I once believed that adoption was my weakness. I no longer think this true. Adoption has become my strength.
There was a time in my life when I thought of myself as fragile. I had been internationally adopted out of foster care, as a child. I viewed myself as broken. After all, I questioned, what parent would leave behind a child that was whole? There must be a kind of brokenness about me. I was convinced that the shattered pieces of me were the driving force behind my parents’ decision to walk away. I had done something wrong. I must have committed some sin that mom and dad could not forgive.
That’s a heavy burden for a little one to carry on her shoulders. Yet, I did. I carried it; this feeling of brokenness followed me everywhere. Many adoptees describe this feeling as loneliness: a sense of chronic loss and alienation. It’s a sensation of being different and of never quite fitting in.
Adoption is a life-long journey, and a part of that journey often involves navigating the fallout of abandonment. An adult adoptee recently wrote to me that, “You never get over abandonment. You live with it. The scars are always there. You have lost something that can never be returned to you.”
For countless adoptees, these types of feelings get buried until the pain becomes unbearable: a pain that will surface without warning — sometimes sabotaging relationships, dreams and goals. Trust doesn’t come easy. Joy seems like a distant fairytale. Sadness takes root, settling within the deepest parts of self.
I understand this struggle, intimately. I know, all too well, this companion called sadness. Yet, as I have grown in my faith — I have been awakened to a truth that was not shared with me as a younger person: we were created for joy. Each and every one of us was made for joyful living. This does not mean that we won’t face difficult times in our lives, or that people won’t let us down. No. It means that living inside the walls of sadness is not a natural state of being. It means that weakness is a lie fed to us in order to silence the inherent voice of joy.
Every adoptee possesses this innate voice. It’s time that we release it, unafraid and assured. Adoption is not a weakness. Adoptees are not weak. In fact, adoptees are stronger than they may know.
Nehemiah 8:10 reads, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
For me, this scripture from Nehemiah is a source of great comfort. We are being told not to grieve — to turn from sadness — and find strength in a joy that is heaven-made.
I understand that there is much pain in this world. I know, personally, the heartache of being left by parents. I also have come to know that, as an adoptee, I am not called to suffer. How can I reach my fullest potential within a place of suffering? It’s impossible.
You see, pain is inevitable in this life but suffering is not. From a place of strength — God-centered strength — we can move through the pain that life offers up and avoid becoming mired in suffering. Weakness — birthed of human frailty — is what allows suffering to linger. I experienced a great shift in mindset once I took in this powerful truth.
In Nehemiah, we find an incredible lesson: the joy of the Lord is your strength. This means that during challenging times, the very core of your joy is going to be found in your relationship with God, who is the wellspring of happiness. No matter the hurt, difficulty, hardship or letdown…we can have a relationship with a God whose strength is boundless. Because of this, we have joy. We are strong — through God, and in God.
I’ve lived within the skin of adoption for as long as I can remember. There was a time when I believed that even God had turned away from me. I questioned why He had allowed my parents to leave. Abandonment broke me. Where and how could I begin putting the broken pieces back together? It seemed impossible to detangle all the knotted places within my soul. That is, until I gazed upon myself with kinder eyes…with Godly eyes.
I contemplated that, perhaps, the decisions that were made by my birthparents were not caused by me. I saw myself as an innocent child surrounded by a complicated situation. I was not a complication. I was not a problem. I was not bad.
I was a child — God’s child — created for joy, and with a strong spirit to carry that joy throughout my life. Sadness and suffering would no longer occupy space within me. Strength, an unstoppable spiritual steadiness, could lead me to forgive and move forward. I began to see my birthparents as innocent and I grew a heart of deeper compassion for what they had been through, too.
Suddenly, I viewed my life differently: I saw it as abundant and not as inadequate. I could let go of past pain and be joyful about the future. I could assess the lessons learned along this walk of adoption and use these lessons for a greater good. Suddenly, I sensed the sweet aroma of possibility. I was blossoming into me.
This blossoming is something I want for every adoptee to sense and to realize. We’ve been through so much change in this life, and can speak of being removed and also of being recovered. We’re standing. We’re rising.
As adoptees, we are so much more than the hurt that abandonment injected into our lives. Don’t allow these scars to keep you from living a life of abundance. You are not lost. You are included. More than that, you are needed. If you are different it’s only because you’re a unique and one-of-a-kind treasure. You are God’s child. Trust in this. You were created for joy. You are resilient. You are not weak. You are stronger than you know. You are adoption strong.
Michelle Madrid-Branch is the author of, Adoption Means Love: Triumph of the Heart, which was named a “Top 5 Inspirational Book” by Dolce Vita Magazine.
Real and raw, the book explores the many experiences and emotions of adoptees, adoptive parents, birthparents, foster youth, and foster parents.
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