My parents were young when I was born and having a child was not something my father felt ready for. I grew up only seeing my dad occasionally; those times were stressful and uncertain. My father loved me as best as he could,but his leaving us along with how uncomfortable the visits were, felt like a personal rejection of my worth. That created a longing for a traditional two parent family. That was my greatest wish and partly what drove me to try to always be well behaved and helpful. In the back of my mind I thought if I was a good girl, I could win the love of others.
Thankfully my mom found the saving grace of Jesus when I was little and she was always extremely supportive and loving, but it was not enough for me. Feelings of rejection and abandonment go deep and even the best mom couldn’t fix that. Mom took me faithfully to church and I began to grasp that I was a sinner, and no matter how well I behaved, I could never be good enough to go to Heaven. When I was 9 years old, a preacher shared how God was a Father that would never leave. It was like I was the only one in the room. What was this? No matter what I did, or didn’t do, there was a father that would love me enough to never leave? Someone that loved me just as I was? Well, I wanted that! It was all I could think of on the way home and that night I asked my mom to listen as I asked God to do what no one else could do. To forgive me of my sins, to wipe them away forever and to adopt me into His family. I knew that night something was different, and it was for the better.
Now, that doesn’t mean that all my problems were instantly solved. I still needed a physical dad and longed for a “normal” family. I still felt rejected and flawed. But, as I grew in age and maturity, I also grew in my faith. Little by little I learned to depend on Jesus and “crawl” in His lap when I felt alone and unlovable.
Mom remarried when I was 12 to a very good man willing to take on a pre-teen with emotional baggage and an elderly mother in law. For two years I tested my stepfather to see if he would really stay if things got tough. When I was 14, we moved to a new state and I was extremely anxious about the move. Uncertainty was not my friend. Recognizing this, my stepfather sat me down to tell me how much he cared for me, that he loved me as if I were his biological daughter, and if I would have him, he would like to legally adopt me so I would be his forever. He wanted me to have assurance in the middle of my anxiety that I was deeply and unconditionally loved. That was a huge moment in my life. Some might think that 14 is too old to be adopted, but my life was changed that day. And it was for the better.
Just like the day Christ adopted me into his eternal family, that change did not fix everything, but gave me the security and foundation I needed to grow and heal. I could start to use my life experiences to help people. I am still a pleaser, but I can view it as a way to connect with people and to point them to Jesus, not to prove my worth. I don’t want to think about where I would have been if I hadn’t received the gift of adoption from my earthly father and I can’t even begin to imagine life without the eternal adoption by my heavenly Father.
If you are praying about opening your home and hearts to children, please consider teenagers. They need you too. And to any older kids reading this, don’t be afraid to trust and receive love. It is hard, but so worth it. Trust me, it will be for the better. (Psalm 68:5 Father to the fatherless, defender of widows – this is God).