Friday, August 05, 2005

Some general thoughts about adoption

I was thinking about something that someone said to us not too long after we "introduced" them to Ms. Bao. They commented that she is so fortunate. I think I know what I think about that, but we are about to find out whether I am able to express it.

First, I want to express that I think I understand why someone might say that. Assuming that no one else would have adopted Bao, our refusal to do so would mean that she would grow up in an orphanage. She'd have no parents to advocate for her, and the odds are pretty good that she wouldn't have a chance at a higher education. She would almost certainly be at the bottom of the social ladder. Earning a living would be difficult. Life, in general, would be hard and maybe very sad for her.

And, one might, if they were arrogant enough :), interpret the "fortunate" comment as some sort of nod of approval to our parenting abilities. (Perhaps the speaker was just trying to give me and Paul a compliment.) But, if that is true, then Ms. Boo and Mr. Bug are just as fortunate. And people never seem to say that about them.... So I don't think our parenting is the reason people consider Bao fortunate.

Most certainly, the former scenario is the reason for saying Bao is fortunate. But...

My concern is for what happens in the mind of a child who is told (by me or others) that she is fortunate. Children have a way of translating "fortunate" into things like "undeserving." If she was fortunate that we adopted her, will she begin to feel like she is indebted to us? I hope not.

And one could, as Bao someday might, point out the obvious. Being abandoned by your birthparents and having to muddle through the emotions of that is a decidedly UNfortunate thing. A child who hears "you are so fortunate" is being told to be grateful, and is never given permission to say, "what happened to me stinks, and I don't like it." I, personally, think that she should be allowed to say that, if that is how she feels. I hope no one ever brushes her feelings under the rug of "you are so fortunate."

Yet to be discussed, however, is the meaning that a lot of Christians have in mind when they think along the "she's so fortunate" lines. As I have mentioned before, many Christian folks like to say that Bao's adoption is a good thing, because we can raise her to "know the Lord" or something akin to that. This kind of thinking bothers me on several levels.

First: Some people seem to talk about the events in an adopted child's life and that child's adoption as if the two are causally linked. This is the only way I can explain why people, after hearing that we are adopting, feel it is necessary to share the story about their cousin's best friend's brother who adopted a child that ended up dying of cancer, or who ran away from home at seven and never returned.

Without getting into the special emotional needs of adopted children, I think that these assumed causal links are ridiculous. There are no guarantees that my biological children will not do the same things. And, THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THAT MY ADOPTED DAUGHTER WILL COME TO KNOW THE LORD! Most Christians I know are willing to concede that their children may or MAY NOT follow their Christian upbringing when they are adults. Yet people seem to take great comfort in knowing that Bao will be saved because of living in our home.

And I know why they think this (I think.) Because "those children will never hear the gospel if they stay in China."

That kind of comment makes me want to say, "what in the world kind of God are you serving who doesn't know how to get his Word out in China?" God knows how to spread the gospel in China. Not only does he KNOW how, but HE'S ALREADY DOING IT. It isn't too hard to figure out that the Church is alive and well in China - and even growing. And it isn't too far a stretch to think that, in light of the Scriptural command to care for widows and orphans, a lot of Chinese Christians might just decide that orphanages are the perfect places to minister. Yea, verily I say unto you, our agency currently supports an orphanage run by a CHRISTIAN IN CHINA!!!

I think I probably sound mad right now. I am not. But I will sum up.

1. Words have meanings that we sometimes don't think about. I want Bao to have permission to grieve the stinky beginning of her life. So, I don't ever envision myself telling her that she is fortunate that we adopted her. And I really hope that others don't tell her that either.

2. Sometimes people make silly assumptions that they haven't really thought through. And sometimes they are predicated upon an unconscious belief that God CAN'T do something. I feel the need to point that out when I hear it. And getting a Chinese baby saved is not our motive for adopting. We realize that salvation is not within our power, for ANY of our children.

We want Bao because we want another baby. And there are babies out there who don't have a mom and dad, so we are willing to make one of them ours.

We get to raise three beautiful children that God chose especially for us. WE are the fortunate ones.

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