The front porch of our house is my go-to place anytime I need to rant, or lend a listening ear to a friend in need. I’m not sure why, since we live on a busy street. There’s a constant stream of cars, trucks, and school buses zooming past at all hours of the day. Not exactly the quiet backdrop you’re looking for when helping a friend out. The other day, my friend called me frustrated and defeated.
I could hear the pain in his words. His daughter, whom he and his wife had adopted at birth, was pushing them over the edge. Bad choice after bad choice. Defiance after defiance. He was at the end of his rope. “Why do I keep putting up with this?” he lamented as I paced around my porch, listening. “I’m so tired. I’m not getting enough sleep. I feel sick to my stomach all the time,” he continued. All I could do was identify. We’re rowing in the same boat my friend, I thought to myself.
“Seriously, Mike, is there something wrong with me? Why do I keep putting up with this garbage?”
“Love is why,” I said. His voice fell quiet. “You keep putting up with this garbage because you love her. It’s why you started off on this journey in the first place. This is hard because you won’t stop fighting for her, believing in her, loving her. We’re right there with you with our children.”
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about love, it’s that it can fill you up and drain you of all life in a matter of seconds. We foster and adopt because of love. It’s what drives us. It’s also what causes our hearts to be ripped out. But we keep going, keep loving, even when we’re hurting so badly we can barely breathe.
The Great Misunderstanding.
Our world as a whole vastly misunderstands what love really is. If you look at pop culture, current news, or Hollywood, love is often boiled down to a few simple things- romance, infatuation, and sex.
Love can include all of these things, but it’s so much more than this. Love is a deep-seeded emotion that takes you to places you never thought you would go as a human, let alone, a parent. It’s pain over your child’s poor choices. It’s wishing you could take the dark and desperate searching out of your child because the a trauma they live with haunts them daily. It’s waking up in the middle of the night praying your child is okay. Hoping she doesn’t give in to the depression that has it’s claws buried deep into her spirit. Love is driving hundreds of miles to visit your son who lives in a residential treatment facility because home isn’t a safe option.
Yes, love can fill you with so much happiness you feel like you’re going to burst, but it can also take the life out of you and leave you empty. It can stretch you so thin you feel like you’re going to tear in two. This is the side of love our world rarely talks about, because this is the side that doesn’t sell. But this is the side that defines love the most.
What Love Really Feels Like.
Last fall I was out in Nevada visiting my son who, at the time, was living in a residential facility for extreme behavior issues. It was one of the longest, hardest seasons of our life as parents. It nearly brought us to our knees to spend time with him, and then leave, watching him wipe tears off of his face as we drove away. The pain was deep. This trip was no different. I flew out to spend a weekend with him. We had so much fun together. We drove up to a beautiful lake in the mountains, hiked around, ate cheeseburgers, and watched late-night movies. It was almost the perfect weekend.
When it came time to leave, he grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye, and begged me to take him home. Over and over he begged. It was excruciating. But I knew I couldn’t. I knew he had to finish this program. I knew he needed healing and restoration and that had to happen away from home. There was a battle raging inside of me. A part of me wanted to just drive back to his dorm, pack his stuff, and take him home. But I knew that wasn’t the healthy decision. I knew he needed to be where he was. So, I drove him back to the facility at the end of our time together, said goodbye, and left.
As I drove away, I put my iPhone earbuds in. A song on one of my travel playlists, by the artist Tobymac, began to play. At first I didn’t really pay attention, but then the lyrics caught my attention. They went like this…
I am tired, I am drained, but the fight in me remains. I am weary, I am worn, like I’ve never been before. This is harder than I thought, harder than I thought it’d be. Harder than I thought, takin’ every part of me. Harder than I thought, so much harder than I thought it’d be. But empty’s never felt so full. This is what love, this is what love, feels like. This is what love, this is what love feels like. Poured out, used up, still givin’, stretching me out to the end of my limits. This is what love, this is what real love feels like. (Lyrics from Love Feels Like, by Tobymac)
I pulled the car over because I couldn’t see through the tears streaming down my face. This is our life with our son, I thought to myself. It was taking the life out of us. The fight in us kept us going but we were drained. It was real, raw, honest-to-goodness love.
Love made this journey a million times harder than it would if love wasn’t a factor. But, we wouldn’t trade this for anything.
For The Love Of.
Love is so much more than sex, or infatuation, or romance.
Love is why you keep fighting even when you have nothing left. Love is why you never, ever, ever give up on your child. Love is why you would do anything in this world to help them heal.
Have you experienced this kind of love on your adoptive or foster care journey? Share your story with us in the comment section below.