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.