part one / part two / part three
My friend recently learned my Chinese name, Xiaona. I shock them as I tell the story, stuttering a little, trying to dictate the chronological order of events, how my parents chose me, how I struggled. A day or so before, I sit in my bed, send a good morning text and scroll through my feed. It is a terrible habit, but I pause to read a post. November. Adoption month has arrived. I press ‘like’ and move on with the day, but lingering in the back of my mind it hits me again, like it usually does: you know, you’re adopted too.
It has been almost five years since I really spent a significant amount of time to write about my adoption, let alone feel compelled to go in depth about how it shaped my childhood. In that amount of time, a lot has changed. But too, I realize more and more how some of the feelings and effects of being adopted have lingered, manifesting themselves in small ways in my everyday life. Looking back at how things have changed compared to my childhood and adolescence has been a comfort, though, which is a little surprising, shocking even, to write. Perhaps some of the changes have stemmed from a deeper conviction that God is God, being brought to my knees and broken in ways I had never fathomed, but I am a great deal certain that the changes stemmed from prayers over the years for humility and trust and thankfulness…prayers that I would be shaped to become a woman with a heart more tender, more kind, more sure than ever that God is faithful.
I struggle to find the words with how to begin, though I think that is just a characteristic I always have had, a portion of it I think, being influenced highly by the Southern culture, beating around the bush, not wanting to offend – pressure, even, revolving around adoption being perhaps taboo, too sensitive of a topic. But still, like the fifteen, sixteen, seventeen year-old I once was, certain things (like Kung Fu Panda 2) make me cry because it strikes a chord that is so precious to my heart: adoption…the sorrow, the redemption, and grace of it all that makes up my story. The subject that has kept itself silenced throughout many of the introductions and ‘hello’s’ and periods of life. And as was five years ago, I am often met with blinking cursors and a shabby attempt to word it all. It’s one of these times, where you have so much you want to (and could) say – where you’ve spent so much thought; yet in the midst of all this, so many feelings and unanswered questions intertwine themselves; and as a result, instead of characters and words and flowing thoughts, you have unfinished sentences and a blank page staring back in a loud silence.
My adoption is a story of questions, hurt, grace, and redemption. Like all stories, there is a beginning, and I believe, the beginning is the hardest part.
I was born to two people whom I will never know. On some days, I would wonder if my birth parents truly wanted me in the first place. In the autumn, only a few days after I was born, the police found me, left on a bench, in the shadows of Guangdong, a province in China located in the southern part of the country near Maoming and Vietnam. I was found without a name, without a birthdate, without a family, and had nobody to care for me. I was abandoned. I was a nobody. I was left on my own.
To abandon means to leave completely and finally. The word means to forsake utterly and to desert wholly. To cast away and leave. Whenever I would try to grasp the meaning, the weight of it would crush me. As a child, grappling with the fact that this word was associated with me hurt each time. It brought tears, each time. Not because the meaning is something new, or something that I have not known, but because its honesty, associating a personal pronoun with a definition like that, is something that should wreck a person. And sometimes, the ache is more than what words can describe, often leaving you with overwhelmed by the words that you do not have.
Sometimes, it hurts to realize that I was left completely and finally. Forsaken utterly. Deserted, and cast away. It’s saddening to realize that I was left before my birth parents got the chance to know me. Not a single year goes by without the days where I find myself wondering “why?” Why was I abandoned? Why was I left? Why didn’t they want me? There are days of grief. Days of heartache. Days of feeling rejected. Days of sadness. Days of just realizing the reality of the truth that can hurt the most, leaving the deepest of wounds and scars.
It is not easy to believe that my birth parents loved me. I find myself often tempted to counter the thought of their love with, “If they loved me, would not they have kept me?” I imagine that perhaps they did love me, or held some sort of affection, but I will never, really, ever, experience that fact for sure.
Love is an action, and to comprehend the possibility of “being abandoned in the name of love” is a difficult, upsetting thing. It’s hard to fathom that someone out there who gave me life, loves me, without knowing where I am or what I look like or what my name is; let alone the fact if I am even still alive. Here I am growing up; having the same nose and the same smile and the same laugh of someone I will never, ever know…Of someone who decided to give me away before they knew me…Of two individuals whose names will forever be mysteries and whose faces I will never remember. (An excerpt from what I wrote years ago.)
I grew, daily wrestling with the difficulty that lingered as I tried to forgive and love two strangers that wounded my heart so deeply. For many years, I did not want to, saying things I should not have about individuals I’ve not known – individuals that God had made in His own image, and whom He loved, too. Through most of my adolescence, my definition of love and forgiveness was flawed, a counterfeit, insincere. But through the years, my understanding of forgiveness was shaped and molded, as I learned more about grace and redemption and the gospel – what had been extended to me in the times that I deserved it the least and needed it most. I saw that there was purpose in being left and clung to knowing that Jesus was abandoned on the cross for my sake, too, and that, He must have felt the same way, too. I saw that abandonment was not because of a lack of love, but one of the deepest loves – and how that was mirrored so beautifully on the cross.
I saw firsthand how The Father, truly does have a heart for the fatherless, and how the gospel is for people who have nothing to offer, nothing to give, for those who are messy, broken, and at the end of themselves. I understood more and more how precious His children are in His sight, how deliberate He is in all of his dealings, how there is hope in Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet he did not sin”, and how there is comfort in knowing that all things work out for the good and salvation of those who love Him (Romans 8:28 and James 1:12).
But even more so, I grew to understand that I was not abandoned to be forgotten, but rather, to be found. To be redeemed, healed, and made new…to be given a life that I did not deserve, to receive a love far sweeter than I could have fathomed.
(to be continued)…