He studied my face, streaked with happy tears. His little eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Then he leaned on my shoulder and melted into my embrace. For days after, if he was awake, he was in my arms. Only his new grandma would suffice in my place for brief periods of time. Bonding between me and my fourteen-month old Kenyan adopted son was immediate and uninterrupted.
From reading and adoptive parent training, I recognized that this attachment process evolved atypically. Still, when I claimed our daughter in Kenya a few years later and stumbled into the more normal trajectory of attachment, it shocked and knocked the wind out of me.
At first, she soaked up my nurture like a dry sponge. But, I distinctly remember the moment she let me know that the last thing she wanted was to belong to me. We visited a tourist area in Kenya, and she reached for a stranger. Somewhat bewildered, the man took her in his arms. It was time for us to leave, so I tried to take her back. She clung to this man she had never seen before and began to cry.
From there, the situation deteriorated. Through the days ahead, she kicked, hit, bit and screamed incessantly. Every ounce of her twenty-one month old body declared her resistance to relationship with me. In my mind I knew she was frantically trying to protect her heart from the unendurable nightmare of losing another mother; but my heart stung with rejection.
Those were excruciating months, navigating a foreign adoption system in flux and trying to love a child I felt terrified I would not bring home, who acted as if that was exactly what she wanted. She was still crying most of the time on our final court date in Kenya. I feared the Judge would notice, deem us unattached, and deny the adoption. Somehow we made it through that day, and many more. Slowly, moment by moment, with some easier than others, my husband and I did our best to convince her that we weren’t leaving. Slowly she began to believe us.
Several years later, the stored-up pain from that time circled back to haunt me. The knowledge of how and why it happened could no longer ease the grief. Through the wisdom of a kind and skilled counselor, I came to recognize a core fear of rejection that scarred my heart long before I met my daughter. The experience with her only scraped a wound open that lay hidden since before I could remember. But as it oozed, no longer deniable, I also heard a whispered invitation, wooing me through the pain.
In my imagination, I saw him there. Jesus, my long-time companion. He tenderly placed his hand beneath my chin and tried to turn my tearful eyes upward. I could not bear to look. Then, in a moment of breathless determination, I dared to meet His gaze. And there, I saw not rejection but utter acceptance, belonging, and affirmation. Truly, I have never been the same.
If the scraping of an old wound never came, perhaps I would still be blinded to its existence. I would never have dared to hope for healing, never have grappled my way to the Only One who can create beauty from ashes.
Is your heart broken and bleeding? My friend, dare to listen to the still, quiet invitation, ever so faint, ever so audacious – buried in a beautiful wound, driving you to the Healer.