I knew when we stepped into life as a family who had experienced the gift of adoption relationships with other people would be different. I knew that some people understood the “why” behind our choice and some people didn’t. I knew that some people would understand the difficulties associated with living life with our child from hard places and that some wouldn’t.
What I didn’t know was that some of the deepest post-adoption hurt would come from the one place I thought would be the safest for me to be… my church.
Now, understand that when I say “church” I’m not talking about the Church–with-a–big–C. Church is the body of Christ all over the place. Church is in Texas and Mexico and Africa. Church-with-a-big-C is why we said “yes” to adoption; it’s being a part of God’s family, walking in obedience to His call, and allowing the Holy Spirit to move through you for the glory of God’s kingdom.
No, what I’m talking about is church with a little c. I’m talking about your local congregation where you worship on Sunday and maybe other times during the week as well. I’m talking about the people you live life with; the people you’re in community with. These people are like family, and as such, when there are hurts, the hurts tend to run deeper and impact us more strongly.
We came home with our daughter and quickly realized that the way our church-with-a-little-c did things in a way that presented some challenges for our family. We didn’t think much of this challenge during our cocooning time because honestly, all that was on our mind was letting this girl know we were trustworthy and safe. It was a full-time job.
The time finally arrived when we felt like we could ease back into a new type of normal, and that’s when we had to acknowledge the fact that our new normal was going to have to look different from our old normal. We could still be active in our church on a typical Sunday morning thanks to the effort that our Children’s Ministry has put into understanding and helping special needs families, but we couldn’t participate in the small group setting in the way we had before due to the dynamics our church encouraged for small groups.
We knew we needed to make changes to be a part of a small group, but they were changes that our church wasn’t able to address in a manner as quickly as we were hoping for. We felt frustrated, but knowing that life in smaller community is beneficial to our walk with Jesus, we didn’t give up trying to make it work.
Eventually, we connected with another family who was experiencing the same types of struggles in their own post-adoption world. We started to meet together in a much smaller setting, and after a while, presented our “mini-small-group” to some folks in our church leadership hoping that they would be on board with our desire to honor the leadership of our church, our desire to meet in community with others, but also our need to provide a safe environment for our children. Our group wasn’t typical, but we were excited about it and hoping others would be, too.
Some of the people we talked to were fully supportive, and some were not.
And, it hurt. A ton.
I’m not even going to lie here. It took a long time for me to deal with this. Every fiber of me screamed for understanding. I needed to be understood.
I needed our family to be understood.
I needed our daughter to be understood.
I needed for others in the church-with-a-little-c to see that even though it looked different, we were indeed living life in the Church-with-a-big-C in the way that we felt that God was calling us to.
Adoption had changed our family, and it had also changed our particular family could function in social settings. We wanted to be understood and in the middle of all of that hurt we felt completely misunderstood.
The story could end there. It could end with anger or bitterness or sadness simmering in my heart. But it doesn’t.
It’s no surprise to me that after weeks of fighting with the words to communicate the depth of feeling I have regarding this topic that the words would suddenly start to spring out of my heart in these days surrounding Easter. Grace, grace. God’s grace. Grace that covers us and our multitude of sins. Grace that chose to hang on the Cross even knowing what darkness my heart could hold on to. Grace that calls me, woos me, won’t let go of me. Grace that won’t let me simmer in the hurt which had morphed into resentment.
Anger and resentment have no place in a heart claiming Christ as Lord and so it has no place in mine. Jesus knows all about those people who caused us to feel misunderstood, and He loves them. He knows all about the hurt in our hearts and He loves us.
He loves. Period.
I found myself guilty of believing that other people’s empathy toward us was a prerequisite for their significance but it’s not. I was wrong and the recognition of my own wrong-ness has given room for forgiveness.
Truth be told, this is hard to share. The only reason I dare is because I know that there are others who probably have felt just as hurt by their local church-with-a-small-c.
Maybe the child with special needs you welcomed into your family hasn’t been welcomed into your church.
Maybe your child looks “normal” on the outside but struggles with the hurts which abuse and neglect have caused on the inside and your church doesn’t understand.
Friend, know that your church-with-a-small-c isn’t always going to get it right. They are people. Humans.
Just. Like. Us.
They will make mistakes. They may not be compelled to fight for our children in the way that we are and that’s okay.
Your church needs you. They need your child. They need your family. They need to see that adoption doesn’t look the same from family to family. They need to see you not give up both doing what’s right for your child and walking in obedience to God. They need to feel the grace they may not even know they need. You may be the only family they know who has obeyed to the call to adopt and they need to see this love lived out.
And you? You need your church! You need the community offered by others walking with Jesus. Don’t give up on your local church-with-a-small-c. Don’t fall prey to the lie that you can walk your faith on your own. They need you. You need them.
It’s possible that this will be tough, believe me, I know it possible. The saying yes to hard things doesn’t end once you’re home with your new child. There will constantly be new chances to follow Jesus in laying down your life for the sake of others. If that looks like showing grace when others in your church seem to not understand you, then so be it.
It’s a “yes” worth saying.
You will find yourself leaking out the icky stuff like anger while the good stuff like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control fill you up to overflowing.
You’re okay with saying “yes” to hard things, and God will give you the grace to say “yes” to this, too.