Navigating Transracial Adoption

Life the last several months has been PACKED FULL and my brain is about to explode with all the things I want to write, should have written, and need to still write! Writing is my outlet. It's the way I process, the way I grow, the way I heal, the way I learn. To know we've started the adoption process again and that I haven't blogged about it shows just how time crunched life is right now! Ahhh!!! How have I not been able to write!!!!! Well, here I am. Writing. And really, I should be writing my thesis. But I can't move on with that until I get this out of my head, because here I sit, in a cubicle in the library, crying, as I read about transracial adoption and the heavy weight I feel as the parent of a transracially adopted son, and soon to be another son! Good thing this will only take a few minutes. When I'm passionate, I write like a crazy person, and I type 97 words per minute. I'm giving myself fifteen minutes. Ready, go.

So the short of it- We have begun the adoption process for another boy, this time, from Burundi, Africa! Burundi is an east African country that actually isn't too far from Ethiopia. This time around we are adopting an "older child," a boy between Mekonen and Evie, which at this points lands us with a 5 year old. We are so excited we just might bust. Especially Mekonen! He is super stoked to have a brother that "matches him" as he calls it.

I'm here at the library today for several hours working on my graduate thesis. I will finish this thing if it kills me. (Finish it- as I sit here blogging. But if you know me well, you will fully understand how if something is heavy on my heart I must write before I can put my mind to writing work in another realm). My thesis is on adopting across racial lines which therefore has me reading hundreds and hundreds of pages on adoption, race, racial awareness, racial identity, and the list goes on. It's fascinating. If I have to get stuck writing a 200 page paper it might as well be about something I'm passionate about right? But academic journals and professionals can sometimes panic me as I read all these things about transracially adopted children and their identity, I start to panic and fear I'm screwing up my children for life.

There are so many "hurdles" adopted children need to jump over at various points in their life and I often panic that I'm not going to get it right, that I won't prepare them well, that I'm going to fail miserably in parenting our sons to be confident in their past, their stories, their adoption, themselves, who they are, etc. There's much to be said about the research and the various talks I've heard from adult transracial adoptees. I would say, overall, I agree with them wholeheartedly about providing your children with positive role models that look like them, providing them with friends and social settings where there are people that look like them, and giving them a strong "education" in their birth country and heritage, helping them learn to navigate race, and being careful not to place them in constant settings where they are the ONLY one who looks different. We continue to evaluate these areas and try our best to navigate them well with the things we choose for our family. This is another reason why we chose another African country for our second adoption. So that Mekonen can walk life with a brother who looks like him.
In the adoption world, it's all about identity. Who your children are, where they came from, who they are now, and who they will be as they process growing up with a family that does not look like them. It's all about "forming their identity" and helping them become confident and strong about where they came from and who they are now. Although this is true, as Christians we look at it from a completely different perspective, and although I sit here alone in a room at the library with tears streaming down my face reading countless articles on racial identity, I hear the Holy Spirit speak quietly to my heart.

I don't want my sons' identities to be in the fact that one son is Ethiopian and one Burundian, Ethiopian-American, Burundian-American or even the fact that they are well-rounded children with feet in both worlds of their birth country, African Americans and White folk. Wow. That's a lot. As has been our prayer since all of our children joined our family, biological and adopted, we have prayed that our children will grow to understand and accept Jesus' forgiveness of their sins through the cross and resurrection, and make Jesus the Lord of their lives. This dear friends, is the identity we long for our children to have. This dear ones, is the identity we pray for both of our sons- Mekonen, and the son whose name we don't know yet. When I begin to feel overwhelmed about "doing it all right" I need to remind myself that the Gospel will do more for the hearts of our sons in a way that nothing else can.
The pain of adoption that all adoptees feel at various points in their life (whether adopted as infants or older children), is best healed by the Gospel. As a parent, it's hard not to fear those moments my son experiences grief over the loss he's experienced and the difficulties of his story. And it's hard not to fear the moments of grief we will walk through with our second son. No one wants to anticipate those moments. We've had some of them and they are gut wrenching, wrack you to the core like nothing you ever imagined could. But as our son is 6 years old now, words of the Gospel, of Jesus, become a regular occurrence in our adoption talks. No, we do not simply forget about real, truthful, factual research about racial identity, and helping transracially adopted children navigate life in a healthy way; but we don't forget the Gospel. We cannot forget the Gospel, because it does more for the heart than setting up the perfectly balanced life for our boys.

It is the life-long parenting process of pouring into the lives of our sons the fact that if Jesus is King of their hearts and Lord of their lives, THAT is their identity. Not their birth family, not the circumstances that brought them to be placed for adoption, not their adoptive family, not their birth heritage, and not their American upbringing. If they have accepted the forgiveness only Jesus provides, then they are Christians and now they have a new identity worth far more than any other identity on this earth... that is the identity that is eternal. It's the ONLY one that matters. It is the thing I want most for my children.
Galatians 2:20 says- I have been crucified with Christ. It is not longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Once I became a Christian, I received all the benefits and blessings that Jesus has (Ephesians 1). I am forever attached to his identity, his status. As Philip Ryken said in his book on Galatians, "The reason union with Christ is such a magnificent doctrine is that once we get into Christ by faith, then everything Christ has ever done becomes something we have done. It's as if we had lived his perfect life and died his painful death. It's as if we were buried in his tomb and then raised to glorious heaven. God attaches to us the events of Christ's life so that they become part of our lives. His story- the story of the cross and empty tomb- becomes our story."

This is the greatest identity to have. In our crazy me-centered world it's easy to live looking for our identity within ourselves. That's what everything around us is telling us to do. And for the transracially adopted child that is an even bigger deal. But that's not where true and lasting joy and hope are found. With an identity in Christ, we need not base who we are and what we are worth on things that have anything to do with us. Instead, if we are Christians, we need to base our identity on Jesus.
And that's where it hits me again and again. I need to use the Gospel- which is the means to our identity being in Christ- as the healing agent in the pains of adoption that my sons will encounter. Yes, there is still a need to do the best we can in the areas of exposing them to positive influences of people who look like them, and reading and researching on how best to help our boys grow up secure and confident in their heritage. And yes, it is still educating ourselves about race, our boys about race, and doing everything we can to help them live and thrive in a world that is still very gripped by the pains of racism. Absolutely. But it is the Gospel that will free them. The Gospel will bring meaning to this life. The Gospel will bring identity and purpose.

On the days where the questions are asked and the answers are hard to hear, and we realize that as White parents we fall so very short of truly understanding the world our sons will navigate with brown skin, I pray that the Holy Spirit gives us the words to say to not only educate our boys but to minister the Gospel to their hearts. That we tell them again and again, who they really are, and who their identity will be in if they trust in Jesus. This is what I want for my sons. I want them to be able to say, "My confidence, my identity is not found in anything having to do with me or my story. It's found in Jesus." That is the prayer of my heart, and that is where true healing and life begins.

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