My husband Stephen and I have had front and center seats (the kind so close to the stage that you can see the make up and hear the breath of exertion from the players) for the drama and action of what most recognize as the primary task of adolescence– the grappling with the question of “Who Am I?”
The issue of identity is one we all face, but one that our adopted children must face with added complicating factors. Even those adopted at birth with no conscious memory of their birth parents contend with confusing realities once they enter their teens.
The Border Pieces
As your child grows, whether he is adopted or not, it is as if he is trying to piece together a complex puzzle. As we all figure out early on in working a puzzle, you first separate out the border pieces, right? It seems to me that for our birth children, the rummaging for and connecting of the flat-edged border pieces was an easy task. Their puzzle borders seem to be solidly in place without much searching and confusion. No struggles with missing pieces impossibly hidden amongst the mass of shapes or irretrievably lost in the dark corners of the basement game closet.
Missing and Misshapen Pieces
Borders denote definition and, therefore, identity. The borders of a country, for instance, identify it on a map. Without the definition provided by the border pieces, the process of putting together a complicated puzzle becomes all the more confusing and frustrating. For our adopted children, their relinquishment and the resulting pain have led their identity search to be like trying to work a puzzle without the border pieces or at least without whole sections and with hard to find pieces or misshapen fragments. In 1 Peter 5:10, we see that God’s plan is for our children to live complete and whole, border pieces fitted together and the puzzle finished:
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you.
The Message says it like this; “[God] will have you put together and on your feet for good.”
Puzzle Pieces in Our Hands
Isn’t that what we are helping our children to do? To partner with the Holy Spirit in “putting together” the pieces of the puzzle? As we get revelation of who our child is from the very One who created them, it’s as if we have a puzzle piece in our hand, a flat-edged border piece that was lost or destroyed along the way by rejection, fear, anger, pain, abuse. We parents are methodically offering these border pieces to our child as they go through the process of figuring out who they are. We have the awesome opportunity to place these pieces back into the pile of puzzle pieces on the table and watch our child pick it up, examine it, and recognize it as a defining part of who they are.
Box Top Parents
Just as we look at the box top of our puzzle that we have propped up on the table for easy reference, so do our children look up at us as they work their complicated jigsaw puzzle. Along the way, they fit in pieces with that sense of satisfaction we all get when we find the next bit of the puzzle. They are looking to us to find out who they are, how they fit in, how to relate, how to give and receive love. You and I are like that box top picture for our children as they discover their identity, scrutinizing the picture and piecing together their puzzle.
Father God, it is so good to know that You are completing our children, making them what they ought to be, “putting them together and on their feet for good.” We so desire to partner with You in this God. Would You give us revelation of who our children are, defining border pieces of their identity. And we trust You to use us so that when our children look to us they will see what is helpful as they put together the puzzle before them. What greater joy is there than being a part of such a project?!
Beth has been married to her husband, Stephen, for 25 years. They have seven children, ages 16 to 22. Several years after giving birth to three girls, God called their family into the adventure and blessing of adoption. In 2000, they brought home a brother and sister, ages 5 and 10, from Russia. Then they returned to the same orphanage 18 months later and brought home two more brothers, ages 7 and 10. Stephen and Beth serve as leaders in their local church. Beth leads a ministry called Hope at Home, dedicated to help adoptive and foster parents encounter the Father’s heart for their families, partnering with God to transform orphans into sons and daughters. For more parenting insight and encouragement in the Lord go to the Hope at Home blog.