"You did not choose me, but I chose you..." (John 15:16)
Adoption is loaded with choice. we choose to adopt, the type of adoption we want, and an agency to help us adopt. We choose yes or no when a birth family chooses us, or when we receive a child referral. We choose our child. But we dare not forget they did not choose us.
Some children experience a seamless transition into their adoptive families; others do not. Some choose quickly; others never do. But for my daughter, choosing us as her parents was a process.
Sarah was three years old when she joined our family from Cambodia. Choosing Sarah, without her choosing us, meant she was “stuck” in our family. Her wounds collided with mine before our suitcases were unpacked. Chaos and drama reigned in our home for a season. It was exhausting.
Adolescence fostered unhealthy choices.
Independence cultivated rejection.
But life brought her back.
Haunted by unanswered questions, Sarah needed to return to Cambodia. We visited her orphanage and caregivers, explored her birth culture, laughed, bargained in the marketplace, ate new foods, prayed and talked. It was good – and healing.
Back home, one evening after dinner, Sarah thanked her dad for the trip. Then, turning to me, she began to cry and said, “Mom, thank you for going to Cambodia with me and for being there when I needed you. And I want you to know that I really do choose you to be my mom.” We hugged and cried. Somehow I knew she had made that decision. Although speaking it was healing for both of us, it didn’t turn ours into a happily-ever-after-story.
Burned bridges did not magically reappear. Harsh words and careless actions were not forgotten. But they were forgiven. We’ve folded her choosing process into our journey, accepted what she could give, and watched the trajectory of our story change. Mutual choosing provides fertile ground for healing and growth. It’s never too late.
I’ve often wondered how I would deal with the loss, the unknown, and the confusion as a transracial adoptee. I’m past the mothering frustrations and the shame of my inadequacy. And I’ve decided I could only hope to do it as honestly as Sarah and our other two adopted daughters have done it. I wanted a seamless transition. But I’m grateful for the choosing process.
And doesn’t that describe you and me?
“You did not choose me, but I chose you…”
Eventually, by God’s grace, I chose Him too.
And eventually, by God’s grace, most adopted children choose us. But until they do, may we be gracious, loving, kind, compassionate and forgiving as they navigate an unimaginable journey.
(Shared with her permission and blessing by Sarah Freeman Preston.)