For most of my life, I’ve been a socialite. Simply put, I enjoy people. I am, by nature, a networker. If you mention a need to me, I begin thinking through who I know that could help you. If you talk about an interest you have, I’ll search my mental Rolodex for someone you need to meet or collaborate with. It’s an interesting trait and one my wife thinks very strange. She used to tease me for being the “let’s grab lunch” guy. Most every conversation I engaged ended with, “Let’s grab lunch soon.” I meant it. If your calendar is free, I’d love to meet up and talk with you. Name the time and place.
A few years ago, I realized that this “people” trait was an identity for me. I had an incessant desire to know more people, to increase my network. I began to struggle with this identity. Where was it coming from? What satisfied my desire to know more people. There are 7 billion people in the world and I, obviously, can’t know all of them. As I looked back over life, this was a habit for me. I didn’t like being alone.
I share all of that to lead to this. Adoption is a process, not an identity. Adoption is something that happens to you, not who you are. For the longest time I said, “I am adopted.” This gives the connotation, I don’t fit naturally in my circumstances so you need to know I am adopted. I don’t belong here. If you look at my family, you’ll quickly see, I look different. I’m 6’4″, my dad is 5’11”, my mom 5’4″. Both my parents are fair complected with blue eyes. I have dark hair and brown eyes. My 2 middle siblings, a brother and a sister, both have light hair and blue eyes. My youngest brother (who was also adopted) and I both have dark hair, dark eyes and both over 6′ tall. We don’t fit. So I used being adopted as an excuse. I found ways to fit in other situations more naturally and being around people was one of those coping mechanisms. I found other avenues to feel like I belonged.
This created quite a conundrum around my family. I was an absentee. For much of my teenage years I was gone. I went to school, had a job, engaged in extracurricular activities around our school and spent 16-18 hours a day away from home. When I was 20, I moved 6 hours away from my family. I was gone. In all of this, I bought into the lie that I didn’t fit, I didn’t belong. I bought into the idea that adoption is an identity.
Adoption is a process. It’s a process of responsibility changing hands. Sometimes this responsibility changes hands for good reasons, sometimes for bad ones. In my case, my birthmother was young and ill-prepared to raise a child. She relinquished the day-to-day responsibilities and my parents took them on. In our family, the same story is true. A young girl, unprepared to parent, gave us the great joy of parenting and raising our son. This process has a beginning and an ending. For us, March 25th, 2011, we finalized our adoption. The process of responsibility changing hands was completed. For our son, it’s not “He IS adopted.” It’s “He WAS adopted.”
My identity (now) is found in bigger things than being adopted. At age 17, I completely surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. My identity now is in Him (see Galatians 2:20). To my wife, my identity is Husband. To my kids, my identity is Daddy. To some, it’s friend. To my siblings, it’s brother. To some, it’s pastor or teacher. To others, it’s missionary. To me, my identity is in Christ and His work on the cross for me. That is my identity.
If you were adopted or are thinking about adopting a child, this is a crucial lesson. Your identity is not wrapped up in your adoption. That process is finished (or will be finished with your child). Train yourself not to buy into the lie that being adopted is a curse or a stigma. It is a blessing! You are not alone or abandoned. Find comfort in the thought that God offers us adoption as His sons and daughters. You belong right where you are. Discover your identity in that, not in a series of events in your life.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
(Galatians 4:4-7 ESV)
To see other posts in the series, go to An Adoption Journey