Two nights ago, Julia wanted to talk about her adoption. Although I have told her many times that I want her to be completely free to ask any questions and always tell me how she feels, she still doesn't bring it up often. But this time, she was clearly craving information about her beginnings.
"Do I look anything like my birthfather?"
"How do you know he was really my father if they weren't married?"
"Do you think I would have my own bedroom if they had kept me?"
"What makes a mother decide to let her baby go join a different family?"
She didn't appear to be too affected by our answers to her questions until she asked this:
"Did they think about keeping me after I was born?"
We all stood in the kitchen together, the other kids nearly as interested in my answers as she was. Everyone was waiting for me to say something.
I paused. Unsure how much to give. But I have always promised her that I would be completely honest with her and tell her all I know to the best of my recollection. So I responded:
"When we saw you for the first time, the two of them were sitting on the hospital bed and you were in her arms. It was a small room, so even though he whispered I heard him say to her with tears in his eyes ,"Do you think we should keep her? We can keep her if you want to." And she looked up at him and replied, "No. We are not keeping her."
My girl became silent and I saw a flash of something I couldn't identify settle on her beautiful face. Julia isn't a very emotional young woman, but this news clearly affected her. She stood still for a few seconds, then ripped a paper towel off the roll behind her, wet it in the sink, and started wiping the counters.
I walked up behind her, wrapped my arms around her, and told her how much I love her and how much her birthparents loved her to be able to choose what they believed was best for her, no matter how hard it may have been for them. She stopped cleaning and let me hold her. Then, in his typical compassionate fashion, Asa came over and made it a group hug. He told her that he loved her and that his life wouldn't be nearly as good without her. When she looked up, Ethan said, "I'm really glad you're my sister". Astrid skipped over and added, "I would have had to sleep in a room by myself all this time if you weren't here! I wouldn't like that at all!" Justin told her what an amazing daughter she is and reassured her again how much her birthparents loved her.
The details surrounding adoption can be a rocky terrain for any family to travel. For there is the fragile heart of a child to consider, and the heavy weight of what can feel like rejection to help her carry.
But don't we all bear that weight on our hearts sometimes? We all long to be wanted. It can be painful to feel as if someone had the choice to be with us, but chose something different.
This is why we cannot base how we feel about ourselves upon the choices of another person. No matter how deeply those choices affect our lives. It is a dangerous place to live, measuring your worth against the arbitrary decisions of a fellow fallen human.
Our identity has to be rooted in soil that is deeper and richer and painstakingly cultivated to fulfill the needs of our hearts.
Infinite worth is found in our relationship with an unchanging God.
Human hearts, plagued with hurts and scars and selfish ambitions cannot fill our need for unwavering love, but "who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trials, or distress, or mistreatment, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or weapons", or anything else? (Romans 8:35)
He is where our identity is secure.
He is where our hearts can be filled to overflowing.
He is the only one who will always and forever say, "I'm keeping her."