Since this blog is new, I planned to ease into the transracial adoption posts. Truth is I have no idea how to start. Instead, I’m jumping in with these words I originally typed up for a Facebook group. Topic of the day: Centering white parent perspectives on transracial adoption .
There is a celebrity Facebook talk show called Red Table Talk featuring Jada Pinkett Smith, Gammy (her mother) and sometimes her daughter, Willow. I’ve only watched two of their episodes and both times it was because of some questionable ways they were discussing race-related issues.
I was asked to watch their episode entitled, “Should White People Adopt Black Kids?” and share my thoughts on it in the Be The Bridge Facebook group from a TRAdoptee perspective. So I did. Then, a couple people asked to share my thoughts beyond that group. So I’m making it a post that can be shared more easily.
Watching this episode with white adoptive celebrity mother, Kristin Davis, was disheartening. It seems Jada and Gammy had concerns about white people adopting black children, so they found a white adoptive mom from their world to validate their concerns but also assuage their fears and put a bow on the topic. That’s it.
While there were some potentially good questions and a few basic but important points made by Davis, overall this episode is problematic. It lacks substance, perpetuates a few stereotypes (e.g. black families don’t adopt through the legal system) and generally is not a helpful watch for anyone. Unless your first and only question was to know what the adoption process was like for Davis. There are many people doing a much better job of having these discussions.
If they had titled this, “How White People Adopt Black Kids”…I might’ve given it 4 stars.
I had a lot of thoughts and questions watching this conversation unfold, but I’m going to choose just 8 points to discuss; the 7 points I originally wrote in my post in Be The Bridge’s Facebook group plus 1 bonus point for you here because you’re special. [wink] If you watched the episode and then read through all these thoughts, my hope is that you’ll see how exhausting this discussion can be for TRAdoptees.
What do I mean when I say “centering” the white/parent perspective? I mean that point of view is treated as if it is the most important perspective. I mean that the way the topic of transracial adoption is being discussed assumes that the white adoptive parent’s opinion, feelings, experiences and interpretations of things are the most interesting and sufficient for understanding transracial adoption. Spoiler alert: They are not.
So, by the title of the show, we expect a tough conversation about transracial adoption, but we enter a discussion with ZERO adoptee voices. And not even a mention that it is important to listen to adoptee voices.
No meaningful conversation about adoption, especially transracial adoption, should ever exclude the voice of adoptees.
There are lots of us transracial adoptees who are grown and out here happy to share our experience and stories. But still…when folks want to talk about adoption…very few come to us or listen to us. They still go to the [white] adoptive parents to tell them all about it.
This is a problem because:
This was mentioned in the comments of my original post and it just makes this RTT episode all the more icky for me.
Now, I have absolutely zero confirmation that what I’m about to share next is at all related in any way. However, my point is that this happens a lot (adoptee voices being ignored).
About a month ago, a well-known adoptee advocate who is herself a black transracial adoptee posted this on her Facebook page:
I cannot imagine someone more qualified that Angie to answer the question; “Should White People Adopt Black Kids?” PLUS, she is dynamic, comfy in front of the camera, and would make for a very engaging guest on RTT.
Read Angie’s Post: Do Transracial Adoptees Know Anything About Transracial Adoption?
Jada and Gammy have some good questions. Gammy even starts off with a very common but important observation on TRA: “Love is not enough”. Yet, when the discussion gets going, they seem to accept very soft and even shallow answers from Davis.
For example, when asked why she decided to adopt at all, she could not articulate why. She says some things like; her friends were doing it and she would feel incomplete if she weren’t a mom and it was a very spiritual kind of thing. These are red flag answers for me.
Later, Davis says that there is a lot of soul searching already done before filling out a pre-screening adoption questionnaire. That may be true but she did not reveal the fruits of that.
What do I expect, you ask?
If those are her truthful answers, why are they so bad?
With all the knowledge we have now, I expect APs to have more substantial reasons for stepping into difficult work of adopting a child. The “I felt unfulfilled” answers are not good enough anymore. I would expect that APs answer that question by turning the focus off of them (where it nearly always is) and bringing attention to the real issues of adoption.
Davis had a weird balance of talking about difficulties of adoption but then also giving the “…but it’s all good” vibe. For example, when asked about adopting her second child and how that came about she says...”one day there he was”. This is one example of the kind of problematic language that is so common in adoption stories that is cliche and default. This particular phrase erases the birth mom from the adoption story. It implies the child just appeared out of nowhere. This phrase disconnects adoption from the inherent trauma of a child being separated from their first family.
Now, Davis did use her privilege to speak positively about birth moms. She challenge how often they are ignored or misrepresented. I do applaud her for that! But that only makes her falling back on this weird adoption-ism seem extra out of place.
Today, we know better. We must do better. Let’s not give these glossy phrases about adoption a pass. Growing up hearing that kind of thing; “One day, there you were” inches into ‘rainbows and unicorns’ territory.
In the teasers for the episode, the term “White Savior” gets thrown out. This is a real issue and controversial topic! There is so much meaty stuff that could be discussed here but the conversation stays in the white comfort zone.
When Jada pitches it to Davis, she whiffs it with another milquetoast answer. Her response is to confirm that the White Savior is not a myth. Haha. Was there any doubt? But then she says she doesn’t come across that, though. Translation: It’s real but it’s rare.
It bothered me that Davis’s counter to the reality of White Saviorism was to argue the extreme by saying, well, we can’t say, “don’t try to do anything good because your skin is white.” This is a terribly common way to silence people bringing up real concerns by creating a false dichotomy. I don’t believe Davis intended it this way but I believe it reveals how unequipped she is to have deep conversations on this topic.
There are so many other important ways white people can help vulnerable families that do not involve adopting non-white children. Why don’t we talk about that? Why do we assume white people helping = white people (separating families and then) adopting.
In the unexpected focus on Davis’ adoption process, Jada references a sample questionnaire that is apparently indicative of what hopeful APs fill out in their screening process. There was a question that asks hopeful parents to check which races/ethnicities they would be willing to adopt. Davis mentions feeling like she should not exclude any of them.
She says that it ‘was’ her opinion at the time that the question itself was racist. Probably because she used to think that bringing up race at all was racist. However, she doesn’t go on to mention how her opinion on that question changed. Jada and Gammy do not press on that either. No one talks about the significance of that question further.
There are good reasons a racially aware AP would self-select out of raising children of certain races/ethnicities. Addressing that would have made for a much more nuanced conversation.
Instead, Davis merely focuses on how that question made her feel uncomfortable; because she would “feel racist” to exclude any racial categories. This, again, is what it looks like to center white parent feelings and miss the point entirely.
Don’t misunderstand me. It is good that the white AP is broken hearted over the racism her black children encounter. However, do Jada and Gammy (or any self-aware, non-white person) need a white mommy to tell them what every day anti-black racism looks like? No.
Yes, they did ask her how raising black children has opened her eyes. There were many other ways she could’ve answered. It was not helpful to hear her unpack the two minor situations she recounted.
I recognize that Davis is in process with unpacking her white privilege and I applaud her progress! She merely shows here that she still has a lot of work to do. Again, I question why she was chosen to speak on this topic. If we want to hear from white APs, I would personally rather hear from one who can talk about how their eyes have been opened racism without the “…and can you believe that happened?!” vibes. Yes. We believe it. We live it.
We should note this whole conversation is shaped by some economic privilege. You might’ve missed the bit where Davis talks about the difficulty finding a good school. A school where they will not be the only black kids and they will have black teachers. Jada commiserates with her about how difficult that is in Los Angeles! Wha?
My husband and I used to live and work in Los Angeles. There are lots of schools with black children and black teachers. Something tells me, though, that those schools not even on their radar. I used to do photo shoots in the gated Pacific Palisades neighborhood where Jada and Will raised their children. If that is the view of Los Angeles you have, then…okay…maybe you would find it difficult to find a certain kind of $chool with diverse demographics.
Even more subtle still is Davis’ description of her adoption process. She reveals the adoption agency she went through was above average. She does not seem aware that her experience is likely not a fair representation of the vetting and preparation process that many other white APs experience. I’m glad for her but my guess is she has more options and resources than most.
I understand that Red Table Talk and others like it will always be celebrity fluff. Not the places we should go to for complex topics and nuanced learning. I get that they script and edit to get clicks and views. At 3 million and counting, the strategy clearly works.
Even so, if I ignored all that and generously assumed the intent of this Red Table Talk episode was to dive into the complexity of transracial adoption…the impact of this episode is still a poor one.
The impact of this episode feels like another erasure of transracial adoptee perspectives. It feels like yet another “not all white people are racist” production. So much that needs to be said, heard and understood about transracial adoption and whether or not white people should adopt black kids was given a pass because a white adoptive parent’s experience is still more important than the non-white adoptee’s.
Vivian Mabuni‘s latest book Open Hands, Willing Heart: Discover the Joy of Saying Yes to God comes out today! A while back, I jumped at the chance to join her book launch team so I could get an advanced copy.
I first learned about Vivian Mabuni when I stumbled across a video of her speaking at an international conference. I’d attended a local event telecasting that conference but they hadn’t shown her message. What a shame I almost missed hearing her speak. Not only did she challenge and encourage me spiritually, but it was memorable for me because it was the first time I’d ever seen an east asian woman breaking down God’s word and speaking in front of an audience of any size, let alone a worldwide audience. I got a bit emotional, folks. #representationmatters
ANYWAY, I immediately started following her online and that is how I learned about her upcoming book. Which is crazy timely for me. Because there are a lot of things God is asking me to say YES to and I know I am dragging my flat feet all about the hills and valleys.
So here we are. I’ve read the book and saved my favorite quotes. I’ve considered how I can convince the women’s group at my church to use this for our fall study. And there are some things I’ve learned I want to share with you all. Here goes.
The first section of the book introduces us to the story of Esther in the Old Testament. Christian ladies, you know it well. Although what you probably know is a very sanitized version that’s been presented as “a Biblical beauty pageant queen uses her position to convince the king to save her people”.
Vivian uses the story of Esther all throughout her book. A young girl, thrown into the extravagance of the Persian empire ruled by a dangerously volatile king , forsaking her Jewish heritage and breaking several commandments from Mosaic law just to survive.
But, as we know, she risked execution for the chance to change the fate of her people who were scheduled for genocide. In fasting and prayer, she turned from self-preservation, back toward the God of the Jews, and let God use her.
As the author, Vivian, re-introduces us to Esther in this book it struck me how differently I understand this story now as an adult. And what new things I learn about God here.
Am I willing to give-up my tendency toward self-preservation? Because, like Esther, a lot of my struggles to raise my voice against injustice or to “lay down my life” have to do with self-preservation. It is so much easier to go along with the culture around me. Sometimes I feel like it’s all I can do to just survive. Is my heart really willing to say YES to what God asks me to do, fighting my survival instinct and loosening my grip on all my plans, preferences and priorities?
The second section of the book tackles our common roadblocks head on; apathy & entitlement, self-reliance, busyness and bitterness. There was a lot of good prompts for self-evaluation in these 4 chapters and it’s hard to pick one thing to zero in on.
I’ll zero in a bit on the chapter on apathy and entitlement. Having a willing heart to do God’s work means we cannot have a calloused heart towards the PEOPLE God wants us to show His love too. We western Christians, myself included, tend to view ourselves as super charitable, truly loving all of God’s people, and yet if we’re honest, most of us function daily in very insular communities and spaces.
It’s easy for us think our hearts are willing for God to use us wherever, but then believe He just “hasn’t given us a heart for those people.” When really, that’s not the full picture. Really, we tend to have a “I’m a good enough person” kind of spiritual apathy and a Christian cultural that tends to focus more on what we know about or get from God than an actual, life-altering relationship with Him.
“The grip of apathy and entitlement gets loosened by challenging our perceptions through proximity, humility, and generosity.”Vivian Mabuni, Open Hands Willing Heart
Opening our hearts and hands to God means making the resources He has given us available for Him to use for others.
The last 6 chapters dive deeper into various aspects of living an open-handed life. This is section of the book is, for me, the most important and valuable. It would lend itself to some amazing conversation for group study.
Vivian touches on difficult topics like removing idols, forgiveness, dying to self. She shares examples from the lives of people she knows to illustrate her points. I won’t say more about it, though. I will let you get the book and read it for yourself.
I would recommend this book for all Christ followers, men and women. While you may find some of the themes in this book familiar to ones you’ve read in other Christian living titles, Vivian Mabuni brings a fresh and valuable perspective that, to me, makes these matters of faith so much more applicable today.
I highly encourage purchasing books if you can afford it as it is the best way to support authors. Start by asking your local bookstore to carry the book. That way you can support a local business and the Vivian at the same time.
However, if buying isn’t an option for you right now, there are other supportive things you can do like request that your local library get a copy.
I just found out there is also a free 5 day reading plan with excerpts from the book and additional scripture and reflection questions. This is a great way for readers to sample content of the book.
Read other book reviews I’ve written!
First of all, Happy Mother’s Day to any mom figures reading this! Today is my first Mother’s Day with our second child joining us. Huzzah! Okay…now I’m going to get right to it and say my goal here is to reality-check motherhood and how we celebrate it. I have my own motherhood confession to make and share an encouraging reflection on the Lord as our perfect Mother.
Should I just start with my unholy confession? Yes.
There. I said it. Growing up in conservative evangelicalism, I feel like motherhood is a sacred cow, and by saying I don’t love motherhood I’m outing myself as a devil worshipper. And you probably believe I think babies are ugly too now.[Someone somewhere] How dare you?! [I don’t, btw. Babies are wonky but cute none the less.]
So I don’t ‘love’ motherhood. What does that mean? Well, let me be clear. I do love my children! I’m not saying I regret having them. I do sometimes imagine what I’d be doing if I hadn’t had them. But I enjoy them and am thankful for them. In fact, I love them enough to give my life for them.
And that’s the trouble. Motherhood is about giving life; not just once during labor, or once as in sacrificing one’s physical life to save your child’s life, but daily giving up my life in a million small and unnoticed ways to facilitate growth in the life of my children.
Real, God-honoring motherhood involves many things, including dying a little bit every day. So no, I do not ‘love’ this death, but I know I need it. We’ll circle back around to this later.
In order to mom the way God made me to mom, I need to reality-check my view of motherhood. Culturally, we have idealized and idolized motherhood to death, we’ve taken a gift and made it a curse.
For me, having kids was always a maybe. I never had a desire to babysit and didn’t enjoy kids, but my mother kept impressing on me that “it will be different when you have your own.” So I thought about that a lot. I thought about what kind of mom I would be. And an ideal formed in my head, just that fast.
As Christians, our ideals are influenced heavily by how we read our Bible (or how it is taught to us) and the dominant Christian culture of the time we live in. Our broader culture itself is influenced by the ideals of those we look up too (teachers, pastors, politicians, filmmakers, icons, etc). The things they hold up as praiseworthy and exemplary shape our view of what is valuable.
Today, Christian women are still influenced by the traditional misapplication of Proverbs 31, by a history of hyper complementarian views of gender roles where women are valuable primarily because they have babies, plus some other variables. For example, questionable ideas we might pick up, like “God gave you this kid because He knew you were exactly what he/she needed” or “Your love will be enough/ all they need.”
What happens when motherhood isn’t as expected? When the children who were supposed to rise up and call us blessed, don’t even appreciate us or get along with us very well? What happens when my husband has a more nurturing character than I do? Or when I absolutely cannot be what my child needs me to be?
Me, personally? I constantly struggle with perceived expectations. Meaning that my husband and children do not truly expect me to do XYZ but I assume they must because somewhere along the way I learned that was what I was supposed to do or who I was supposed to be as a mother. It is hard to turn off the internal pressure to be someone or something I am not.
Real motherhood, I believe is momming in a way that is authentic and honoring of the giftings and character traits God gave me. Real motherhood, therefore, will look a little different for each person. No cookie-cutter mommies allowed!
The greatest calling of any woman is NOT to be a mother. It is to love and follow Christ in whatever role He has given you, whether you ever parent children or not.
The most fulfilling thing in life is NOT to be a mother either. It is to let God use you for His purposes, whether that involves having children or not.
Many times I have heard sisters in Christ say that all they ever wanted was to be a mom. That is not necessarily a bad thing. God does give some women the role of mother. It is a good role. Nothing wrong about desiring that role.
How-ev-er, we should never look to motherhood and/or our children to give us fulfillment, joy, place, purpose or worth. That comes from God and God alone. Motherhood does not define you, but it can inform you.
Yes, children can be part of how God gives us joy, place, purpose and worth, but that is true of any gift God gives us; like the gift of a friendship, of a mentor or a disciple, or a sibling or a spouse. Still, our love and our source of fulfillment is always the Giver, not the gift. Let’s not take God’s gift of motherhood and make an idol of it.
Is that evil, too? I do like that we have a day to honor and respect mothers because, dammit, momming is a pretty thankless job more often than not and it’s good to be appreciated. However…
There are some questions we should ask ourselves when we celebrate moms on Mother’s Day. What aspects of motherhood are we praising? How are we praising those things? Might our words/approach contribute to an idealization or idolization of motherhood?
Is it good for individuals to show love and honor to all the mother figures that they respect today? Yes! No doubt about that.
Is it wise for us (churches especially) to publicly and communally make a spectacle of praising mothers?
I’m serious. We’ve probably all read the reminders of how Mother’s Day can be a triggering and sorrowful day for a myriad of reasons. Let’s not shrug that off.
It has devastating effects: stigmatizing and pathologizing childfree/childless women, setting moms up for failure with unrealistic standards/expectations, harming children as moms start looking to them for identity/purpose instead of God, etc.
So, can we celebrate moms (and dads) without encouraging the idolization and idealization of a role that God only calls some people too? I think so, but how exactly is something I think we should think more carefully about, friends.
Okay, so this might sound weird to some of you. It feels a bit weird for me, I admit. But…look…if we can talk about God being our perfect example of fatherhood when so many of our earthly fathers fail us, we can do the same for motherhood. In fact, God likens Himself to a mother in the scripture.
So, in the spirit of honoring God as our source of everything good about motherhood, I will henceforth use a feminine pronoun for Her. Whose squirming? Just me? Okay.
Isa 49:15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
In this scripture, the Lord uses a picture of a mother to tell us something about Herself. While we human mothers will fail (we will not always meet our child’s needs and not always love them rightly), the Lord is our perfect, ultimate mother, who does not forget the children She loves. She will not fail to meet our needs.
Isa 66:13 “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
I take great comfort from the idea that God comforts like a Mother! God created both masculine and feminine, fatherhood and motherhood. Therefore, She is the source of what is best, what is glorifying about both roles. She is all that we need. God is our Mother in a way that our earthly mothers never can be.
When we talk about salvation, we often talk about how Christ lived the perfect life that we could never live. That His perfect life fulfills all that God required of us. That, in dying, He gives us a new life, an eternal one.
So again, mothers, has Christ’s sacrifice not covered all the ways we have missed the mark as moms? Let’s reflect on Christ as being the perfect Mother so that we do not have to be.
Again, I’m going to change the pronouns to the feminine, even though Jesus Christ was a physical human man. I really like the challenging mental shift this is forcing me to make so I’m rolling with it.
1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to her great mercy, she has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”
Our new life in Christ is likened to being born again. This time, instead of an earthly mom giving us life, it is Christ. Instead of the physical pain of childbirth, it was the physical suffering and dying on a cross.
John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down her life for the sheep.“
John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down her life for her friends.”
Life and death are connected. Maybe like two sides of the same coin. These verses talk about laying down one’s life. What does that mean?
Life here is translated from the Greek, “psychē” (a feminine noun, btw). It does not simply mean our physical life (like the Greek “zōē“) and is distinct from our immortal soul (the Greek “pneuma“), but incorporates the aspect of life that is the “seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions”, etc.
Laying down one’s desires, affections, aversions for someone else is about as honest a depiction of motherhood as I can imagine.
And Christ did that for us. Let’s not forget that Christ did ask God for another way. Jesus, the Christ, as a human being, had feelings and desires and an attachment to this world. But ultimately, Her greater love was for God and fulfilling the plan of salvation for us. So She willingly suffered the pain of bringing us out of the darkness and into the light, of birthing us into a new life. Did Jesus enjoy it? No. The scene on the cross seemed agonizing. But Jesus, our spiritual Mother, needed to do it.
I started by confessing that I do not love motherhood. Inherent in motherhood is life-giving pain and death. It is willingly laying down my desires, preferences and aversions, daily, for the sake of my children. It is painful. It is a kind of death. I am willing because I love my kids, but that does not mean I enjoy it.
I did not enjoy the aches and pains of pregnancy, the birth contractions and pushing, and the fact that, 3 months later, I am still struggling with a lot of minor physical problems postpartum, like death by a thousand paper cuts. I really don’t want to do that again.
I do not enjoy the daily laying down of my desires, of what I wish I could give my kids but can’t, or what I think my kids need, or my needs often going unmet. I do not relish my recurring failure to be patient and loving, or the frequent self-doubt and guilt feelings.
I do not enjoy the constant fight against unrealistic ideals of motherhood, or battling the lie that I have to choose between doing the work God has placed on my heart or “momming” in the way I’m “supposed to” mom.
Yet, God is wiser than I. She saw that giving me the role of mom would serve Her purpose. So here we are. I can see how I need the death of motherhood to better live for God.
Not (just) because it gives me cute kids to swoon over in a lifetime of precious moments. Motherhood is a gift because it forces me to lean on God in a way I don’t know that I ever would otherwise. Motherhood is exposing so much of my selfishness and pride and revealing how much more I need Christ. Motherhood is showing me how mysteriously deep God’s love is for me and how much greater She is than I will ever know.
The cute kids are awesome, yes. When I think of parenting I most often think of how God is using me to shape them. But really, it’s equally the other way around. God, our wise Mother, uses our children to shape us. I think that is what is most praiseworthy about motherhood (and fatherhood) – all the things that it teaches us about God.
So. Happy Mother’s Day.
In a not too distant life I had a crumb of success blogging about fitness and portraying an image of myself as strong, optimistic, and going after inspiring goals. When I wrote about failures they were safe ones, small ones, and I put a positive spin on it. The unresolved, unredeemable stories of weakness and woe were never told. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen or heard an example of anyone telling those stories. That is, not until I read this book by Alia Joy, Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack.
Alia’s book is lesson after lesson in how to boast in your weaknesses, not to solicit pity or “make an exhibition” of our failures, as she puts it, but to highlight God’s grace. I was amazed when I finished the book. I’ve not read anything like this. Her poetic and even beautiful way with words balances out the severe subject matter as she invites you into uneasy vulnerability.
In no uncertain terms, Alia recounts the things that caused her pain and shame; from sexual assault to poverty, miscarriage and mental illness. She describes being someone people do not want to see; the isolation of living with the kind of struggles people do not want to hear about. I had a difficult time reading some parts; sometimes because of tears and sometimes because of feeling convicted and called out on my weaknesses and failures.
Alia shows us how God meets her, sustains her and refines her in her weakness. The circumstances may not change, the struggles may not cease, which is hard to sit with, yet God is good. Walking through this heart process with Alia over and over again encouraged me apply this to my own weakness and sorrows.
So first I had to ask myself, what ARE my biggest sorrows? When have I struggled with unanswered prayers or un-healing wounds? Was I or am I able to see God’s grace and goodness through those seasons?
Let me tell you what, I’m not saying I can or we should ever compare struggles or sufferings in life, but the first thing I thought was,
“My life has predominantly been one of human strength and successes.”
Which is to say there are much fewer times and spaces in my life where I’ve been desperate for God, learned to lean into Him no matter what, and clung to a sliver of hope that God still loved me.
My response to my reality contrasting with what I read in
Glorious Weakness was twofold; courage and conviction.
Courage in knowing that whatever weakness and sorrow is ahead of me, God does not change. The God that Alia clings too is the same God that will be with me through whatever is to come.
Conviction in realizing how much I rely on myself and how little I’ve learned about being poor in spirit. Conviction in acknowledging how many hurtful reactions I’ve had toward those who have walked a different path. I have to confess I have dismissed other’s suffering because I believed “they brought it on themselves”. I have assumed they could improve their situation if they just tried harder or believed God more. My privileged experience and perspective has not taught me a loving or learning posture.
Still, I do have places of deep shame and weakness. They are there. But, like I said in the beginning, I have minimized them. I’m in the habit of putting a positive spin on things. I’ve often protected myself from embracing my human weakness. Which means I’ve prevented myself from truly admitting my complete need and utter dependence on Christ.
“True vulnerability,” Alia writes, “is a confession of the places where we doubt, the places where we’re not sure God is going to heal or touch or show up – the places we worry will always remain a little too broken, a little too human, a little too frail for polite company and pristine Sunday mornings.”
That being said, God has begun to graciously bring me to his feet these past couple years. When the trauma of my adoption surfaced an enduring ache broke through my anesthesia of denial. When the racial fog lifted and I began to see how my faith had been used to obscure part of who God made me to be, a kind of anger and grief ignited that I still wrestle with.
These are a few of the areas where I can see God stripping away my pride and self-assurance. Where I can answer the call to let Him use my weakness for His purposes. And thanks to Alia’s example, I better understand the importance of this; the glorious way that embracing our human weakness amplifies and accentuates God’s faithfulness to us and connects us more deeply with one another.
I HIGHLY recommend you request Glorious Weakness by Alia Joy through your local book store or library. However, you can also purchase Alia’s book on these sites:
I was adopted into a wonderfully loving family. I have always felt close with my adopted mother. So it never occurred to me that I might have suffered any loss from being separated from my biological mother at birth. It never occurred to me, that is, until I was pregnant with my first child. As I learned about labor and the connection newborns have with their mothers, I cried. I became fixated on that all important moment of holding my son to my chest. Yet, as my anticipation grew, a deep sorrow set in as well. I didn’t understand it at first. Then I realized why. I was actually grieving birth. My own birth.
I’ve heard the story many times. Perhaps a few months old, I was pushing away from my adopted mother. I looked up at her with an intense defiance in my eyes. Day after day, I was resisting.
“You’re going to let me love you.” She said as she gently tucked my limbs in her arms, hugging me to her chest, rocking and singing lullabies.
I don’t know how long this went on, but the last day it happened, she prayed over me. As she prayed, the “leviathan” came into her mind, and she rebuked this spirit by name.
My infant form relaxed and I slid down into her lap and then onto the floor. I immediately fell asleep and from that moment on, I never pushed her away again.
As a child, this story confused me. I saw the loving determination in my mother’s eyes as she retold this memory. In her mind, she had overcome a great obstacle for us. The result was that her baby was able to receive her love. I believe she wanted me to hear in this story how much she loved me.
So I tried to hear that, but I also felt ashamed. I also heard that I had been a broken and possibly demon possessed baby. My own body had behaved freakishly. What did that mean? What did that say about me? I couldn’t make sense of the story, so I rejected it. I listened to it like it wasn’t really me she was talking about. Even now, writing it down here, I question myself. The details I heard are concrete in my head, but when I try to share them, to shine a spotlight on them, they ghost into an accusation of insanity.
Did she really say all those things? Am I making this up?
In sharing this openly, I am calling myself out; to stop invalidating my own experiences and emotional responses.
As a child, this story of my infant self was just further proof that I, the “oriental adoptee” in a rural white community was not normal. Loved? Yes, but not normal. A gift from God? Yes, but something was wrong with me.
I had never been interested in baby dolls. Never wanted to babysit as a teen. Even when my husband and I got married we weren’t 100% sure we wanted kids. We’d wait and see how our lives unfolded. So, when we decided we did in fact want children of our own, I had a lot of learning to do about pregnancy, birth and babies. Which I tackled in my typical, overachieving academic fashion.
I learned my little womb-dweller was already becoming familiar with me. He knew my heartbeat and the sound of my voice. It was comforting as a first-time mommy to know those same, effortless things about me would comfort my child in the first few minutes and days of life on the outside. My breast tissue would regulate his body temperature. He would learn to recognize my scent. His familiarity with me would aid his transition.
God’s design in the birth process is amazing!
These weren’t tears of joy. Pregnancy hormones? It was deeper than tearing up at a puppy adoption commercial. Prenatal depression? I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. It was just thinking about this particular aspect of birth that was different. There was sorrow here. When I finally connected the dots, I was shocked.
Was I really grieving something I experienced as a newborn? Is that even possible?
The day I was born I was held by my first mother. However, that afternoon she was gone. As I thought about that, I imagined myself as a vulnerable infant suddenly losing the reassurance of that familiar heartbeat, her gait, her voice.
Just a few months ago I learned research shows infants register this separation as trauma, coded into the nervous system. At one day old, I would have sensed that disruption and loss, even though I couldn’t understand it.
I suddenly remembered that story of resisting my adopted mother. This new perspective broke my heart. A profound sadness for my infant self replaced the sense of shame I had associated with this story.
I had not been a broken or possessed baby, I was overcoming some measure of trauma in losing my familiar mother. I had to adapt to life outside her and without her. Plus, I had to adapt to a new mother I didn’t recognize. This was extra stress that an infant is not supposed to have.
Did I attach to my adopted mother? Yes. Did I adapt and adjust well? I think so. Therefore the temptation is for everyone, myself included, to dismiss and minimize the inherent trauma of adoption. As if it doesn’t matter because it all worked out in the end. The truth is, I had suffered a loss before memory that I was only now able to grieve.
I’m now weeks away from meeting my second child, face to face. Skin to skin. I’m visualizing how I will once again face the pain of labor and postpartum care. I’m fixating again on the moment I get to hold him for the first time.
And I’m grieving. I’ve only talked about this a few times since my first was born. Always with tears. I wonder if that means that I still have healing to do. Or if that means that some wounds never fully heal. Or maybe by writing this out and releasing it, I am healing right now.
Either way, giving birth is both a sorrow and a joy for me. The process involves reliving a loss somehow remembered in my being, though not in my conscious memory. I cannot face giving birth to my own child without grieving my own birth. I’m a little glad we’re not planning on having more children (she wrote with a chuckle).
However, there may be some redemption for me in this process. At least I hope there is. I am now the mother. No longer helpless. Giving my child what I didn’t have. Creating a conscious memory of bonding with my infant. Perhaps my past sorrow makes this anticipated joy that much sweeter.