I’ve never felt uglier than during Ruth’s adoption.
Most people won’t understand that. I’ve heard it all, the exclamations of sainthood, “You are doing such a wonderful thing!” and, “There is a special place in Heaven for people like you!” or the even more common, “This is going to be another jewel in your crown someday.” I understand and even appreciate the sentiment behind these statements. On the surface, adopting Ruth does seem like a very nice thing. She was abandoned, but now has a forever family, and all because we chose to do that for her. But, as always, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
First of all, by choosing Ruth, we denied a lot of other kids. Obviously my husband, Shane, and I can’t adopt all the orphans in the world. But still, it’s one fact that escapes most people even though it’s quite in-your-face when you really think about it. Saying yes to the sweet, precious orphaned Ruth means saying no to millions of other sweet, precious-faced kids in need.
“Yeah, okay, Beth,” you say, “isn’t that splitting hairs, though? You shouldn’t feel that ugly just because you weren’t able to help more orphans.” Could be, you’re right. But I’m just getting warmed up.
There were entire days, while waiting in Nigeria, that I didn’t want Ruth. Yeah, let that sink in.
The daughter I had been anticipating holding for an entire year, I didn’t even want to look at her. It was hard–so, so hard. And I wanted to quit. I wanted to send her back to the orphanage that she very obviously preferred over me. I wanted to go home to the simple life I knew with just my husband and son, Allen. Even now, some days, I still struggle to love her. Why? It’s not her fault she was abandoned. It’s not her fault that she spent 16 months in an orphanage attaching to the people who cared for her.
Seeing the truth
Her rejection of me was normal. Expected, even! I knew it was coming, her intense desire for anyone other than the new people. It wasn’t her fault we had to be in country for 9 weeks. It certainly wasn’t her fault that 5 of those weeks were just me, alone without my husband, my rock in any difficult situation. It’s not her fault that she has baggage she just doesn’t know how to deal with and then acts out. And if I know that none of this is her fault, why am I struggling so much to love her? Why doesn’t it come naturally? How can I even be a good mother to her? How can I not love an innocent orphaned girl depending on me for literally everything?
And that, right there, is when I truly saw my ugly, sinful heart for the first time.
There are many, many other things that make me ugly. This is certainly not the only issue–but it was the catapulting of my journey to see my human heart for what it is: ugly. I have been a Christian for a long time. I was raised in a devoutly Christian home. Went to church the definition of consistently. I, for the most part, made good decisions. I was a generally kind person. I was often mindful of others, even occasionally did something that could be described as selfless. I was lulled into a false sense of “goodness.”
Reader, the only thing that is good in me is JESUS.
I learned through Ruth’s adoption that I can appear as good as Mother Teresa, but my heart is broken and incapable of doing anything. When I retreat into myself, taking back control of my heart, ugly things happen. This is what a life not controlled by God looks like: an absolute mess. I can’t love Ruth … on my own. I can’t love Allen … on my own. I can’t do anything worthy on my own..
He intervenes. He guides. He heals. And He has covered it all in the blood of Jesus.
“…and the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7
Thank you, Beth, for sharing your heart so profoundly and honestly in this post. Here at Lifesong, we are honored to have been part of your adoption journey and are grateful to grow and learn alongside you as you raise Ruth for God’s glory.
To read more of Beth’s writing, follow along at haffwayaroundtheworld.com.
Every child needs a family.