“Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
Ray Rice became a household word in the time it took me to cook dinner and do two loads of laundry. He’s the NFL football player who knocked out his fiancé in an elevator, received a two game suspension and a hefty fine but was later slapped with an indefinite suspension from football by the NFL Commissioner.
Regardless of what you think about Ray Rice, football, or the Commissioner’s unorthodox decision making style, the media did punt “domestic violence” into the American consciousness. And that could be a good thing. Even if we haven’t been a victim of domestic violence we can become part of the solution. The more we know about this blight on humanity the more we have to offer those who survive the nightmare.
Adoption doesn’t need bad press. But, like domestic violence, it touches all of us, usually in less dramatic ways. If we’re not adoptive parents, adoptees or birth parents we know someone who is. But we may not know how to support them – or realize they need it.
Adoptive parents quickly learn where and when (or not) it is safe to share their story. When they remain silent because they fear criticism, pat answers or judgment they frequently withdraw - from church, friends and family relationships.
Adoptive parenting is different than biological parenting. The starting place is different, the language is different, and parenting strategies differ. All adoptive families are trying to mitigate the compromised beginnings their adoptive children, through no fault of their own, bring into their families. It sometimes looks messy. And we don’t do messy very well.
My vision is grace-filled families, empowered and equipped for adoptive and foster parenthood, thriving in educated, grace-filled churches. And churches are filled with non- adoptive parents. But many of them want to know how to support and embrace these families. They just don’t know what they don’t know. Maybe they haven’t realized that, like domestic violence, adoption concerns all of us.
In the backlash of the media storm the NFL Commissioner created a panel to study domestic violence in the NFL to determine what training was needed to confront the problem.
What if our schools and churches did that with adoption? How long would it take to create healthy awareness, respect and safer environments for adoptive families and children? Maybe we’re the voice to punt it onto the radar in each of our areas of influence. God will help us speak and teach us what to say.
(This blog kicks off a four week series on some of the differences of adoptive parenthood with the hope that it leads us toward compassion and grace in understanding its unique challenges.)