I recently read a little book called After They Are Yours: The Grace and Grit of Adoption. Though the circumstances of the author’s adoption are very different from my own (local instead of international, baby instead of older child, fetal health issues instead of long-term special needs), I can certainly relate to the story of his struggles in parenting his adopted child.
One section totally grabbed my attention because it spoke to much of what we are currently wrestling with in our parenting of Anah. This is what the author, Brian Borgman, says:
“In fact, adoption is war, but adoptive parents must remember that, despite how it sometimes feels, this war is never with the child. Adoption is a war “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Satan opposes our mission, parents. He would much rather have children live in abusive and negligent homes or in orphanages–anonymous, unwanted, and largely ignored. And the last thing the Enemy wants to risk is to have children raised in the love and light of Christ’s gospel.
“All parenting is spiritual warfare. In fact, the whole Christian life is spiritual warfare. But some children come from dark places, and parenting them means that you will fight a particular battle for their hearts and minds. So take up the whole armor of God and remember that the victory is His. This kind of “remembering” is what I call a biblically wise gospel orientation–that is, a mindset informed by the whole counsel of God and focused on the gospel. You need to keep this perspective if you have any hope of parenting an adopted child well–and the only way to keep this perspective is to wage war.
“Let yourself get entangled in whatever real or perceived misery you might experience because you adopted, and you can lose perspective. There is much at stake here. Self-pity and resentment toward your child for your present challenges will turn you inward–the quickest way to lose ground in your battle.
“You need God’s wisdom if you are going to maintain the proper perspective. A biblically wise gospel orientation keeps you looking past self-pity, personal insults, and inconvenience, and helps you maintain a warfare mentality. It drives you to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). Such dependence on God’s strength and appropriation of God’s provision also helps you to guard your own heart.” [page 54-55, emphasis added]
Lately, every day feels like a battle with our adopted daughter. But in the midst of the difficulty of parenting her, we have to remember who the real enemy is. Our daughter may be obstinate in her sinful rebellion, but she is not the enemy we do battle with. The stress and exhaustion of parenting tempts us to accuse or resent one another as parents, but my spouse is not the enemy I do battle with. Systems of healthcare and government and education promise help but rarely provide it without a fight, but human systems are not the enemy we do battle with.
The real enemy we must battle in this journey of parenting an adopted child is Satan, the enemy of our souls. Joshua Mack, in his blog posts titled “Adoption Is War,” reminds us to put on the whole armor of God, especially the helmet of salvation:
“God has provided something stunning in salvation. And so what Satan wants to do is to make that salvation seem small. This is reality. You have been saved from the penalty of sin. You are being saved from the power of sin. One day you will be saved from the presence of sin. And what Satan is constantly trying to do is to twist that reality and to deceive you into thinking that you are actually fighting a losing battle so that you give up.”
Our battle is real, but we must not give up the fight–we need to remind ourselves continually of how great a salvation we have received in Christ. And we must not make someone we love into the enemy we’re battling, but instead make sure we’re battling the real enemy.