I don’t have a lot of memories from my youngest days, but the few are vivid. And I know you remember this one too because mom had told me how you fought her on it and dreaded doing it. Dare I even recall it into existence? Yes. The sex talk with Adam. For real, though it can be fun to joke about, I don’t mean for this to be taboo. I am recovering from thinking about sex only in taboo and negative terms, so let us allow some light in. Soon. For now, the actual topic of sex is secondary to the point of the story.
The main point of the memory for me is my dismay at why I wasn’t included in this secret family meeting. Of course, it was only secret to me, but I didn’t understand. So, naturally, I used my newly purchased spy gear to see if I could gather any hints from the other side of your bedroom door. No joy. Left in confusion and resentment of my exclusion, I waited until this secret meeting was over. I only remember asking Adam what all of it was about. Not sure why. This doesn’t seem like my best option to get the truth. He was the teenage older brother who knew everything, and I was the baby sister who got things way better than he ever did. Can’t blame him really. He seized upon the opportunity, seeing the advantage or the “in” he had in the situation. When I asked him what the meeting was all about, he confessed it was about me (I knew it!).
Fear swallowed me in one gulp, but I played it cool. I couldn’t let him see my obvious concern.
“No way. You’re lying.”
As casual and indifferent as ever, his next move was brilliant.
“Believe what you want, but why do you think you were left out?”
He planted a small seed of doubt. Played on my insecurity of being left out. And without squashing it right then and there by asking you and mom, I let it take root.
Lo and behold, to this day, it is a running joke, at least between Adam and I, that I am adopted. Adam is a spitting image of you when you were young, dad. I have gotten mixed messages. Some people think I have more of your features; some think I have more of mom. I always chose to think I am a nice blend. But this didn’t help the case against adoption. I couldn’t look at myself, then, and say I have definitely come from you and mom. Now, however, I can embrace it, especially after all of the birth stories, which mom made good use to reassure me I was, indeed, not adopted.
It is pretty crazy to think, though, a little seed of doubt can mature into a whole new reality without the light of truth to expose it. Before I was finally convinced of the truth of my lineage, I believed more in my doubt than the words of two people who had taken care of me my whole life. Of course, when I was young, I couldn’t see this one situation, the secret meeting, in the context of my whole life under the love and protection of you and mom. I let it steal my trust because I was blind to the countless other reasons and experiences my whole childhood gave to support the truth of the trustworthiness of my parents. My misunderstanding and frustration at this one event became the lens through which I saw everything else and the filter through which I heard everything else. Memories contrary to my new reality of adoption became fuzzy. The doubt was insecure and insatiable. It changed feelings and redirected thoughts to feed its hunger. But it was also clever. Like all evil things, it clothed itself as something good and trustworthy. A friend trying to help. Like Golom in the Lord of the Rings convincing Frodo he was for him and Sam was against him, when really all Golom wanted was the ring. After all, evil can only falsely imitate what is good [Holy Land, Holy People].
There is nothing wrong with adoption. What was I so afraid of? Afraid that everything I thought I knew was wrong? Afraid that I didn’t belong here? Afraid that I was actually someone else?
I think the need for belonging resides somewhere deep inside all of us. And I think truth has a lot to do with belonging. It seems belonging cannot exist within a lie, truly. But it causes much tension within our hearts. Maybe sometimes we choose to belong to lies because it is easier than the truth, temporarily. We pick one lie after the other to belong to, in an effort to create ourselves, because we are never good enough, for ourselves or others. But we are already created VERY GOOD [Gen 1:31]. We listen to all the doubts rather than trust the beauty of our design. Rather than believe all we need is already inside of us. It can’t be…we convince ourselves. I have to gather and go after all these things-talents, people, money, food, sex, alcohol, achievement- to complete and fulfill who I am. All good things in themselves but not when used for a purpose which they cannot bring about. They can only put a bandaid on our ache for belonging.
“Belonging should always be for becoming.”[Community and Growth, Jean Vanier]
Belonging is about becoming who we were created to be. Living and blossoming as who we are right now and not yet who we will be. Not two different people but me becoming more and more myself. The person within me at the very beginning. Before all the birth stories (though I am grateful for the detail and assurance, thank you mom). Can you fathom the joy of belonging even before physical birth? This is the joy and truth we are created for! My heart leaps out of my chest though I can’t even understand it close to fully.
LORD, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My travels and rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, you know it all. Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me. Such knowledge is beyond me, far too lofty for me to reach.
You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth. [Psalm 139: 1-6; 13-15]
I remember reading these words once and mostly dreading them. How awful to have someone watching me all the time. I don’t believe this is quite the sense the Scripture is going for. The sense is belonging to Someone. But not just anyone. The Author of life Himself. “I AM WHO I AM.” [Exodus 3:14] “The absolute and necessary being…the Source of all created beings.” [Ex. 3:14 notes NAB Catholic Edition] “To be is to love.” “God is love.” [1 John 4:16] He is where I belong.
But I doubt Him. Just as I doubted the trustworthiness of you and mom, dad. I see myself, or don’t see myself, and doubt where I belong. I sometimes let the trials and sorrows of this life convince me of a reality in which God doesn’t really care for me. He is just up there in the clouds looking down on the world and letting horrible things happen. Sometimes my feelings and emotions in the moments of despair lead me to doubt that He really knows what He is doing, that He really is a Father at all.
“I’d finished off the box of tissues, and toilet paper was all that was left to dry the mess of emotion covering my face. My mind was racing trying to connect dots and formulate answers that could only come from God. In my human need for logic and reasoning, I found myself drawing baseless conclusions. “If I hadn’t done this,” or “If I’d prayed a little harder,” or “If I was a better person,” things would have happened differently, and I would be spared this pain.
I stood in front of the sink, my hands bracing myself on the cold countertops, “That’s not how God works,” I said it audibly, staring straight at my reflection in the mirror.
They were words I needed to physically hear, a reminder that God doesn’t hurt us or others to make a statement or prove a point. I’ve had the privilege of experiencing many beautiful attributes of Our Creator, yet in moments of despair, my memories and knowledge of God’s goodness tend to vanish in an instant.” [Sarah Rose_BIS daily devotional]
“You fight the lies of despair with the truth…the constant practice for Christians who want to live a life of freedom.”[Andrew Mitchell]
The truth is there in the Psalm. We belong to a personal God. One who calls Himself Being itself and desires for us to call Him Father. One who knows us intimately and loves us thoroughly. One who spoke the majesty of the mountains and the abyss of the seas into existence. This Someone, before our physical birth, knows us. How can this be? Don’t ask me. But I marry the mystery to trust. Trust in not only what He says but what He has done. He came to us in His Son, reconciling humanity and divinity, so we might all be His adopted sons and daughters.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. And if we are children, then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time. Not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently. [Romans 8:15-17; 22-25]
I find I am most free and most myself and most courageous when I know I have nothing to lose (isn’t it true that the underdog is sometimes the most dangerous team to play because it has nothing to lose?). Most free when I fight the lies of despair with the truth. When I truly believe I have nothing to lose because I know everything I need is already inside of me-Him. I am most free when I remember where I belong. In Him.
But now thus says the LORD, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” [Isaiah 43:1]
Mama I’m adopted!
I love you dad,