When my wife and I felt called to adopt, I remember thinking, All kids need is a little love. Now, as I reflect on our experience of adopting six children from foster care, I realize that those are some of the most naïve words we ever allowed ourselves to believe.
As so many well-meaning parents do, we approached adoption and foster care thinking that our love could somehow erase our children’s past hurts. Reality hit our expectations head on — and reality inevitably gets the last word.
We learned this lesson early when we adopted two boys, loved them and treated them as we would our biological children — and then wondered why they behaved in such a disruptive manner.
My wife and I asked ourselves, What can we do differently? How can we help our children?
There were no easy answers. What we did learn is that when adopting a child who comes from a difficult situation, we must expect some form of hidden pain to emerge. You can’t always predict when, where or how, but you can be certain that pain will surface.
Several years after joining our family, one of my sons was going through a dark time in his young life. As we talked, he confessed that he had always believed it was his fault that he and his brother had been placed in foster care. He couldn’t shake this belief.
When my son confessed this to me, I desperately wanted to ease his pain, as I did when he cut his finger or scraped his knee. But I came to realize that it’s almost arrogant to believe that my love alone will heal my child’s wounds. Just as only Jesus can heal me, I now recognize that He alone can heal my child.
Being their dad
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about my role as a dad. It is my job to protect my children and provide them with structure and guidance. It is my job to give them a safe and loving home and to support them with professional help when needed. But perhaps my most important role is to model for my children a humble recognition of human limitations and, in turn, our utter dependence on Jesus. When I entrust my children, and all of their pain, to His transformational love, I admit that alone I cannot heal them. Instead, I point them to the One who can.
John Moore is a regular speaker at Focus on the Family’s “Wait No More” events.