July 23, 2012

Is Love Enough?

From her earliest memories, she recognized that she was not quite like other people.   Somehow she knew that childhood is supposed to be full of laughter and wonder and joy, yet she experienced none of those things.  Mostly she felt lonely, but where was the instruction booklet on how to make friends?  Her mother’s tone of voice just then . . . was she being honest or sarcastic?  That expression on her classmate’s face . . . what did that mean?  While other girls her age were experimenting with make-up and giggling about cute boys, she found herself getting lost in an intriguing sci-fi book or sketching elaborate animals that had human-like faces.  Her inability to connect with people left her feeling isolated, but she never could quite figure out what to do about it.  Eventually she just accepted the fact that the dark cloud hanging over her life was there to stay.

As a young woman, the thought of bringing a newborn baby into this sad, confusing world was unthinkable.  However, because of her strong belief that God created the life that was growing inside her, placing her child for adoption with a stable, loving family was her only option.  The only way she could think of to give her child an opportunity to live a normal life.  It was entirely possible, of course, that the child would inherit her unique characteristics, her Nature if you will, but she sincerely hoped and prayed that the right Nurture in the right environment would be stronger than the genes that were being passed along to her offspring.  That love would be enough.

Through nine long months she persevered in her commitment to offer her child a better life than the one she had experienced.  Battling her doubts and fears, trying to comprehend the deep loss she knew she would feel, and turning a deaf ear to her mother’s plea to keep the baby, she remained resolved.  And when that day finally came when the new life entered the world, she wrapped him carefully in a tiny blue blanket, and with a mixture of grief, relief, and hope, placed him gently into my waiting arms.

Oh, how my husband and I cherished that precious baby boy!  We didn’t know any of the details of his biological mother’s struggles and challenges, traits that may have been passed down to her baby. But even if we had known, it would not have mattered.  Nothing could possibly diminish the powerful love we had for our son, the future of possibilities that lay before him like a fresh canvas waiting for the strokes of paint that would transform it into a beautiful picture.  We were confident that our parental love, consistent training, and nurturing of his personality and talents would all work together to mold this child into a respectable, responsible young man.  An adult who would eventually enjoy fulfilling relationships, a successful, satisfying career, and a desire to use his abilities to make a difference in the world.  Isn’t that what every parent dreams for their children?

Like parents everywhere, we observed with hawk-like attention every emerging tendency, trying to discern which ones were positive, which ones were negative, and which ones simply needed to be redirected.  That abundant energy and non-stop motion . . . is that normal, simply because he is a boy, or is it something that needs to be reigned in and controlled?  The fascination with sci-fi creatures and fantasy books . . . is it an obsession that he will eventually outgrow, or should we try to redirect him to alternate interests?  That stubborn, independent streak . . . won’t he need that characteristic some day when his peers try to convince him to try something illegal or immoral?  Almost daily I would pray for wisdom in mothering him, this child whose passions, personality, and pursuits were so completely unfamiliar to me.

Of course he also began to display many positive traits and special talents that obviously didn’t come from me.  Because of his intelligence and quick wit in a conversation, his words often danced circles around mine, easily leaving me stunned, wondering what had just happened.  My feeble attempts at drawing stick-figures couldn’t even be compared to his elaborately designed weapons, robots, and spaceships.  Clearly, he inherited some amazing abilities from his mother, Nature’s gifts for which I can take no credit whatsoever.
As the little boy continued to grow, I began to realize that certain aspects of his personality were a permanent part of him.  He is who he is, and no amount of training, urging, or wishing was going to change him.  As much as I had assured myself that Nurture would be the most prominent influence in shaping this child’s life, it became apparent that Nature may indeed be the more powerful force.  Perhaps my love wasn’t enough after all.

Now that this young boy has entered his teenage years, he finds himself facing some challenges that he doesn’t quite know how to articulate.  Why does he often feel so lonely and sad, despite the fact that he is often surrounded by friends, neighbors, siblings, and cousins?  What is it about people that is so difficult to understand?  Where do these melancholy moods unexpectedly come from?  As much as my heart breaks to see him struggling with these questions and confusing emotions, I feel entirely unequipped to guide him.  At some point, a young man needs more than a parent’s love to help navigate the murky waters of growing up.

So where does it leave us?  Was his birthmother mistaken in her belief that her adoption plan could rescue her child from the same genetics that fate had dealt her?  Would she regret her decision if she knew that her son struggles with the same challenges, despite his upbringing in an entirely different family?  Were my husband and I too naïve in thinking that our love would be enough to shape this young boy’s life?

In the whole “Nature v. Nurture” debate, there are two important considerations that are often overlooked.  First of all, every person is born with an ability to choose, to make decisions about how he will respond to life’s situations and about what kind of person he will become.1  Of course, there are certain physical things a person can never change about himself – his height, the texture of his hair, his IQ, even certain things about his disposition.  These are all qualities that make him the unique individual that God created.  A short, shy, dark-haired boy is unable to transform himself into a tall, blond extrovert.

However, he can choose how he will use the characteristics that he has been given.  Will he use his intelligence for evil schemes or for improving other people’s lives?  Will he become bitter and discouraged about his perceived “flaws”, or will he allow those struggles to create empathy towards other, equally imperfect, people?2  He can’t necessarily change his Nature, but that Nature doesn’t need to define him.  He can resolve to develop his Nature to its fullest, best potential.

Secondly, and the most important thing to remember, is that God doesn’t make mistakes.3  He created each person according to His perfect plan and design, giving him a specific genetic make-up that is both beautiful and unique.4  Long before that little baby was born, God determined the Nature, the genes and hereditary traits that would influence his life. 

Furthermore, in His sovereignty God places each person in families and circumstances that will Nurture his individual personality.5  Every child that has ever lived, whether raised by his birthparents, spent time in the foster care system or lived in an orphanage, or grew up with adoptive parents, experienced his childhood according to God’s design.6  He can be assured that God will use his childhood experiences for good.7

And amazingly, God is even at work in an individual’s decisions and choices.  When a person confesses his sin and trusts in Jesus to forgive him, he becomes a new creature altogether.8  God gives him a new heart!  The Holy Spirit is alive and at work in that person’s life, helping him to make wise decisions, choose the right paths, and live in a way that honors his Creator.9

Is love enough?  My limited, human, maternal love may not be.  And I honestly don’t know what path my son will choose.  But I can never underestimate the power of the love of God.  It is God’s love that, through his birthparents, designed my son’s Nature, giving him his unique personality and individual characteristics.  It is God’s love that is able to use me, my family, and my home to Nurture my son into a young man that God can use.  It is God’s love that enables my son to make the right choices about who he will ultimately become.  Indeed, God’s love is able to accomplish amazing things in this child’s life.  I can say with certainty and confidence, God’s love is enough.10

1.            Joshua 24:15
2.            2 Corinthians 1:3-4
3.            Deuteronomy 32:4
4.            Psalm 139:13-16
5.            James 1:2-4
6.            Jeremiah 29:11
7.            Romans 8:28
8.            2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:1-5
9.            Proverbs 3:5-6
10.        www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fla6EO07I3E

No comments:

Post a Comment