Today’s question comes from Donny:
Religion is a big part of your life – how are you raising the kids within a faith-based environment and why is it important to you and Steve?
One thing Steve & I have learned over the past 2 years is that our Christian faith is THE THING that gets us through the rockier patches of adoption. But it’s also THE THING that has the most “What the heck? I didn’t sign up for THIS!” response from the Cherubs.
The Cherubs ask us repeatedly, “But why didn’t you TELL US you were Christians?” I never know what to say. We didn’t withhold it. I’m pretty sure it came up the second time we met them. But in the same way we didn’t tell them at our first meeting that Steve watches every Bruins game, or that I love to sing but can’t carry a tune, faith seems like something you show more than you tell. To say, “We’re Christians” seems meaningless without context, especially as something they were being invited into.
But in hindsight, there’s something we could have done to ease this process.
When the kids’ social worker, Janna, first told them about us, she brought them photo-books Steve & I put together to introduce ourselves and give them a glimpse into their new lives. (Walgreens did an amazing job with these.) This way they wouldn’t be left to wonder what we looked like, or what our house looked like, or our dog. It gave them something tangible to look at as they struggled to wrap their minds around this strange new reality.
[Because not much is stranger than being told that you’re going to meet new people tomorrow, and those people will be your new parents.]
We personalized a photo book for each of them. The opening page had pictures of us, with notes about our jobs, hobbies, how we met, etc. Of course there were pictures of Bergie. (We suspected – correctly – that she would be a selling point even when they weren’t too sure about us.) There were pics of the outside of our house, and of the rooms that would become their bedrooms. Then we showed some shots from around our city, including their new school and some local places where they and their future friends might hang out.
(Note: We can’t take credit for the photo-book idea. It was suggested in our MAPP training class, one of many ideas and resources that helped us during this process.)
I thought of including something about faith in their photo books, but I couldn’t figure out what to use for a picture. We weren’t attending a particular church at the time, so I couldn’t anchor the concept with a building. And a picture of a Bible seemed daunting and heavy, which isn’t us at all. We enjoy our faith – it’s a fun, empowering part of our lives. Since they’d be living it out with us, it seemed like something best explained in person.
In hindsight, we probably should have used a picture of a beach or a sunset, or even of a page in one of my books where I describe what it was like to get to know Jesus. Something to suggest that this was important to us, and help start the conversation about what that means. I’m not sure it would have made the Cherubs more amenable to faith, but at least they wouldn’t feel like it snuck up on them.
Even though the Cherubs aren’t always psyched to be Christian, Steve and I really are. There have been countless times when we’ve said to each other, “Only Jesus can help us now!” Sometimes we’re being funny, but other times – when we’re discouraged and at the end of ourselves – it feels like the absolute truth. I think parenting might be like this generally, but adoption is especially so – we just don’t have what it takes. We don’t. Steering and shepherding another person’s life is too big an endeavor, especially when you come into a life that’s already well in progress. So in the moments when I don’t have vision for a good future for them, or for us…I know for sure that God does. And so I say that, repeatedly: “Jesus, thank you that you love these kids, that you have a plan for their lives, and that it’s a good plan. Thank you that you have what they need even when I don’t. Bless them and help them…”
Shockingly, it works. There’s something about not being in it alone, about not being the biggest authority in the room, about having spiritual power available when earthly power is fruitless, that makes SUCH tangible difference in our lives.
Jesus saves my bacon, time and time again. No joke.
Now that they’ve been around it awhile, the Cherubs see this, too. Our church recently started a Life Group that meets on Wednesday nights. It’s massively inconvenient for us to get there – the kids have to rush through dinner and bring their homework, and the drive + parking takes forever. But after the second or third week, they noticed how much of a difference that time with friends in prayer & scripture study makes in our happiness. #2 Cherub has said to me more than once when I’m worried or stressed, “You’ll feel better after Life Group.” #1 Cherub has asked Steve to pray for him about different things. And they both tell us about people and situations, asking if we can pray for them as a family. By watching us live out our faith day to day, they’re absorbing the understanding that this gives us access to help we wouldn’t have otherwise.
That’s the WHY for us. We want our kids to have access to all that God has for them, and the way to that is Jesus. But we can’t just say that. We have to live it, and answer questions about why we do things this way, and give them the chance to make it their own.
Only God knows what the Cherubs’ faith journeys will look like down the line. But we want them to have a foundation to work from – something specific to respond to, wrestle with, make decisions about – rather than leaving them awash in all the possibilities of all the religions. To walk in ANY direction, you need something to stand on.
In the Bible, God promises that if we “train up a child in the way that they should go, when they are older they will not depart from it.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will live their faiths exactly like we do. It just means that Jesus will guard and guide them, steering them back to his best again and again.
Tomorrow, I’ll dive into HOW we’re doing this, and what it’s been like to plant a new church in the middle of our adoption process.
Thanks Donny, for the great question :)