Years ago, when we began the journey of adoption, it was surprising to read in “The Connected Child” that we would want our daughter to cry. Reading the explanation, however, seemed to make perfect sense. For a child who has never known the safe environment of a loving home and parents who cared for her needs, she has to learn the instinct to cry out. Previously, crying gained her nothing, or quite possibly the opposite of affection, and so she may have “unlearned” the behavior. As our child became connected to us, it would become evident through moments like crying out – knowing she could trust a proper and loving response.
Fast forward several years. We’ve finally brought home a daughter who is about 5 years old, and not only has she “unlearned” many habits of children who grow up in healthy environments – she’s also acquired many habits of children who grow up in unhealthy environments. She is loved, for the first time as never before, and brought in to being part of a family. At first, she didn’t understand much of anything. What did “Father” mean? What did “Mother” mean? There are certain things, and certain words, that if you were to examine them in the routine of many normal homes it would be confusing. But in our context, where we’re attempting to purposefully build the connections most children would naturally develop from birth, they make sense.
Now take a step back. Think about the Old Testament and the actions or words spoken between God and His people. A common question among people who don’t want to believe in God, or even those who do but are honest with their doubts – “Why would God command ______? Why would God do ________?”
I can’t pretend to understand the mind or heart of God completely, but I do understand the heart of a Father who wants to connect with the heart of their child. A child who has never known a Father like this before. A child who has become so separated from the concept of “family” or “parent”, that it is a completely foreign concept.
So we see God calling out His people from among all others. We see God rescue His people, only to force them into depending on Him through the wilderness for 40 years. We hear words from God about the wrath He’s capable of, even though ultimately He reveals His heart to be powerfully Loving and full of Grace for humanity. (lol, I realize that sounds bad here. No worries, we’re not threatening wrath or taking our daughters on 40 year wilderness journeys.)
It’s not the kind of relationship we’d have if we were born aware of Him. But it’s an adoption that impacts us to the very core of our being, for eternity. Romans 8:15 reminds us, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
One of the most natural ways to build that connection and bond? Simply to hold our daughter, and to allow her to feel our love. To remind her that we are here, and she is here, and she is ours no matter what happens. To help her feel safe, and loved, and comforted. To provide for her needs, and help her to see how depending on us to meet those needs is a trustworthy habit to develop.
In this moment – maybe it’s a good reminder for you and I – if this is what I am aware of, can’t we trust that God knows even better how to move His children into a fully connected relationship with Him? We can trust in these moments, if we allow ourselves to be held by Him, to listen to His words, and to depend on Him to provide – these are habits worth developing in our own lives.
Even as I continue to pray my daughter would know my love deep in her heart, and not just in behavior – I also pray that my heart would deeply come to know the Love of my Father, not just in my behavior. I pray that God would use this understanding of His Love – to invite even more children into fuller connection with Him…