. I love that. I’m deeply grateful for that.
Yet for me, someone whose life began in a hard place, with significant loss, I grew up feeling like something was missing, that something was hiding, that something was wrong…with me, because of me. I think as a child, something inside of you “knows” this, but you don’t know how to articulate this. So you keep doing what you know how to do, what feels good, what makes you feel alive.
For me, I searched for and found my significance and purpose in performance and perfection, in keeping my internal world calm and stable, safe and known.
I wasn’t naughty.
I wasn’t dramatic.
I wasn’t needy.
I was quiet.
I was complacent.
I was a really good, grateful little girl, who smiled…a lot.
I looked good on the outside, but on the inside I was longing for connection, for love, to trust, to feel known. But I didn’t know how to name that, how to give voice to that, how to ask for help. And, no one was naming it or giving voice to it or offering help. On the inside, I lived life alone.
So as I grew, a belief system emerged:
Trust was for the birds.
Intimacy and connection were to be experienced only in a perfect fantasy world.
When it gets hard, people will leave.
Love was something to be earned.
God’s heart for me, his story of compassion – it got messed with. It wasn’t what he dreamed of for me. It wasn’t the way it was “supposed” to be. But he, the author, wasn’t done writing yet. Those were just the beginning chapters. There was more to be written – the chapters about how I would come to know how loved I was, how seen I was, how known I was…by him. And then the chapter about how I was meant to be here, in this world, before the beginning of time. All of these chapters, he was inviting me to be part of, participate in, write about…with him.
And I am. I’m writing. Some days it’s a new word. Other days, sentences and paragraphs filled with truth and healing and hope are being written. I’m writing with him…about me, about his love for me, about his love for the world. And these chapters…they’re making me cry. They’re breaking down the walls that have stayed so strong, so resilient. They’re leading me to revisit some hard places, but instead of resentment building, grace is softening. They’re opening the places in my soul where new life needed to be breathed in. The fear, the shame…they’re being replaced with truth, with compassion, with grace, with his love, for me.
God never wants the story to end in tragedy.
God never wants the story to end in shame.
God never wants the story to end in pain.
But he does want to use it for good.
He can turn brokenness into beauty.
My story, your story, his story…it’s not over yet.
But here’s the tricky thing…
Some of us don’t know this.
Some of us aren’t able to articulate this.
Some of don’t have the ability to see the good in our story.
Some of us don’t even know that we have a story to tell.
Some of us don’t believe that we were created for intimacy and connection, to trust.
And so we need you. We need you to help us write our stories…better, true, redemptively.
We aren’t able to make sense of this alone.
We aren’t able to love alone.
We weren’t made to experience healing alone.
This story has to be written together.
The process of entering into a story of loss and brokenness in order to find the beauty and grace and hope that they hold, cannot – must not – be done alone.
A story disrupted by love involves more than one person.
We need one another.
Maybe this is what relationships are for – to care for, to preserve, to keep, to take care of…one another.
There’s something in me that senses that for this story, for this adoption world to keep moving forwards in becoming one of healing and hope, it needs to be written together. It needs to be traveled together. All of our voices and all of our experiences and all of our giftings and all of our resources are needed to help re-write those fragile beginning chapters, and co-author the mind-transforming, heart-awakening middle chapters. And then, together, we’ll get to see what happens in the end.
First we were loved. Now we get to love.
We get to be a part of telling a story of expansive and transformative and relentless love – in our story, in his story.
The adopted person’s voice…let’s keep finding it and listening to it and leaning into it.
The birthparent’s voice…let’s keep inviting it and affirming it and believing it.
The adoptive parent’s voice…let’s keep equipping it and supporting it and encouraging it.
Let’s keep sharing with one another – not just the easy and fun and good stuff, but also the hard and hurting and hidden stuff. Because then we will know the places where life needs to be breathed in…gently, compassionately, graciously.
Let’s keep writing this story together. Not just the adoption part of the story, but the whole story – the one that begins with loss and ends with redemption.
You, I, we…get to be a part of that story!
And may that story, God’s story, change us in ways where we will never, ever, be the same again.
Carissa Woodwyk is a Korean-born adoptee, writer, speaker, counselor/marriage and family therapist, advocate for the human heart. In each of these roles, she offers her story and voice in ways that invite people to connect with themselves, with others, with God.
She is a co-author of Before You Were Mine: Discovering Your Adopted Child’s Lifestory. She and her husband have two children and live near Grand Rapids, MI.
You can connect with Carissa through her blog or on Facebook.