During our ten years of military ministry in Okinawa, Mark and I did a lot of marriage and pre-marriage counseling. We sat on couches opposite couples in crises, healthy couples desiring checkups, and couples considering marriage every single week. We would put our own kids to bed and burn the midnight oil seeking God’s healing touch or guidance. It was a privilege. Mark and I view marriage as a sacred gift from God and we would therefore do whatever we could to help couples begin a healthy marriage or heal a sick one.
We did often notice, though, that couples in crises had generally not received pre-marital counseling. Many military couples cited limited time in the same city, limited spiritual resources in their lives prior to marriage, and limited preparation for their life-long commitment to each other and to God.
Couples who had received pre-marital counseling found themselves to be more self-aware, more eager to be part of the solution, and had a toolbox of ideas from which to draw in their times of need. We saw firsthand on a weekly basis the very real value of pre-marital counseling, as well as marriage counseling, in keeping or developing a healthy marriage.
Maybe you have guessed where I’m going with this.
Yesterday was Orphan Sunday and I applaud the efforts of many churches throughout the country to encourage Christians to pursue orphan care and adoption. Indeed, adoption is God’s idea and, according to UNICEF, there are 210,000,000 orphans in the world who deserve care and parents. The church must do more to alleviate the suffering of parentless children around the globe.
From my own limited observations and experience, though, I think that while the church is currently excelling in raising awareness and passion for adoption, it needs improvement in preparing parents to raise adopted children. I have been on an island for the last 10 years, so maybe I’m off here. But from what I can tell, we would do well to spend more time preparing parents for the journey of adoptive parenthood than just cheering them on to the finish line that we perceive to be Gotcha Day.
Adoptive parents can be much like brides-to-be and adoption agencies can behave like the bridal industry. Extreme amounts of energy, time, money, and tears are spent on the day our lives change forever. We literally dedicate every waking hour to this pursuit for years. Adoptive agencies spend all of their efforts helping us navigate legal paperwork and the governments of foreign countries. Oftentimes, both the parents and the agencies prepare only for the big day.
Like a bride choosing her dress and cake, but not taking careful time to pursue in-depth pre-marital counseling, many adoptive parents aren’t sure how to walk life with their wounded child after they come home. It’s simply less glamorous to talk trauma than rescue. We’d all rather dress shop than examine the nitty gritty of primal wounds. But just as couples are healthier with pre-marital counseling, so are families with pre-adoptive counseling. Just as pre-marital counseling elevates marriage and equips couples to thrive, so do both pre- and post-adoptive counseling elevate adoption and the lifelong journey of healing that each child will need to make.
I am personally aware of a handful of resources, which aid adoptive parents in embracing the wounds of their child and bravely walking with them through it. I will list these resources below and invite readers to add their own to the comment section on this blog or Facebook. Finally, a shout out to Carrie Abraham, one of my best friends and a fabulous adoptive mom, for providing me with her favorite resources, also listed below. Don’t walk down the aisle on Gotcha Day without preparing yourself to thrive as an adoptive family.
- Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew (by Sherrie Eldridge)
- Under His Wings: Truths to Heal Adopted, Orphaned, and Waiting Children's Hearts (by Sherrie Eldridge)
- With Eyes Wide Open: A Workbook for Parents Adopting International Children (by Miller and Ward)