Shannon Dingle shares some reflections on Holy Week from her perspective as an adoptive mom…
People love to talk to me about my family. They comment on the beauty of our diversity, the spiritedness of six children under age 10, and our acceptance of special needs, specialists and whatnot into our world. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard someone gush over our family: “I just love adoption!”
I do too. We wouldn’t have added four children to our family in that way if we didn’t.
But I usually pause at some point in those conversations, weighing if the other person wants the full story. Usually, they don’t. Usually, I wouldn’t offer it anyway, because my children’s stories aren’t mine to tell. Usually, I let the conversation stick to the redemption story side of the equation, the part we all love.
Have we forgotten, though, that all redemption comes with a cost?
Have we become a resurrection people who gloss over the agony of the cross to get to the part when the tomb is finally empty?
Have we willfully skipped over Christ’s pleading in the garden with his Father that there might be another way as we declare that he is risen indeed?
Have we rushed to celebrate Easter without pausing to consider the weight of Good Friday?
It’s Holy Week, and I’m pondering these things in my heart. From just this year’s Lenten season, I could tell you stories of mine and other families like mine in which the brokenness has loomed larger than the beauty: A foster child whose joyful reunification with a mother he loved ended abruptly with a swift return into care just a few days later. A beloved daughter who had been adopted internationally and naturalized as a U.S. citizen but last week had classmates yell, “Go back to Africa!” at her on the playground. A son who has been well fed for years but still steals food for fear of the hunger he still remembers. A child who is re-entering a residential care facility because the trauma she carries is showing up in ways that make her unsafe to herself and others.
These stories are real, but they aren’t finished. We’re longing for the redemption, but we don’t know when it will arrive. We hope it will come on this side of heaven, but it might not, at least not in the ways we’d like.
So for now, we’re resting in the hard places. One of my favorite writers Brené Brown calls it “the messy middle.” In this place, the grief is so palpable we can almost touch it, and joy is something that must be chosen because it certainly isn’t coming naturally. It’s going to be okay, we hope, but it isn’t yet.
We can say things like “it’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” But here’s the thing: the disciples didn’t know Easter was coming. Even if they hoped, they didn’t understand what the timeline would be. Now when we dwell in our own post-Friday but pre-Sunday darknesses, we don’t know how long we’ll wait to see our own resurrection stories or what they’ll look like when they come. God’s promises for us are already granted but not yet fully realized.
Yes, we are a Hallelujah people, and redemption is our song. But let’s not cheapen that redemption by acting like it wasn’t costly. Let’s not look to the folded grave clothes and forget the bloodshed along the way. And let’s not rush the story as if a time jump to Sunday would have made Easter better.
For those who are struggling – in the adoption and foster care world or in the midst of other hard places – let’s be the people who show up on Saturday too. Let’s be present with those who hurt when the public tragedy is over but the private pain is still deep. And let’s believe with our actions that God is enough instead of fooling ourselves into thinking we make anything better when we dress up grief or slap tidy bows on messy packages.
I love adoption. Truly, I do. And I love the Sunday stories when God has made all things new in ways that only he can. We all do. But every adoption is born from some sort of Friday brokenness that meant the parents who bore a child couldn’t or wouldn’t raise him, so let’s own that part of the story too. Let’s own the Saturdays when the loss is heavy and come alongside those whose burdens feel crushing. Let’s not just celebrate with those who celebrate but also mourn with those who mourn.
Let’s be people of the full Gospel, not just the parts we find convenient.
Check out Shannon Dingle’s blog series on adoption, disability and the church. In the series, Shannon looked at the four different kinds of special needs in adoptive and foster families and shared five ways churches can love their adoptive and foster families. Shannon’s series is a must-read for any church considering adoption or foster care initiatives. Shannon’s series is available here.
Thank you for putting this into words for us.
Very true. Thank you for reminding us of Saturday’
Thanks, Shannon, for being willing to articulate adoption from the understanding of both trial and triumph. We easily forget that redemption comes with a cost, and that can be tremendously damaging if we enter into any redeeming work of Christ’s with the expectation of roses and rainbows everyday.
Jackie Pullenger was a missionary to the Walled City in China. I love to quote this line of hers: “The gospel always brings life to the receiver and death to the giver. If the gospel brought death to Jesus Christ why would we think that in preaching the gospel it would be any less for us?”
Adoption is an incredibly powerful picture of what Christ did for us, and the act of adopting and raising an orphaned child is certainly living out the gospel. It is bringing life to others, but death to ourselves.
A wise friend of mine once said she’d rather partner with Christ to bring forth life according to His pattern (first the cross, then the resurrection), than never to produce life at all. When that life has been brought forth, if it has been done according to His pattern, it will bear much fruit for Christ’s glory that will last into eternity. Yes, it will be messy. But it will be worth it.
Of course, I love the flowers and singing birds and rainbows, but I have seen and heard of hurt and pain and I can’t imagine what “our” children are going through. Thank you for the compassion and love you have for others. Thank you for standing in the gap for those in need. God bless you and your husband and precious family as you all work together to make this life a better place for these little ones.
Let’s be the people who help Mothers and their children. Who refuse to use adoption for our own desires. It is fabricated truth.
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Lets backup to the week leading up to the crucifixion rather than showing up on Saturday after the deed has been done – step in so there is no betrayal of the sacred bonds that are broken when infants are removed from their mother’s – supply means, support, assistance and compassion for family preservation, rather than adoption being seen as the only option on the Saturday after the separation has occurred.
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Thank you for this. I shared some similar thoughts about my Saturday journey here: http://thissideofheaven.weebly.com/home/stuck-in-saturday-2016
Thank you for sharing the other side. Adoption is one of those subjects where redemption is so over shared that society finds it difficult to see anything else as part of the story. As a birthmother who chose adoption for my firstborn when I was too young to understand what it meant I appreciate this. I rarely see adoptive mothers talk about the pain, something I’ve grown to know intimately over the years. Grief for a child lost that is not dead is a complex thing that doesn’t seem to get easier but instead grows with time. It’s difficult to talk about because everyone wants to celebrate adoption and society doesn’t give a lot of permission to grieve to the mother who lost the child. I get answers like: “You should celebrate his life,” “you did an amazing thing,” or conversely, “you know he is not yours right? So why do you care?” “it doesn’t matter how you feel, it won’t change anything.” Looking back on my 19 year old pregnant self I wish I could have told her that being a mother is not to be feared and to instill confidence in her. To build her up and equip her with encouragement and tell her not to listen to all the voices telling her she was too young and it would be too hard. That someone married would make a better parent to her child than she would. I was brought up a Christian home and yet the church told me I was not enough because I wasn’t married. I trusted men instead of God and lost my child, who never had to be an orphan. Thirteen years later I have a beautiful one year old boy with my husband of 6 years although we found out Friday we miscarried our second. The sacrifice of Christ this Good Friday really hit home with the loss of this pregnancy, which brings back memories of my first loss in different ways. I trust God’s plan because I know he understands suffering and died so that we may have eternal life without suffering some day. It’s encouraging to see an adoptive mother encourage readers to consider the cost rather than just gush about the blessing. The cost is heavy.
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Beautifully written! Thank you!
This is beautiful. ❤️
I have not had the honor of being an adoptive or foster mom but the things you said really ring true for my own situation. My second child was stillborn and people wanted to put a silver lining on it with us getting pregnant again. This was a gift; a wonderful gift but another child will never be the one lost. The more I look around I see this in so many aspects of our Christian culture. Thanks for writing about this topic.
It’s as if you wrote our adoption story. Thank you for putting that dark Saturday into words. Blessings!
Powerful way to tie in our journeys as adoptive families to our faith in Christ! Thank you!
My church has a wonderful ministry to children with disabilities but they left out some. That is children with mental illnesses. It seems that the church is afraid of mental illness. They sort of hold individuals with mental illness at arm’s length, holding them accountable for an illness of all things. Saying to a parent of a child with a mental illness that their child cannot return to church until they are better is preposterous! As a parent of a adopted child who has a mental illness I felt that my son was shunned from church many times. No one ever asked how they could help. Although my son had medicine,therapists and doctors on the outside that were helping him I was told to seek help for him. No one asked how he was being helped or offered encouragement. They never offered to come alongside this parent and child to see how the church could help. It was always, here’s a referral to services the secular community. I am ashamed that my Bible believing church would do that. It would have been wonderful if someone volunteered to buddy with my son during children’s activities so that he would have an adult who could be there when my son was getting over stimulated and needed a brief break, so that my son would not have a meltdown because he was anxious. Instead the youth pastor called security and had me summoned to come get my son. There is still a stigma in the Christian church around mental illness.
so well said!!!
On Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 5:46 AM, Church4EveryChild wrote:
> Dr. G posted: ” Shannon Dingle shares some reflections on Holy Week from > her perspective as an adoptive mom… People love to talk to me about my > family. They comment on the beauty of our diversity, the spiritedness of > six children under age 10, and our acceptance of” >
Awesome read. I’ve adopted my two grand daughters and it’s been one tough road. Thanks for for this and a reminder of how broken of a place these kids come from and that God is in the restoration business.
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