Recent years have been like a crash course in adoption for me, which is strange given that I’m not adopting anyone.
It started with a promotion at work, where I took on eight of my own clients. These clients were all adults, but most of them had spent time in foster care during their youth. It was simultaneously fascinating and heartbreaking to watch these clients behave in such unusual ways. While all of them were eventually adopted by loving parents, their conduct years later was still that of an abandoned child. If you’ve never witnessed this, I’ll try and explain what I mean.
The majority of social interactions these clients engaged in included some form of provocation, and a whole lot of defensiveness. I was told by the psychologist at work that this was extremely common behavior for adoptees. I saw more evidence of this as friends of my own adopted children,where the same perplexing and frustrating behavior showed up in kids who seemed to have built fortresses around their own hearts.
Now the people I call mom and dad are biologically my parents, so I’m certainly not a product of foster care and there is no doubt that I’m not living in a crisis comparable to that of an abandoned child. On the other hand, the Bible repeatedly reminds all Christians that they have been adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High God. That implies that everyone has been an orphan, and most of us can recall a time when we felt abandoned, betrayed and alone.
I’ve seen this in my own life; from friends who rejected me, to family members who have failed me, even to a husband who promised me “forever” only to shortly thereafter say “eh, maybe not.”
When you consider a lifetime of disaffection and alienation, the behavior of real orphans doesn’t seem so complex. It appears even logical for the orphan to say; “I’m going to push rather than be pushed. Hurt before someone hurts me. Reject other before I get rejected.”
I’m not an orphan anymore, I’ve got more brothers and sisters than I could count now. A husband who would die for me. A savior who already did. I’m anything but an orphan, but you wouldn’t know that by watching me.
I’ve spent a lot of time pushing, hurting and rejecting other people. When I’m not doing that, I’m interacting with loved ones in a way that begs to be excluded rather than waiting for the inevitable hammer of abandonment to drop. A friend told me last night; “I sometimes feel like you are daring me to reject you.”
I wish it were just a dare. It’s more like outright provocation.
No matter what form “orphan behavior” takes, it’s pretty much just the same damn thing. It’s me dragging all my hurt and junk around with me everywhere I walk, almost like a dead pet whose burial I’ve put off. I know the carcass is rotting, but I just don’t want to let it drop. I mean, what happens after your hands are free?
The way I see it, I’ve got two options.
I could accept that I’m not alone anymore. That I’m loved and safe and belong somewhere. Or I could continue on the way I always have, which is exhausting and lonely but definitely safe from hurt.
You know those crappy “Bible verse a Day” emails you can sign up for? I hate those, but i’m somehow signed up for like eight of them. As I was deleting like a dozen of those last night, I came across this one;
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Well, I guess that kind of settles things doesn’t it? Stupid spam email.