By Faith Kowitz, Franciscan University
What is it like to be adopted? We are all adopted, but how do we describe what it feels like to be an adopted child of God? I am both an adopted child of God and an adopted child of two parents of seven children. I’m hoping that I can help you compare being physically adopted to being spiritually adopted.
When it comes to adoption, there are a couple of different stages. There’s always the before (foster home), the during (transition), and the after (part of the family). Each stage comes with its own set of fears, anxiety, and emotions. Each stage has a territory of good and bad. Many times those good and bad moments are in a tangled spaghetti of a mess. What’s it like in each of those stages? Let’s break it down:
Before a child is adopted, he/she is in either a foster home or an orphanage. Foster homes are more common in the Western World. Looking into the mind of the child, you’ll see a lot of fear, anxiety and the desire to feel loved and wanted. During this time the child also knows that acting ‘normal’, acting as if nothing is messed up in their world, is going to be the best way to get into a family. But how and why do they know and believe this? Because the father of lies has instilled it into us that we must fit a mold to be wanted and loved. He has warped society into believing that if we were all alike then there would be peace. But we learn over time that it is precisely our uniqueness and our anti-cookie-cutter-ness that makes the world thrive.
While this child is trying to figure out what normal is, he is increasingly becoming psychologically distressed by exacerbating and burying issues that need to be addressed. But what you bury in foster care will be exhumed and brought with you into adoption. Your new adopted family wants all of you, even if you don’t want all of you.
Keep in mind that the longer you’re in a foster home, the worse your condition can be. Once a family takes a liking to the child there’s a lot of things that go into the adoption process that takes a lot of time. (I won’t bore you with the details because it involves a lot of paperwork, all of which is the responsibility of the parent.)
During the adoption, the child has to transition. Some things include but are not limited to meeting all the family members, understanding what is expected of them, and gaining trust from and for the new family. Similarly, when we are adopted into the Body of Christ, we have to be introduced to the family: the saints, the angels, the Blessed Mother, and so on. It can be overwhelming. I know I was introduced to a big family when I was adopted and I am still building relationships with my parents and siblings.
The rules are a bit tougher. I came from a situation where the rules were not enforced and so I didn’t follow them. The only thing that would hold me to something was the natural consequences. Now you have an entire army (I mean family) to “pounce” on you the second you make a bad choice. That negative mindset does go away as you start to understand that this is for your good and as you start to create meaningful relationships. Now in the Catholic family, we are expected to become saints. Thankfully, our older siblings are already there. They will help us understand and follow the rules. I know when I saw my older siblings getting that ice cream cone and I did not I would become so envious but I know now that they deserved that cone and I did not because I broke the rules. That ice cream cone is heaven. The transition is the toughest part. For an adoptee, it can take anywhere from three months to three or more years. Honestly, I’m in my tenth year and I don’t think I’ve fully transitioned.
When do you know you’ve transitioned? When the rules become easier to obey rather than disobey. When you get to lick that allegorical ice cream cone more often. When you don’t get mad at your siblings for having something that you don’t because you realize you get something else instead. This is when you are “part of the family”. The name is inaccurate because you’ve been a part of the family since day one of transition but now everything is smooth. The family (with you as a major part of it) works like a well-oiled machine. You have your role and you know how you do it best.
Whether or not you have experienced adoption, you may have still experienced these different stages in your childhood and up to now. So now you can relate these thoughts, emotions, and actions to what it is like to be spiritually adopted. Being a family takes a heck of a lot of work but it’s worth it. Smooth sailing will end with angry seas but each of the crewmembers knows what to do. So talk to your spiritual family. They can teach you how the job gets done. They’ve been through it already so they know what the most efficient way of doing this is. And remember that the ice cream cone we’re aiming at will taste like nothing you’ve ever had before.