I slammed my fist on the table and shouted words from my mouth as quickly as they entered my mind. My hands shook and I stomped out of the room feeling justified in my reaction, considering her offense. 

“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Anger. That is what I found to be abundant in that moment of unrestraint. 

Truth be told, this was nearly five years into our adoption, but that was not the first time this had happened. I remember vividly those early days feeling out of control of my emotions. So full of frustration that I could hardly see straight. 

The reality is we were unprepared when we boldly chose adoption. We were naive and innocent and oh, so sincere. But also very keenly unaware of the trials that lay before us. 

I wrote once not long after bringing in our adopted daughter about the ugly side of adoption.  

We found ourselves in the turbulent waves of bringing in a child from a traumatic background. Alone in the middle of the Amazon jungle with no communication and certainly no training in regard to caring for children with special emotional and psychological needs, we were overwhelmed. 

RELATED: We are an Adoption Success Story—and it’s Still Hard

It was trial by fire. And we were being consumed. 

But in as much as we were made aware of her sinful nature, ours came glaring back with even greater force as the days progressed.

For every action, there seemed to be an unequal and more forceful reaction on my part. 

The more I came face to face with my own depravity, the more fearful I became. I could feel it when it would creep up, stealthily threatening to overtake me, and often succeeding. 

Fear of the future. Fear of what she would do next. Fear of my own reactions.

In the same way, I was never told of the hardships of adoption, no one told me this part either.

No one told me that adoption would reveal in me my greatest need: to be changed by Christ. 

I guess on some level, I assumed I had already been changed. After all, I had spent days crying, praying, begging for God to make her our own. I wept thinking of what she was experiencing on the days leading up to her arrival at our door. Was this compassion not evidence of a change only Christ can bring?

We wanted to rescue her from that life of pain and suffering. 

I didn’t know that I also needed to be rescued from myself.

I shared through tears sitting in the office of a counselor these emotions and ensuing reactions that overwhelmed me. We had unexpectedly moved back to the States after a life overseas, and I had, in desperation, searched and found a counselor who specialized in cultural reintegration and family conflict.

I am struggling to connect with my own child. And I hate myself for it.”

For two and a half years, she had borne my last name, and yet there I was, sitting on a couch with tissues mounting up beside me, still battling myself. 

She listened. She didn’t judge me like I was judging myself. Instead, she said three simple words . . .

“You are human.”

It gave me pause. 

It wasn’t an excuse to continue down the path of bitterness on which I found myself. It wasn’t meant to let me off easy or defend my off-kilter actions.

It was a proclamation of hope, an offer to forgive myself and start over. It was a call to surrender my self-given and ill-fitted title of “savior” and realize I was trying to play a role that didn’t belong to me. 

I needed to let the true Savior take that role instead.

Thus began the slow process of healing. There were deep conversations and tears together.

And then the next cycle would hit, and I would find us spinning out of control again. 

Deep breath. Forgive. Repeat. Sometimes this felt like a second-by-second routine.

But there is freedom in the release of control. There is freedom when I realize that her future does not depend on me doing it right. I cannot control the outcome of her life, her choices, her actions, nor was I called to do so.

I can do one thing and that is this: I can love her well. 

I can teach her truth and consequence. I can forgive. I can listen. I can instruct. I can try my hardest to understand though I’ll never fully be able to do that. I can take deep breaths and seek wisdom from God and those I trust around me. I can take care of my own mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual self. 

I am not called to be God to any of my children. I cannot change any of my children.

RELATED: To the Mom Trying to Do It All, You’re In God’s Way

But God can, and it is completely up to Him when and how He does that. 

I am called to parent my children as though doing it for Him.

And it is quite possibly the hardest thing I will ever have to do.  

I pray the fire refines us and does not destroy us. I hope we don’t resent the process but rather learn to lean in. I hope we learn to let go of our selfish ambition, our egos, our pride. 

And most of all I hope we learn to love well. 

At the very end, may there be a beauty revealed that we could never stake claim to. 

Because only God Himself could create beauty from ashes.

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Ashley Whittemore

Ashley is a recovering people pleaser, former ex-pat, and writer. Married to her high school sweetheart, together they have three children whom she homeschools while trying to drink her coffee fast enough since they don't own a microwave.

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