The messiness and beauty of adoption
A mom reflects on how far her son has come
By Natalie Maxwell
We always knew we would adopt someday.
God laid adoption on my heart as a young girl, but when I pictured what adoption would be like, I pictured a beautiful story where the pain and brokenness of a child’s past would be quickly overshadowed by a love- and hope-filled future. I have since learned that adoption is much messier than I ever imagined.
The pain and brokenness that adopted children bring into a family don’t get erased when they receive a new name. In reality, adoption is a journey of sacrifice and unconditional love. We often think of it as a rescuing – and in a way that’s true – but the thing I wish people would understand about adoption is that it isn’t pretty. We can call it a beautiful act because we know the outcome; just like we can call Jesus’ suffering and death a beautiful act because we know that it isn’t the end of the story.
The other day our six-year-old son, who has been in our family just over two years, was in church with us singing: “Saved, we are saved! The gates of heaven wide open. Saved, we are saved. The keys to the grave have been stolen.”
As the music built up, his little voice kept getting louder and louder, until he was practically screaming. I can’t deny that my initial urge was to quiet him, but almost as soon as I had the thought, I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me, Don’t you dare.
Like a movie playing in my head, I remembered how this child did not know how to make eye contact, or how he would scream and destroy things for no reason at all. Aggression and destruction were all he knew. I remembered how he would rock back and forth for hours each day, soothing himself because no one had ever held or snuggled him. I remembered looking into his eyes and seeing only anger and fear. I remembered the times of complete and utter desperation when I would cry out to God – asking him to give me love for this child who seemed to hate me and who I sometimes couldn’t even muster up the will to like very much.
Those memories were still vivid in my mind, but in that moment at church, I looked down at this child with his hands lifted, proclaiming lyrics that I wondered if he really understood … and that’s when the tears began to stream down my face.
I realized with newfound clarity that the miracle of adoption has zero to do with me and everything to do with the One who invented it. The One whose heart breaks for the broken-hearted. The One who will leave the 99 to retrieve the one lost sheep. The One who saw every moment of loneliness, neglect and abuse that my child suffered, and chose an imperfect couple to be vessels of his relentless love – not because we are anything special, but simply because we were willing.
In that moment, as my child screamed “saved!” at the top of his lungs, I understood the beauty of salvation deeper than ever because God has given me the privilege of shepherding this boy through the trenches of pain and trauma. My son is no longer the same child he was two years ago, or even a year ago, and I can see the dramatic changes taking place in his life. I can see hope.
My child is no longer consumed with anger, no longer chained by his fears. He is free to be a little boy again. He still carries the scars of past suffering, but he is learning that because of Jesus and because of adoption, those scars don’t define who he is any more.
And that, my friends, is the beauty of adoption. It’s heartbreaking pain and radiant beauty, hand in hand. It’s not an easy love story, but no true love story ever is.
Natalie Maxwell is a writer and an advocate for special needs and adoptive families. She resides in North Dakota with her husband and their five children.
© 2017 Natalie Maxwell. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at FocusOnTheFamily.com.