Sure, when I met Peter I thought that I might like him, but I don't think I really began to understand what loving him meant until after we married and I watched him go to work tired in order to provide for me. Or even more so when I saw him get up during the night to change our infant daughter or watch him forego some much needed downtime so that I could have some instead. It's fair to say that the more I learn about Peter, the more I love him.
So it is with our children.
The first time I met A, she was two days old. I was drawn to her, and I cared about her. I even thought I might love her, but I really didn't even know her. I didn't have nine months of her growing inside me or even two or three months of getting to know her through a match with a birthmother. I met A about 18 hours after I found out she even existed. I had to learn to love her. The feelings followed the choice.
This time, I am much better prepared and have no notions of falling in love with cute faces. It's a good thing, too. It is hard enough for me to feel any love towards people I already know when I'm exhausted, and exhaustion doesn't even begin to describe what we experienced during both times our children visited us over Thanksgiving and Christmas. It certainly wasn't the normal exhaustion of parenting five children (with the holidays mixed in). I can adjust to that.
No, this bone-deep weariness was the result of parenting five children, four of whom come to us from a place of great hurt. Emotional ages don't match chronological ones.
Adoption = trauma. No matter how you slice it.
Even my little A--who came to us at birth from a very loving first mom who still rejoices with me over the many milestones--she was taken from the familiar and thrust into the unfamiliar.
I am not my new children's first mom, or even their second.
When they call me mom, it isn't because we are bonding. It is because they don't attach the same meaning to the word that you and I do. They will have to learn what a mom is.
There is loss. And grief. And a great need for grace.
At one point, one of my kiddos had a rebellious encounter with poop. She smelled. She was full of angry tears and wanted me to hold her. Needless to say, I don't like the smell of poop. In fact, it turns my stomach (I still hold my breath while changing diapers). I had to summon every ounce of strength I had to snuggle with a stinky, defiant, disobedient, (did I mention smelly?) kid. Oh how I really wanted to run into a shower.
And then it occurred to me. That was me. That is all of us in our sin. We stink. We are repulsive. We are messy and ugly.
Yet God, in His great love for us, lowered Himself to come to us in the midst of our defiant stench because He saw something redeemable in us. He hugged me when I was covered in poop.
And so, I wrestle again with love, as our children prepare to join us within the next several weeks.
But this time, while I know I may not feel love or even want to express it, I must choose to give it.
Because I have received it.
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
(Isaac Watts; Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1707-09, Book II, number 9)