When God first began to speak to my heart about adopting a child with special needs, I immediately wanted to know why other families had chosen this adoption path. I learned that there were many families who had no experience or training with special needs children. They were adopting because they had a unique love for these precious little ones. One mother told me, "Leslie, I had numerous discussions with my husband about it and the only thing that I kept telling him was 'this could have been one of our children all along.' And, it could happen any day too from a car wreck or anything." That struck a chord with me.
Would I not love a child who was born to me with a disability? Would I not love one of our children who became disabled as the result of some trauma? Love is not an emotion. It's a choice.
We waited a very long time for Kristina to join our family. We loved her from a distance for over a year. We were blessed to have one summer together through Frontier Horizon's hosting program. During that summer, we were able to see her true colors several times. When she came home for good in December of 2007, we continued to work through her adjustment to life in a new culture, with boundaries and a family. There were moments when she really struggled. But what surprised me most was there were moments when I really struggled. In fact, I think I experienced a bit of Post Adoptive Depression.
This wasn't because I regretted our adoption or adopting Kristina. What I learned was that loving someone, truly loving someone, was often a painful process. It was much like the reality of marriage. After the wedding, there's an adjustment period that happens when you realize just how imperfect your spouse is. You learn of his weaknesses, his shortcomings, the things he does that annoy and disappoint you. And if you're not careful, you'll forget that love is a choice and not an emotion. At best, romance is highly overrated. At worst, it can be the faulty foundation for a relationship.
So what is true love? The fact that God chose to love me, the one with weaknesses and shortcomings who was bound to disappoint, is a beautiful thing. That His love doesn't depend on me, but on Him! Is that not the love that we are to give to our spouses, our children, and those around us? Is that not the picture of the Father's love to his adopted children? Knowing how imperfect we were, He chose us and made us His own. While the post adoption experience brings its own challenges, regardless of the challenges of the child, our response is still the same. We will choose to love a child because He first loved us.
-I John 4:19