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As hard as this process has been so far—here is what we are learning, slowly and fitfully—it’s supposed to feel this way.
It’s supposed to be this hard.
The grief that all of us are sharing in right now is not abnormal, and it doesn’t mean we’re doing it wrong. In fact, it means we’re doing it right. I think that’s important to acknowledge, because a lot of times in adoption circles all you hear are the positive things, the Instagram-worthy moments. Unless you happen to be close to an adoptive parent and share a quiet conversation over a meal you may never hear some of these things, I think because a lot of people feel like if they talk about how hard it all is that may feel like they are talking badly about their adopted child. While we get that, we’d love to be a voice for realism, because those voices are what has helped us the most.
The one verse that has stuck out to me the most in this process is James 1:27:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
While we are still in the throes of the first few months of our adoption, the word affliction jumps out at me. It pops up from the page and grabs me by the throat, because I see it in my son. When a child does not have a family due to the immense brokenness of the world, that child will be afflicted. He will inherit an enormous, shattering amount of pain. And that affliction—that pain—will not be contained to him. It will go somewhere. It will be passed along to others in one way or another. It has to.
So where I used to read this verse and know the word affliction, now I read it and I feel it.
And, let me tell you, it hurts.
Because here’s the thing: at two months old, Jeremiah was left on the side of a busy highway in a huge city, just outside a subway station and police headquarters. He was wrapped up in blankets with a note pinned to him that said:
He weighed 6 pounds, and he was incredibly sick from an infection that he was born with that kills 20 percent of babies it is passed to. For the next six weeks, a time when babies are supposed to be rocked and cuddled and goo’d and gah’d to, he laid in a hospital bed. He was poked with needles, prodded with tubes, taken care of by shift workers with far too much on their plates. For six weeks, all alone in a hospital room, with no momma there to soothe his cries. Then he went to an orphanage for the next year+ of his life, where he slept in a room with fifty-something cribs lined wall-to-wall and fought for attention and affection every hour he was awake.
Jeremiah's finding spot.
His crib, with his Ayi (nanny).
Because of all this, our son, he carries affliction. Deep, yearning and fierce affliction that comes out with the many tears and tantrums and squeals that are too piercing for words.
And again, that pain—that affliction—will not bottle up inside of him forever. It has to come out, somewhere and somehow. It will either continue to fester in him as he continues his orphan-ness and be unleashed on everyone he meets for the rest of his life, or it can have a source to flow into that will brace for impact and absorb that pain.
Enter the other four members of the Clements family.
What we are learning is that what adoption is, is a family who is willing to step in and say,“We will take your affliction. We will take the very real pain you have from not having a family. We’ll absorb it so you won’t have to bear it anymore…
We will weep on the bathroom floor, so hopefully one day you don’t have to."
All of us, even down to the grinning and slightly confused 8-month-old. We are all posting up under the weight of his affliction, in one way or another.
Because that’s exactly what Jesus has done for us. This is the refrain we keep repeating to ourselves and to Sully, "Because of Jesus, we do hard things to sacrifice for others."
(Tune in tomorrow for Part 3…)