July 31, 2013

Adoption Words Used in Church & Other Places
(The Night I Ate the Whole Bag of Kisses)

Imagine my surprise when arriving at a pastors' wives retreat years ago to discover that the theme for the weekend was, “Relinquish.”

Photo Credit: Lisa Marie R, Flickr

The weekend had nothing to do with relinquishing babies. The retreat was about relinquishing hurt, pain, burdens, worries, etc. If I wasn’t adopted I would have thought this was a pretty cool theme. But I am adopted, and I’ll admit it got excruciating to sit there for three days hearing literally dozens, maybe even a hundred times that we needed to relinquish…relinquish...relinquish. "God is calling for total relinquishment, ladies!" we heard over and over during the weekend. I got so tired of hearing it, I left one of the sessions early, laid across my bed in the hotel and ate a bag of Hershey kisses they gave us when we checked in.

Another time when my husband and I were youth pastors we took our teens to a youth convention. In the opening service, the worship leaders for the weekend kicked it off with an upbeat worship song entitled, “I’m Adopted!” The lyrics were about being adopted by God (as in experiencing salvation) but I don’t remember too much of it other than that. When they got to the bridge of the song, thousands of teens and their leaders began clapping and swaying back and forth shouting, “I’m adopted! I’m adopted! I’m adopted! I’m adopted!”  I sat down and put my head in my hands and just started praying. My husband leaned down and said, “Are you alright babe?” and I just said, “I’m praying.”  He didn’t even ask anything more. He knew. 

Photo Credit: Joyosity, Flickr
Adoption related words are used for other things in life besides child adoption. This can sometimes cause triggers for adoptees or mothers of loss. An adoptee friend who is a lawyer tells me she hears the word “adopted” and “adoption” constantly in her office, having nothing to do with child adoption but referring to laws that have been adopted or are currently in process.  She says this is sometimes a very personal and private challenge for her. But she continually casts the thought down each time it comes, seemingly a zillion times a day, just so she can be successful at work. 

I thought of how many times we hear words connected to adoption in church, having nothing to do with child adoption, never-the-less they can be triggering. Some adoptees have told me they can’t sit through a church service when hearing certain words over and over because instead of really hearing what the worship leader, pastor, and most of all God  intends for them to hear they are suddenly thinking of their (worldly – having nothing to do with the Bible or salvation) adoption.

The words abandonment or abandon can be triggering. I have preached sermons on abandonment to God or living abandoned to His will. I believe in it, totally. I live it. I’m passionate about it! And yet, I sometimes struggle with these words.

 One of the biggest triggers for many friends of mine is simply calling God, “Father.” They don’t know who their father is, or he has rejected them, been absent, or mistreated them.  I understand some people’s struggle with this, yet I’ve never had a problem with it.  I’ve always seen God as my Father from thetime I was a little girl. I have leaned on Him for everything. He’s why I’m still here. I know we are all different, and just because this doesn’t trigger me doesn’t mean it’s not a real hurdle for others.

Photo Credit: Dane Hendren, Flickr
Redeemed is another word that is difficult for some adoptees and mothers of loss because millions of the mothers were told if they relinquished their children, they would be “redeemed.” God would “redeem” their mistake and their life, and give them a new start. Even now the National Council for Adoption throws around the word redeemed a lot. (It’s not just a thing of the past as some claim! Women are still being told this lie to get them to place their children for adoption.)  Of course we know relinquishing a child doesn’t redeem anyone. Only God redeems people. Giving up babies doesn’t redeem anyone or give them a new start.  

I’m not saying we shouldn’t use these adoption related words in church or otherwise. I use them myself, refusing to forfeit them to adoption. The point of my post today is to educate some who may not realize how and why some people may react when hearing certain words.

The next time the pastor comes to the pulpit and says, “Father God loves you, has adopted you and wants to redeem you as you completely relinquish and abandon all to him…” and you see a person who looks kind of sad instead of overjoyed at this incredible news, maybe there’s more to it than you know.  More than likely they are in need of healing because they have experienced trauma related to these words, in the form of adoption.

By the way, speaking of adoption words, I would be remiss if I wrote a post on this topic and didn't share my friend Laura Dennis's amazing Adoption Glossary.