"The worst form of a prison is a closed heart" - Saint John Paul II
I have often pondered these words and what it means to have an 'open heart' of love toward others. It is definitely not easy in a lot of cases and I am still learning. But one thing is for sure: the process of adoption opens hearts. I'd like to call it training in sanctity.
When Bethany and I began this process, we expected to have our hearts opened from the child we would welcome. And in many ways, our hearts have been already opened more than once toward this child yet to be placed in our home. Our hearts are open to him or her in our daily prayers, in the paperwork we do, in the studying up of parenting skills, in fund-raising and saving money, and in the sacrifices we make to prepare to love the child. But what we did not expect was that our hearts would be opened from contemplating and learning about welcoming the birth mother (and in very rare cases the birth father - and so for the purposes of this post we will just refer to the birth mother) as part of the process. Yet this is exactly what is occurring and let me explain a little bit.
One of the responses we get when we tell other people that we are pursuing open adoption, where there is the potential for ongoing contact with the birth mother, is worry for us and the child. People ask aloud, "What if the birth mother interferes with your parenting in a bad way?" or "What if she will not be able to let go and to move on with her life?" Well, those are good questions that have been addressed in our parent training and ones that we have pondered a lot. But I think the questions must be proceeded by another question. The first question we should be asking is, "How can we not involve and love the birth mother (unless she does not want involvement)?" The birth mother is the child's biological parent. We can never be that and there will be a special connection with the birth parent in a way the child won't be connected to us. Does that lessen our role as the child's mother and father and our unique connection as his or her parents? Absolutely not, but we need to respect that beautiful and profound reality of biological parenthood and the tremendous gift of the child that this mother is placing in our hands. What better way to honor these realities than to continue to have her involved in some way in the child's life?
Really, at the end of the day, adoption is not just about embracing the child, but also welcoming his or her biological parents into our family (if it is possible and they desire it). We do this to honor the child's biological connections, but more importantly we do it because as a Christian we are called to love all people because all are worthy of God's love as His beloved. This is radical, this is challenging, but this is the path to happiness when we have the courage to follow it.
This enlargement of our hearts to prepare a place for the birth parents was not expected when we started this journey and who knows how it will shake out in the concrete situation that awaits us, but open adoption is beautiful, "enlarging," and very Christian. It is about enlarging our hearts and this is a very good thing for us and for preparing to love the child.While open adoption may involve difficulties, we are called to open our hearts to it even if our hearts may be bruised. Just like one goes through "growing pains" as one matures and develops, so too are we willing to endure possible pain in order to grow our hearts. It is certainly a pilgrimage. Please pray for us that we may have a living, beating, LARGE heart for all involved as we welcome them into our home!