“Hello, is this Stan? My name is Jean. I think I’m your mother.”
These are the amazing words I heard when I answered the phone on September 7, 2017. After nearly 55 years I was reunited with my birth mother. I blogged last week about two of the three truths I’ve understood more deeply since getting to know her these past few months. But this has also caused me to reflect on the love and courage of the woman I have and always will call “Mother”—the woman who adopted me.
1 and 2 Revisited: The Courage and Love Required in Adoption
In 1962 Doris desired to provide motherly love to a child who needed a good home. So she began pursuing adoption. Hers was also a very courageous choice. In the early 1960s, adoption was not very common, and there were many uncertainties. How would others react? How would she respond as the reality set in that her son didn’t share her looks or personality? Without the tie of biology would her son accept her as his mother as he grew up? What would be the implications for her, and her son, of always knowing there is another woman who is also his mother?
But she was a woman of great courage, willing to face each of these challenges with grace and poise. She told me of my adoption at a very early age and was always very open with me and others who asked about it. No matter how others reacted, she exhibited her courage in affirming my value and her commitment to me. Her transparency and affirmation meant a lot to me, knowing my mother embraced this reality without any regret or chagrin.
Doris never communicated in any way any fears she may have had concerning how my adoption may affect our relationship. Her courage in facing this uncertainty made it very easy for me to fully embrace her as my mother. She has been and continues to be my true mother, and I her actual son, in every way besides biological.
(Interestingly, over the years many people who didn’t know I was adopted have commented on how much we look alike, and have similar personalities! These resemblances were special graces of God, I believe, rewarding her courage.)
Doris also expressed unconditional love each day after my adoption in so many ways. It was not conditioned on my origin or behavior—who I was or what I did. Such unconditional love is hard for me to fathom, but is what I experienced from her every day since the moment she adopted me. I certainly did not make mothering easy for her. I was a stubborn, opinionated, and strong-willed child. I made many mistakes. I made many messes. Through it all I received only unconditional love and forgiveness. She has loved me as her true son. For her complete devotion I have thanked her often, and continue to do so.
Doris, like Jean, put flesh on the words of I Corinthians 13:4-8 -
- Love is patient – Doris had to be patient and was willing to wait many years to fulfill her desire to love a son or daughter. She was then patient day in and day out as she raised her rambunctious son.
- Love is kind – Doris’ showed exceeding kindness to this baby boy in need of a family—someone in desperate need of the kindness of another to have “a future and a hope.”
- It does not envy – Doris was never envious of the one who gave me life and shares my biology. In fact, she recently told me that each time I had a birthday, she wished she knew who my birth mother was—to be able to send a card of thanks and comfort! (This December 5 will be her first opportunity to do so.)
- It does not boast; it is not proud – Doris was willing to forgo the pride of raising her own biological children and instead embraced raising me like her own.
- It does not dishonor others – Doris honored me every day by saying in actions and words that I was wanted and welcome in her family as a full son.
- It is not self-seeking - It took great sacrifice to make room for me in her family, but Doris was willing to do so. Then, day-by-day she reaffirmed the choice not to seek her own comfort, but instead my well-being, as she raised this young son to manhood.
- It is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs – Doris never in anger used my adoption as an insult or way to distance or disgrace me.
- Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth – Doris knew I desired to reunite with my birthmother to understand my medical history as well as to have a sense of my genealogy. She did not want to keep me from this but rejoiced in me searching and then finding my birth mother and knowing the truth about my origins and lineage.
- It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. – From the moment she brought me home, Doris protected and preserved my life, trusting there would be a future and a hope for me and never failing me in any way.
Such love is the essence of adoption: having the courage to take a perfect stranger and treat him as your own flesh and blood, loving him unconditionally, giving him full rights as a member of the family, and laying your life down for him.
My adoption completely and fully redeemed my life. Opportunities opened to me that my birth mother could have never provided. As I’ve reflected more on this, I’ve also seen in deeper ways what a gift our adoption as God’s sons and daughters is. I’ll share some of those thoughts next week.
Until then, grace and peace.
For further reading on how we are all called to use our power to help redeem all things, I suggest Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power by Andy Crouch