So Much Joy, So Much Pain

The "adoption holidays" on the calendar- things like Orphan Sunday, birth mother's day, and today, national adoption day. They always stir up such a mix of opposite emotions that I find myself lost in thought most of the day, trying to make sense of them. Like today when a Mom at school says, "Hello?!?!" as I had a dazed look on my face while politely nodding in response to what I don't even know she was talking about. It's driving the whole way home and never remembering even driving home because my mind is fixed on my deep joy of being the forever parent to the little Ethiopian boy in the backseat, all the while being fixated over the deep pain it took for this child to become mine.
 To those truly committed to adoption, these "holidays" never come with simple, celebratory ease. They actually highlight the always existing incredible tension...the tension of unspeakable pain alongside the deepest joy. You see, adoption is not just joy- the moment you are matched with your child, the moment your skin finally touches their skin, the moment you step off the plane as a new family, giving a child what every child deserves- a family. Adoption is full of great pain. Horrible tragedies have occurred in the life of your child to bring him to a place of needing adoption. They are things that families and children should never have to face. They are the unspeakable horrors of a broken world that is not the way God originally intended it to be. And not only that, adoption is hard. Walking alongside a child and helping him understand the story he is walking, and trying to help him see Jesus and the redemption of the Gospel through some of the most difficult details, is a road that I pray I travel well...for his sake, for the honor of his birth family, and for the opportunity for people to see what Jesus is really like. Through great pain, difficulty, and loss comes some of the most deep and profound joy I have ever known, and I hope that my son too, also comes to know that deep joy. We won't try to hush the tension away, or paint it with rainbows and unicorns, but we will let it rest where it is, because in that tension, we want other people to see the great tragedy and therefore great need, leading to great blessing. It's a mystery how all of those things can simultaneously exist, but this side of heaven, that's how it is. I can say, I am looking forward to the day when Jesus redeems this shattered world and the tragedies my son and his birth family have faced will be redeemed by the Redeemer Himself. Of that, I am confident.
So in the meantime, on national adoption day, what do we do? Two things.
1. We live in the tension. We celebrate adoption holidays with joy and gusto, we embrace our son with all the hugs and affection every child deserves and we tell him how incredibly blessed we are that he is ours. And then in the next breath we stop and thank God for his birth mom and his birth dad, we pray for their hearts and the pain that I imagine never goes away when your child is calling someone else Mama. We let our son see the joy and we let him see the pain because it teaches him he's safe to question, safe to feel sad, and safe to feel joy exploding out of his being, all at the exact same time. This, we believe, is how kids grow up to do great things.
2. Advocate. I continue to be blown away by the things I hear and witness when it comes to children and families. "Can we go to the orphanage and pick a child out that fits best in our family?" Or if you're a Christian, "I'm not 'called' to adopt." Yes, yes, I know, not everyone is supposed to adopt, but that entire mantra is overused and is way more than the breadth of this blog post. And quite frankly, it's much more simple than that. Children need families. You're a family. Period. We wrap SOOOOOOO much around the "decision" to adopt. It's simple. Especially if you're a Christian. Millions of the most vulnerable image bearers of God live unprotected and unloved. It's simple. Christians have been taking care of kids for centuries. Children need families. It's simple.

So I walked out of church on Orphan Sunday, sat at lunch, and I cried. Why? Lashauna, Michael, Caleb, Helen, Terry, Michael & Greg. 7 children whose portraits and a mini bio hung in the hallway of our church. 7 kids who live right in our county who need families. Rights terminated. Waiting. Waiting for someone. Anyone, to call them "mine."  It's simple. They need a family. Out of 600+ Christians we should be able to find families for 7 kids. What would those children have burned on their minds about who Jesus is, if they knew that on November 2nd, they were presented to a group of over 600 Jesus-loving Christians and not every single one of them were ultimately given a family by the end of that day. My heart cannot even handle the ramifications. You see, we also support a ministry to homeless teens in our city. We bring meals, we volunteer, we do other ministry things for this organization. But we miss the biggest part...preventing the need for these kids to ever walk through the door of that ministry in the first place. Kids need families.

We often sit back and think, "Maybe it's us. Maybe we are missing something? Are we the crazy ones?" But I don't think we are. These are children! Not some justice cause. Jesus was radical. Why aren't Christians? It seems to us, that the families with older children, with highschoolers, and children just off to college would be a perfect fit for any of the 7 older children in the hallway needing families. But instead, we are left wondering if we are supposed to do something radical. In the textbook world of adoption, our current very young family, is not the prime setting for domestic older child adoption. BUT...children shouldn't be without families, especially among hundreds of Christians. Maybe one of these days, you might wake up to us doing something crazy. If I've learned one thing in my short 31 years it's, "never say never."

And back to adoption. It's glorious. It's messy. It's filled with pain and joy. It's really no different than life in general. I get choked up every time I think of how gracious God is that this child calls me Mama. And it's days like today, when I get his kindergarten school picture and I cry, because his birth mom is missing another milestone.
Mekonen Jack
5 years
Kindergarten 2014-2015