Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When Things Get Messy

I returned a couple weeks from my college homecoming and was so happy to see many of my old friends. However, when I returned I began to ponder my former world view that I heard spoken about at the college. I have been planning to blog about it but Sheri, a person totally unrelated to that situation, coincidentally wrote about some of the same things I have been thinking.

And for those of you who are my friends from college, please realize that my thoughts are not as a result of seeing you, but more about the memories of my former way of thinking.

When people are living in a world where everything is black and white and everything make sense it all goes pretty well. I was that way growing up and it worked for me. There were things that were right, and things that were wrong, and good Christians didn't do those things, nor did they hang around the people who did. They were trying not to "conform to the patterns of this world" as Romans 12 says, and thus, they never spent much time in it. And for many people this can work for most of their lives.

Unless something happens and life gets messy. Unless a friend or relative comes out of the closet, or a spouse decides to have an affair, or a child rebels and doesn't return to the fold, or a multitude of other things. Then all of the sudden all the black and whiteness gets replaced by greys that are uncomfortable. Questions about how to respond to people when it wasn't supposed to turn out that way plague them. Often Christians draw a line in the sand regarding a person's choices -- I done that a few too many times -- and what I have found is that the line becomes a circle, and the person does not stand on the outside for very long.

I saw this article the other day about why some Christians don't adopt and I loved it because it was the essence of what I've been saying for a long time -- just because something is hard doesn't mean we shouldn't do it. However, I would like to take it one step further.

Often Christians don't choose to adopt from foster care. I am certainly not saying that international adoption or infant adoption is not a good thing -- it is and I believe it is the Christians role to do that too. But adopting older children from foster care is often a third choice -- even for Christians.

Some Christians dont adopt from foster care because it's too messy. Raising hurt kids throws wrenches into all the black and whites of the conservative evangelical approach to life. When I was growing up, I would have been horrified at the thought of being the mom to seven children who had been arrested, a pregnant teenage daughter, a convicted felon.... to being the victim of my kids verbally and physically assaulting me -- to having kids who swore multiple times a day. My biggest issues then were whether or not I would disappoint my parents forever if I chose to start going to movies at a theatre when I turned 18.

So as I reflect on all of this, I still long for the days when my life and everything in it made sense. But fostering and adopting children means crossing the line and getting involved -- not only knee deep, but actually swimming in the world, a world that is messy and dirty and sometimes evil and that never, ever fits together in a neat little box.

I'm not suggesting that the lives of people who don't adopt are perfect. But imperfection certainly was not their plan from the start. They were sensible enough to hope and plan for a life that would be safe, secure and predictable. Anyone who adopts older children from the foster care system, knowingly or unknowingly, invites the world into their home, sometimes making their lives unsafe, insecure and highly unpredictable.

I'm satisfied with our choice to adopt older kids. I believe we've done what called us to do. I don't think we've always done everything right. We've struggled, we've disagreed and had to come to resolution, we've had to settle for less than the ideal choices by some of our kids, and we've suffered through a lot of pain that we could have avoided.

But the result is that we have become more compassionate, more understanding, more wise, more tolerant, and more appreciative of the good days. We have been refined by fire, developed more character, and seen God do amazing things. I am a different person that I could or would have been otherwise and I am grateful.

(Disclaimer: I had no intention of offending or hurting anyone while writing down my thoughts -- and I'd love to hear others thoughts on this...)

10 comments:

debbiem said...

i really, really loved this post. it reflects much of my own thinking. being an older mom, and doing all this for the 2nd time, i very often think the way you are thinking. my peers for the most part, don't get the "messiness" of what i chose to do. i no longer draw lines and make decisions in black and white. and feel much better about my decisions because i do that. having strict boundaries excludes lots of people and choices from your life. i am much more comfortable believing the way i do now. and not just giving lip service to the saying, until you've walked in their shoes... now i really live that philosophy.

debbiem said...

i really, really loved this post. it reflects much of my own thinking. being an older mom, and doing all this for the 2nd time, i very often think the way you are thinking. my peers for the most part, don't get the "messiness" of what i chose to do. i no longer draw lines and make decisions in black and white. and feel much better about my decisions because i do that. having strict boundaries excludes lots of people and choices from your life. i am much more comfortable believing the way i do now. and not just giving lip service to the saying, until you've walked in their shoes... now i really live that philosophy.

Poor Ophelia said...

Indeed - a great post. I grew up in a messy world and our choice to adopt from foster care (in the eyes of some people), does seem unnecessarily messy to them.

Getting involved with other peoples lives may lead to destruction, stolen vehicles and numerous things that can't be controlled. I'm scared but ready for that challenge. It has taken us a long time to build a home - I never had one growing up, and now that we do, I'm ready to share and take the bad with the good as it comes.

Lindy said...

Living in the trenches is hard. Most mainstream Christians want a nice neat world where they never have to see the ugly. They also somehow think they are owed at least a middle class lifestyle,but I won't head there today.
Anything that detracts from their version of life must be due to someone else's' sin and must be avoided. A good part of the New Testament is reworded so they can feel good about ignoring most of the world.
When it pertains to adoption,mainly older child via foster care adoption, it makes me a little angry. These are hurt children. They are not less in need of a family. They are not contagious. They are hurt. They do not act the way your child who has been loved since birth and protected from the swill behaves. They have lived in hell and have the burns to prove it.
Those of us who are called to parent them are not given a whole lot of help. We are given a very hurt child and a handshake. Some of our workers have lied to us. Some of our children are not who we were told they were. You learn to deal. That is grace BTW. Dealing with the stuff no one else wants to deal with and maintaining your sanity. It isn't like we are given a medal or anything. What we get is a quick lesson in humility and self defense. I think most of us who keep some semblance of sanity have a warped sense of humor,and a reliance on God to get through that most do not need. I mean if your biggest parenting issue is Johnny isn't cleaning his room and Suzie had a spat with the girl down the street,what need do you have for the wisdom from above.
Have a child tell you all about guarding the door while BM turned tricks and being molested by a half a dozen adults and you need some wisdom. (and a place to throw up where you child can't see you)
Our kids are the walking wounded. Many of them try and recreate the hell they were used to in our homes.
Now you need wisdom!
I remember once an church acquaintance was appalled my oldest son told me to shut up or that he hated me and I didn't react.
She was even more appalled when I told her we were working on him not calling me a F*cking B*tch and not throwing the furniture.
With my youngest one now,I am not even to the point of worrying about the f*cking b*tch,preferring to deal with his homicidal ideation's instead.
And people wonder why we aren't in church anymore.....

"Show me your faith without works and I will show you my faith by my works"

J. said...

you my dear are brillant and articulate and that was so well written. When people meet our boys they always ask where htye are from - the people at our parish act as though we can walk on water all because we have adopted older kids from the system... I think this is what we were called to, I believe with every fiber of my being ( even though I don't always like it) that the kids that are meant to be in my life will be the kids that are here.

On another note altogether I talked about today at a meeting where I tried to kick our local CAS into providing some post adoption support and I am slowly making head way. I need some short but powerful quotes about adoption - I thought you might have a few up your sleeve, I mentioned Christine's village/roofv one and although we all enjoyed it wasn't quite what we are looking for - got any suggestions. You can comment ont he blog or email me - stellarparenting @ hotmail. com ( take out the spaces)

advocatemom said...

Awesome post, Claudia!

Lindy--CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP!!!!

Nancy said...

We have been living this learning curve for about 12 years. We adopted infants privately back in the 90's and yet have experiences very similar to the ones you describe in your foster-adopted kids. For us the shame and bewilderment of knowing they have been in our care and the cirle of love called "our family" since birth has been hard to swallow considering both of our children have behaved well outside the tidy lines of Christian ideals since puberty hit and even before. On the one hand we face the ignorance of racist comments such as: "See it's in their culture-there's nothing you can do about that!" At other times, we navigate the crises of promiscuity, assaults, delinquency, court orders,etc.all while receiving pity, and sympathy not true support. Neither kind of "support" is helpful and both are dripping with the evidence of what you have described so aptly as being the prevalent attitude of Christians who want to live their lives far too insulated. It is, however, good to look at the cross to get a good picture of what to expect as a Chistian parent. Its going to get bloody and painful but it is all meant to bring about God's kingdom here on earth. Why are we so surprised?!

Missy said...

Thank you, Claudia. You have such a gift for putting our experiences as adoptive parents into words. :) The life that we lead is so far from any kind of "normal." Many Christians will say, "yes, it is our job to care for orphans..." but will not step up and do something. Thank you for speaking out about this!

Angela said...

a beautiful post
my thoughts exactly
- to think I once thought of adoption as a way I could swoop in and rescue a child who would be grateful!

Day said...

Thank you for this post, I really need this today! As a bio parent first and then as an adoptive parent I had to change my thinking. Learning to truly accept and love. Learning to not make excuses when my child acts up in public and embarrasses me to death with his unusual behavior. So many times I have wanted to say "he's adopted" just to avoid strangers condemning looks.

Know I know that my own "perfect" children would have benefited greatly from my new outlook on life. Maybe they wouldn't have felt so burdened to be "perfect".

I love all my children. Now when people ask me which ones are adopted I usually respond "I don't know, I've forgotten!"