Orphan Sunday vs. Orphan Reality

By: Julie Beem

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27

Orphan Sunday

The church my family attends doesn’t have an orphan/adoption ministry.  In previous years I’ve mourned that because as our church family has watched closely for the past 15 years all the challenges our daughter (and family) have faced with her complex trauma and attachment struggles, I have felt we’ve not been the best “poster family” for promoting adoption.

I believe in adoption, I absolutely do.  It is necessary, rewarding and the Bible is filled with references to being adopted into the God’s family (as well as the passage in James that gets cited as a Christian mandate to adopt.)  But just like marriage, step-parenthood, or going into full-time ministry, adoption is not for everyone.  It is not at all what most people think. The past 15 years has taught us that most (if not all) adopted persons have an indelible primal wound, that remains with them as a scar, a loss that those of us who were raised by our birthparents can never fully grasp.

So as I watched the video below:

I AM LOVED from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

I was reflecting on all of this, and praying that Christians who heard this adoption “advertisement” understood the complexities of the task of parenting adopted children, I didn’t notice my daughter standing behind me.  When I turned around, her eyes were filled with tears.  What she saw in this video was not the joy and elation that was likely the creators’ purpose.  “It’s so sad,” she sobbed, “all those children are like me and had to lose their moms.”  Loss.  LOSS.  LOSS BEFORE LOVE.  That is the true orphan theme.

In our simplified, 30-second soundbite world, this message rarely gets heard.  But my voicemail and email boxes are filled with this message daily – from parents who are coming to grips with the depth of their children’s trauma and loss and are trying to navigate an entirely different world of parenting than they had ever expected.  Unprepared and overwhelmed, adoptive parents can quickly reach the same levels of despair as their children.

Interestingly, the James 1:27 scripture doesn’t tell us to adopt orphans – it tells us to care for them in their distress/affliction – so we must recognize that they are distressed and what that means.  This blog http://www.thelostdaughters.com/2012/10/what-im-doing-to-help-orphans.html?m= offers insight into this from an adult adoptee’s perspective.

Adoption is about Love.  It’s about God’s Love – which is not the sunshine, lollipops and happily-ever-after we’d like to believe as we drive back to our well-furnished homes after sitting in our comfortable pews on Orphan Sunday.  It’s messy, radical and dangerous.  Think about – REALLY think about – what His Love meant for Jesus.  Giving up His life for people who hated him, misunderstood him, scorned him, abused him, rejected him.  Therapeutic parents can relate.  As the replacement parents to children so primally wounded, we are hated, misunderstood, scorned, abused and rejected.  Yet, I watch in awe at parents who figure this out, lay down their lives, and grasp that Love is an action verb, a life-long commitment, a think-outside-of-the box way of living.

Adoption is first about Loss – and is totally about the distressed orphan.  “I am loved” becomes the joyful reality only when we’re willing to live with the depth of the grief and the loss.  And to give up our lives…daily.

Julie has been ATN's Executive Director since 2009. She joined the organization in 2004 after finding incredible support from fellow ATNers when she was searching for answers about her own daughter's early childhood trauma and attachment disorders. Julie leads a staff of passionate professionals and acts as spokesperson for the organization. Prior to ATN, Julie was the president of a marketing and communications consultancy, The Epiphany Group, and has over two decades of experience in professional services marketing, strategic planning and communication strategies. As a graduate of Partners in Policymaking and through personal experience, Julie has garnered a great deal of experience in the areas of special education, school issues, and disabilities advocacy. A published author, Julie wrote a chapter in the EMK Press Adoption Parenting book and was the special needs blogger at Adoptionblogs.com for two years. She frequently presents workshops on attachment and trauma to local and national groups. Email Julie. Julie holds an MBA from Avila College in Kansas City and was a Certified Professional Services Marketer. Julie, and her husband Dave, are parents to four (bio, step and adoptive), including their youngest daughter, adopted from China. This daughter’s attachment difficulties and developmental trauma disorder have changed their lives significantly…in amazing ways.