Facing My Fears
It has now been just over six weeks since Margarita returned to Ukraine for the school year. Those weeks have given plenty of time to reflect on some of the fears that accompanied our journey into summer hosting and the decision to pursue adoption. The chance to reflect has also allowed me to compare my fears with what actually happened over our summer of hosting and what truths I can use to face those fears.
How Will This Affect My Kids?
The first fear I had was the impact to my biological children. As parents, we hold a lot of responsibility in the care of the little ones with which God has entrusted us. Matthew and I want to nurture our children, guard their environment from harmful influences, teach them right from wrong, and guide them into appropriate behavior. With that foundation in mind, we had to ask ourselves: how will this affect our kids? What might be the impact of bringing a child from an unknown, traumatic background into our family for a whole summer? How will we respond to difficult behaviors with kindness and love while still maintaining consistency in our home? What if she is unkind to our biological children? Could this choice unintentionally bring negative influences into our home?
These are hard questions to ask, and even more difficult to answer. Yet our training in preparation for hosting was incredibly helpful. We read a number of books that called us to look at a child like Margarita differently; not as a project or problem to fix, but as a wounded and hurting person who desperately needs love and nurture. Our training helped us to understand that negative behavior in traumatized children usually stems from a need to protect themselves and their attempts to organize their surroundings so that they can feel safe. Our hearts broke as we considered the hurt that Margarita has already experienced, not to mention the fear and insecurity of a seven-year-old traveling to stay with a strange family in a foreign culture on the other side of the world. Gaining this perspective enabled us to talk with our children about the compassion each of us needed as we planned to welcome a hurting little one into our family for a season.
Putting Theory into Practice
Exploring all of this helped us to clarify our goals for hosting. Like many parents, we want to teach our children to sacrificially love others and to show compassion and kindness to the hurting and vulnerable. We know how Jesus powerfully practiced this in the way he lived among the sick and troubled more than two thousand years ago, culminating in the ultimate sacrifice of His life for our sin. The call for radical, daily, self-sacrifice is so clear from the Bible. However, we can’t teach these things to our children only in theory or in a vacuum. To truly learn qualities of compassion, kindness, and empathy, we all need to live them out in real life. And that is what hosting became for our family: an opportunity to put theory into practice, to interact up close and personal with a real live person, and be faced with the harsh reality of her personality, pain, needs, and feelings.
Over the course of the summer many of our fears were alleviated. Margarita was kind and gentle in her interactions with our kids and never hurtful to them. We could see that she had received some training in her previous home and was clean, mannerly, and generally obedient. And although we were worried about the language barrier, we quickly found we were able to communicate simply, with help from Google Translate. It was still difficult, but manageable. Even more importantly, from the first day Margarita arrived, each of our children loved her and welcomed her into our family unconditionally. On the whole, she quickly found her place among the children, not just as an honored guest, but as a sister… complete with arguments over who got to be first in the next round of UNO. We all had a lot of fun this summer! Yet in spite of her sweet exterior, Margarita had desperate needs for love and affection. She required much more time and attention than either Matthew or I had expected, and there were times it seemed that her need for affection was more than we could give. To make matters worse, we could sense that all of the extra attention we gave to Margarita was perceived as unfair by the rest of our children.
The Tension of Loving Deeply
This tension between caring for my own children and jealously guarding their hearts while pouring out way more than usual for a new, hurting child was probably the most difficult challenge I faced over summer hosting. My fears surfaced with new questions I hadn’t considered before hosting started: Would my children feel unloved because I was loving another child? How could I be faithful to all the children God had clearly brought into our home? What if my daughter became bitter and felt that she had been “replaced”?
As I wrestled through this, I realized that I was trying to carry a burden that God never meant me to carry. It is easy to believe that if we just love enough, sacrifice enough, train enough, have the wisest words, and the most balanced discipline and connection, that we can save our children and guarantee their outcome. Presumably, with good parenting our children will have an amazing childhood and perfect home and not have to face the messes of the world. That’s the theory. What this summer showed me is that my children’s worst enemy is within themselves and that they need something far more than I could ever do for them.
A Perfect Parent Is Not Enough
The truth is, our children do need to be saved. But they need to be saved from a heart bent on loving themselves. They need to be saved from sin, and there is only One who can do that. It is such good news that Jesus loves to welcome children and change hearts! He cares for my children far more than I ever could and He is sufficient in every way that I am not. What my children need more than anything else is not perfect parents, but a perfect Savior who is more than enough to meet their deepest needs. And my role in parenting these children is most importantly to be there as they wrestle with sin, listening to their hearts and pointing them to Jesus.
But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.Hebrews 7:24-25
Jesus is able to save my children through every situation they experience, for their whole lives. What a freedom that gives me; I don’t need to carry the burden of saving my children and trying to guarantee their happiness!
Moving Forward Confidently
And this freedom allowed me to press forward through the summer hosting season with joy. I must confess, it was a daily battle. There were days I felt like I couldn’t do it any more, when my fears became so big I was ready to completely give up. But in every instance, God’s truth ran deeper and I always found I had a solid foundation to stand on. The freedom of knowing that Jesus will care for me and each of my children continues to give me confidence as we look forward to the day when Margarita joins our family forever. I have this assurance because although my biological children might struggle and be jealous, Jesus is sufficient to save them. Even though there will be days when I am stretched thin and feel like I don’t have enough to meet all the needs, I can step forward in certainty, knowing that Jesus is sufficient when I am not.
How Did This Affect My Kids?
Looking back, I can see answers to my fears. Before the summer started, I was wondering how hosting would affect my kids, afraid of what this step of faith might cost our family. In my desire to protect and shelter my children, I never could have guessed how simply and deeply this summer would change them. What was their response six weeks ago when Margarita had to leave? On the day we said goodbye at the airport and in the days that followed, it was overwhelmingly evident that our children deeply loved Margarita. After only ten weeks of living together, God worked acceptance, kindness and love in their hearts towards this little orphan. All of our children were in tears at the airport and have not stopped talking about how they can’t wait for Margarita to come back. Every week, they join in drawing pictures and writing letters to mail to their sister in Ukraine. So… yes, our children were impacted and in a very good way.
Looking ahead towards adoption, we know that it will be hard at times, but God is more than enough to handle the hard things. So when the fear comes, I choose to rest in the truth that Jesus is my Savior and that He came to seek and save the lost, including me and each of the children God brings into our family.