The Brokenness of Adoption

27 years ago today, my family picked me up from JFK airport and officially adopted me into their lives as their daughter, sister, niece, and granddaughter. I was seven months old, fresh off the plane, and as ready as a baby can be for a new language, new family, and new life. For most of my life, I have celebrated my adoption day as a day of joy, rewatching home movies, and celebrating with my family. But today, I woke up a little shaken, not as ready to celebrate.

Don’t get me wrong. I am beyond grateful for my family and the many ways God provided for me during the first year of my life. But I have to be honest with myself when I find myself struggling as an adoptee. I have to remind myself that adoption exists because brokenness exists, because of cracks in the perfect system God originally designed. Had the world not experienced the Fall, I don’t think adoption would have to exist. But because the world is fallen, we experience separation from God, separation from the world, and separation from each other.

Many compare my adoption to the adoption we all receive into the family of God. And it’s true, there are similarities. I was adopted because of a broken situation; we all are adopted by God because of a broken humanity. We experience adoption into the family of God because we are born apart from God. There is no adoption without first separation. There is no redemption without first brokenness. There is no resurrection without first crucifixion.

But the difference between earthly adoption and heavenly adoption is significant and often overlooked. With my adoption, I was separated from my birth family, my heritage, and my country of origin. With spiritual adoption, we are separated from sin and our old life. When my adoption gets compared to spiritual adoption, it subconsciously teaches me that my old life is bad. Everything associated with my life before January 21, 1988 is bad – my heritage and home country and even my race should be completely left behind so I can fully embrace the new life. The metaphor can even be stretched to tell me that I should be praying to God, asking him to remove my sinful yearnings for my old life. I mean, I was rescued out of the pits, people! Who would ever want to go back there?

The truth is, most people who have made that reference are well-meaning and hoping to relate to me in some way. “You’ve been adopted, me too! We are all adopted in the family of God! Isn’t it amazing?” And yes, it is amazing. It is a gift. But while there are similarities between the two adoption narratives, the metaphor is not consistent, and therefore not always helpful.

I don’t have the answers. I don’t have any solutions. I’ve really only just begun processing my adoption story and its impact on my life and ministry. But what I do know is that I serve an amazing God who loves me completely. I know that I have a loving family who calls me their own. I know that I have been called to a lifelong journey of partnering with Jesus in his mission to bring full restoration to a broken world. And I know that brokenness is not fixed easily and that it takes a lot of time, effort, and intentionality. May I be a person who takes the time, who puts in the effort, and who lives intentionally for the glory of His Kingdom.

My Word of 2015

I have publicly shamed selfies for being a narcissistic validation tool for insecure people who determine their value by the number of likes their pictures got. I never understood the point of taking and posting selfies in banal situations (Woke up like this! #selfie. Made a smoothie! #selfie. TGIF!! #selfie), nevertheless posting anywhere from 5 to 197,234 pictures distinguished only by varying degrees of head tilts and pursed lips.

And while I still believe all that to be true to an extent, I realized today that the real reason I disliked selfies was because I disliked myself. I actually did take selfies, but then I would scrutinize them, attempt to filter them, and then ultimately deem them as unworthy to post alongside the selfies of my beautiful friends. I wasn’t pretty enough, my eyes are differently shaped, my face too fat, my outfit not trendy. The few selfies I talked myself into posting on Instagram were immediately regretted and I almost deleted. I didn’t want to BE narcissistic, nor did I want anyone else to think that I was. I wanted to be focused on others, not on myself.

Because of varying difficult things that happened in 2014, I started going to counseling. Perhaps next to marriage, counseling is the hardest thing I’ve attempted last year. Because, just like I didn’t like selfies because of my outward appearance, I didn’t like counseling because I didn’t like my inward appearance. It was ridiculously hard to dive into both past and present circumstances during our sessions, and even harder to go home and have to consider all the crap that was dug up, and then harder still to admit all of this to my husband. I didn’t want to look at the crap – it was messy and broken and I just wanted to leave it alone and walk away.

But throughout this year, I have come to a fuller realization that I’m worth looking at. I am worth spending time on, whether it’s my hair or my heart. It seems like a “duh” thought, that I need to spend time caring for myself so I can care for others (especially in ministry!), but I was torn between thinking it was unnecessary and just not wanting to deal with my life. If I didn’t admit my mess to anyone, I could pretend it didn’t exist, just like not posting selfies meant I could pretend I didn’t have issues with my physical appearance.

But this year, I want to be able to look in the mirror and see my worth with #nofilter. I want to continue counseling, because it’s just as good to hold a mirror up to my soul as it is to hold the front-facing camera on my phone up to my face. And as narcissistic as it may feel to me sometimes, I want to see myself. So my word of 2015 is “selfie.”

It’s Day 3 of Lent and I’m Already Failing

On Tuesday (the day before Lent began, of course), I read a really inspiring article that a lot of my friends were posting on social media – 40 Bags in 40 Days. I immediately fell in love with the idea. I love decluttering and reorganizing and coming up with systems to hold all my stuff. I’m moving in a few months, and this would give me a kickstart in organizing my things to move. So I said to myself, “Let’s do this! This is perfect for me and my situation.” And therein lies the problem of why I’ve only participated in 1 day out of 3 so far, and why I feel little motivation to go 30-some more days with this decluttering schedule.

Because I made Lent all about me. My love of organizing. My situation of moving. My stuff.

From a secular perspective, Lent is a second chance at achieving our New Years resolutions. Wanted to lose weight but haven’t started? Give up sweets and soda! Need to save money? Pledge to not buy anything new for the next 40 days! Feeling spiritually dry? Promise to revamp your quiet times!

And then what is supposed to be a 40 day period of lament, fasting, and looking to Jesus becomes another self-satisfying, self-gratifying, self-improvement phase under the cover of a religious tradition.

Lent is about giving things up – not to give us bragging rights about how long we went without ice cream – but so that we are more aware of Jesus’ presence in our lives. Lent is about losing – not weight or clutter – but about losing our lives for the sake of the Gospel. Lent is about us – not our problems or our desires or our good deeds – but about our constant need for Jesus to be transforming us and making us more and more like him in his image.

Whatever we give up for Lent – that is not a bad thing. 40 Bags in 40 Days is not bad. Giving up chocolate or Facebook is not bad. But shifting our focus from Jesus to us? That’s a bad thing. Being proud of our endurance and willpower? That’s a bad thing.

The good news is that Jesus knows what to do when we inevitably turn His good things into bad things.

So maybe I shouldn’t give up quite yet on this 40 Bags thing. But the first things to go in a bag need to be my ego, my plans, and my pride – to make space for the only One who can really clean out my life.