February 18, 2013

How The Church Hurt Me
An Adoptee Speaks Out (Part 3)

What happens when adoptees share their story at church? The result can bring healing, or harm.

Today's story comes from my friend and fellow Lost Daughters blogger, Samantha. Her story breaks my heart, but also makes me glad I'm a pastor. I want to do absolutely everything in my power to make sure that this NEVER happens at our church. And I want to do everything I can to increase awareness in my sphere of influence with other pastors and leaders.  I am passionate about bringing change regarding this issue, if you can't already tell!  

You can read more of Samantha's writings at her adoption blog, Neither Here Nor There.

As with Part One and Part Two of this series, I will let the story speak for itself and not comment further on the actual post. I look forward to joining readers in the comment section.

Samantha shares:

I am an adoptee in reunion, and love both my families, yet I still have healing to do. I recently joined a women's group at church that is going through the 12 steps of spiritual recovery. I have joined this group in hopes of moving further along on my journey. 

The recovery group includes telling our life-stories and writing letters to our parents which we read out loud in small groups. I'm having a really hard time writing and sharing in the group because there are adoptive mothers in the group. When they have shared, others make extremely sappy comments about how blessed their children are to be in their family. They speak of how adoption is only beautiful. When sharing my story or prayer requests, I do not receive the same level of compassion or understanding that the other women receive. This makes it very hard for me to share and feel safe. 

This group of women are generally very loving and sweet, however I believe my adoption story is just too complex for them to understand and flies against the myth that adoption is so beautiful.   

 It makes me very sad, but at the same time I feel compelled to keep sharing in the group anyway. It took me years to get to the place of openness and vulnerability, to open up, to share and give and receive love, and I don’t want to stop now. It is honestly uncomfortable for me to keep going, because of the societal beliefs about adoption and reunion, yet I press on.

When I do share my experience as an adoptee in the context of my church, the compassion is stopped in it's tracks. I do not receive what the others receive. I get wide-eyed looks of disbelief. They dismiss my pain and suggest that I should just accept that God is my Father.

The end result is, it is very painful as I try to share my feelings. It seems to just heap more pain on, instead of helping. I feel ostracized and misunderstood and not validated as a person. 

It is difficult for adoptees to be denied the freedom to publicly grieve or even acknowledge the pain hidden deep inside over the loss of our mothers or our original selves. Those in my church family offer up things like, “You have a mother…you are special, you are chosen. Why would you need to grieve anything?”  As I share my adoption pain, I am viewed as a weirdo.  

I am not even "safe" as I bring my pain to the altar. One Sunday I came forward for ministry, and one of our official prayer counselors of our church who knows that I am adopted approached to pray for me. Instead of simply praying for me as she was supposed to do, she started out by saying, "God loves adoption." Then as she prayed for me she kept saying, "spirit of adoption...spirit of adoption..." over and over again.  

In Ephesians it says that we cry Abba Father and it speaks of the spirit of "sonship." Some translations of the Bible say, "spirit of adoption" but the more accurate translation from the original Greek says "spirit of sonship" as God's children who can call God their father. However, that scripture  has nothing to do with child adoption. It hits my heart every time I hear, "spirit of adoption" quoted in church.  (Particularly because most times it's taken out of context.)

I recently came to the realization that I will probably never be able to openly express myself regarding life as an adoptee and receive the validation that I so long for, as far as the church goes. During the service, when I am dealing with things about my adoption I sometimes become emotional. What this amounts to is getting up from my seat after church, wiping away my tears and high-tailing it to the ladies room to "freshen up". I hurry past the rest of church society intermingling, conversing, sharing, and connecting to find my private place in the bathroom stall where they will not see me completely undone emotionally.

I’ve come to see that most of society, including the church, doesn’t want the real me. They want the "happy-to-be-adopted" me. The one who may have a hint of curiosity, but nothing that really affects me deeply. I must fulfill the role that others expect of me to be accepted -- the role that was written out on my amended birth certificate, my adoption decree --that is who I am supposed to be. 

The majority of society has bought into this and shrinks back from any adoptee who breaks free, even through the deep help of the Holy Spirit, and and dares to become REAL! Not just the person they were legally created to be -- but who God created them to be. And embrace. And heal. And live.

As I have gone through this work of “becoming real” I have had to do much of the work alone. In secret.

Adoption creates lies to cover truth -- true parentage, true identities, true stories, true realities. They are replaced by man-made truths -- new parentage, new identities, new stories, new "realities". New certificates. New names. New homes. New lives.

But nothing man-made lasts. It eventually crumbles and TRUTH prevails. Even through great pain. 

I'm so glad that someone wants to know the real me.

God wants to know the real me. 
Even if I am in a bathroom stall crying, seemingly alone.