Happy Memorial Day to everyone listening. The Ask Pastor John podcast continues rolling along, and for the next few days, we’re going to talk about adoption. Pastor John, your eighteen-year-old daughter, Talitha, recently graduated from high school — a momentous occasion you have written and blogged about recently. At this stage in her life — and at this stage in your own life — do you have any reflections about her story and about adoption in general?
I want to take this opportunity to encourage those who are considering adoption or who have already adopted and might be running into difficulties. Remember, I was fifty years old when we adopted Talitha; she was eight weeks old. She was born in Georgia; we were living in Minneapolis. She was our only daughter; we raised four sons. She was our only adopted child and our only African American child, and it was a closed adoption. We don’t have any idea who her mother or her father are. We would be totally fine if Talitha wanted to know who they are, but I just mention those facts to show the challenges we were facing. They felt very significant to me.
And the reason I feel like I want to encourage folks is not just because we overcame some of those obstacles — like being fifty years old — but because the longer and the wider the culture of adoption becomes in our churches, the more stories multiply of great pain and great sorrow in these experiences. And I don’t want to whitewash any of that. People need to have their eyes opened. Parents who are pondering adoption need to know the kinds of sorrows that they might encounter.
Hard Realities of Adoption
But, of course, they will say — and they are right — “All parenting is unpredictable.” Your biological child may have huge physical or psychological issues. They may die early. They may be disabled in an accident. You may wind up caring for your child as long as you live. And that is quite apart from adoption. They may break your heart, turning away from your faith. They may experience divorce or professional catastrophe and on and on and on. And parenting never stops. We thought, Well, we will parent for forty years and then we will be done. And that’s not true.
So I just want to encourage those folks who are considering adoption that, yes, you will encounter the possibilities of incredible and unbearable challenges. Children who have lived in orphanages or who have been passed around among relatives bring issues. They bring stuff to the family that you don’t have any idea about. I have seen cases of compulsive stealing and lying and running away from home and expressed hatred for mom and dad and bizarre behaviors like banging your head against this concrete floor until it bleeds. I mean, sometimes you just think, What have we gotten into? And everybody needs to know that whether the child is adopted or not, that might be your lot. And when you embrace a child, one way or the other, God expects you to fulfill your obligations. And yet, sometimes it can’t happen. I have seen disruptions that break everybody’s heart. And I don’t think the parents were wrong to do that kind of disruption.
Some Happy Stories
But the main thing I want to say is this: There are happy stories. And I want to make sure people hear happy stories, because there are so many of the other kind, I think. And Talitha, our daughter, is a happy story. And I am not so naïve as to think, well, it is over — “she is home free at eighteen.” That is not true. I know that is not true, but at this point I am so thankful that we did what we did. She has just graduated from high school, which is why I am thinking about this. And she is going to Boyce College in Louisville in the fall, and she trusted Christ when she was eight years old — and I think has given significant evidence of the work of the Spirit in her life.
“The main thing I want to say is this: There are happy stories.”
We’ve got our tensions at home — and I think probably some of them are unique to an adoptive situation — but she has been so blessed, and her work ethic is just off-the-charts reliable. She has done all of her schoolwork without any arm-twisting whatsoever. She wonders why college freshmen can’t get their assignments in on time when she is in the same class with them online right now. And she has loved to learn to cook, and she keeps her room neat, and she has avoided major destructive relationships. And she has loved the church, and she has wonderful, deep friendships. She’s not perfect and neither are we; we are all growing to a greater maturity and that is necessary. But it is a good story and people need to know that we don’t look back with any regrets.