My name is Sarah, and I was born in China. After being adopted by an American family, I spent my childhood growing up on a small farm in Georgia. My family consisted of my father, mother, and a younger sister who was also adopted from China. My parents were loving, endlessly patient, and raised us in a Christian home.
During my time in China, I was only in one orphanage. I was placed there several days after birth until I was adopted at fourteen months old. As a baby, I had no say in whether I wanted to be adopted or not. However, as an adult, I can now confidently say that the answer is a firm yes. I am incredibly grateful for the gift of adoption.
The first few years of my life were relatively good. My parents did their best and taught us about Christ. As adoptees, my sister and I naturally had our own share of struggles with understanding the loss of birth parents, differences in appearances, adoption, and forming attachments.
Adoption can be accompanied by a variety of challenges. Some of the issues I have faced included racism since I lived in an area that had little to no diversity. Being Chinese in a predominantly Caucasian area was obvious and drew a lot of unwanted attention. Outings as a family would sometimes bring questions from strangers that were genuine, but often these questions were insensitive and bordering on offensive.
In most ways, I had an identical upbringing to my classmates, but because of my appearance, I was still met with rude questions, racist jokes, and stereotyping.
Over the years, I have learned to appreciate and be proud of my heritage. I used to pretend that the Chinese part of who I am didn't exist and didn't need to be acknowledged. Now as an adult, I feel seasoned in the questions people ask me and the responses they are looking for me to give. Before it would have been a situation I'd try to get out of, or I'd leave feeling embarrassed. Now I enjoy it because it gives me an opportunity to share not only about my life but also about the need for orphan care and adoption.
Another challenge for me has been relationships and attachment issues. While these issues are not strictly things that adoptees face, past trauma can certainly influence future relationships. My own personality tendencies were quiet, reserved, and serious. Many peers only showed interest in me long enough to get their questions about me answered, and then the fragile friendship was over.
I struggled with trusting people and was always assuming the worst of them. I became an extremely cautious person and careful with my relationships. While growing up, I never had a large pool of friends, and I typically stuck to a small group who had proved their loyalty over the years.
This behavior did not teach me how to build relationships well or healthily. I was terrified of being hurt and taken advantage of, so I would repeatedly form very strong but one-sided friendships. I would get to know my friends thoroughly, but I would only let them know me on a very superficial level. It was always enough for them to feel like they knew me but only enough that if something happened, I could withdraw and not have risked too much of myself.
I was always balancing being on opposite ends of the spectrum. I was either detached and indifferent, or I was constantly anxious about trying to control my life and my friendships. This way of life led to years of me bottling up emotions, not being an effective communicator, and going through periods where internal buildup would erupt into angry outbursts.
These are just a couple of overarching struggles I have faced throughout my life. Adoption may come with many more than just those.
My answer to finding healing in the hardships and the difficulties was and will always be Jesus. His work in my life, He has shown me the depravity and brokenness of our world. We live in a fallen world where human relationships do not function in the way they were created to be lived out. The good news is that He does not leave us in that state, and God's plan was always adoption.
One of the biggest things I wish I had known growing up is the relationship between spiritual adoption and earthly adoption.
It wasn't until my second year of college that I heard a sermon on spiritual adoption and suddenly everything began to click. I had never viewed other Christ-followers as individuals who were also adopted. The Bible says those who are believers are now sons and co-heirs with Christ through our adoption. This was information that completely transformed how I thought about orphans and adoption. This was why adoption is even important in the first place because God has adopted His children and asks that we do likewise. Adoption is an inseparable part of the Gospel.
Through the saving work of Christ on the cross, I have experienced true and purposeful love and restoration. No amount of kind words, condolences, or counseling could fix what I had been through (or whatever pain anyone has been through). The reality is that some of these things will not be repaired in full until Christ returns and sets all wrongs right.
This is why I have hope. My relationships, friendships, communication, and living, in general, has never flourished in the way it is now. I know that the Lord keeps those whom He saves, and He will keep shaping me daily. I have joy knowing that even if I don't see all of these things fully restored in this life, He will do what He has promised to do for His children who wait and long for redemption.
I think sharing my story is so important because the Lord has allowed me to heal from a lot of the effects of my past. After years of processing, introspection, and being loved with Christ's love, I’m finally at the point of being able to tell my story in a way that is honest yet uplifting. When I was younger I think I would have benefited if I had read more things, met more people, and felt more understood as an adoptee.
There's power in being able to use our pasts for the preservation of people and the ability to say, "I understand. I have a story, too. But don’t give up because there is always, always hope."