On Sunday I saw a photo of my biological father. For the first time. EVER.
The 51 year old man looking out from the photo is the person who provided half my genetic material yet is a total stranger to me. It was co-incidental that on Fathers Day a combination of events and the power of social media brought me to that point. It involved my biological mother (who I’ve known since 2007) meeting two of his sisters again, by chance, for the first time in 35 years. She subsequently responded positively to a Facebook friend request from one of them and then I, with the ease of a few impatient touches accessed his sister’s profile and her photos. And there he was. Tagged.
In hindsight I unhesitantly dived right in with the curiosity of a small child who is unaware of consequences coupled with a little surge of excitement for the idea of a person that I have never known.
This quickly turned to a myriad of confusing and conflicting emotions that quite honestly, messed with my head, and made me cry for a number of days.
I was disappointed with myself that it affected me so much. I thought I was over all that.
But the harsh reality of my beginnings will never go away: 2 sixteen year olds in rural Ireland in 1980, one with an expanding belly. The public shame. The isolation. The fear. The guilt. Rejection by their families. The reality of a lonely trip to Dublin, life in an expecting mothers’ home, a tiny baby born safely who was left after 5 days, 3 months alone in a baby home and a grieving devastated teenager returning to the West….
I thought it didn’t upset me anymore. But it still messes with my head. Often when I least expect it.
Life isn’t fair. Reality is far from easy. And we all have life-altering experiences and painful life changing events in our pasts that have become a part of who we are. Being adopted will always be my story. My less than ideal start to life and roots in Sligo are at the very essence of who I am. And I am forever grateful for amazing loving adoptive parents who gave me every opportunity to thrive as their daughter and accepted me completely.
But I clearly cannot alter who I am and where I came from. On the other hand, I can learn to live with it and view it differently.
In my opinion, perspective is everything.
Many years ago, during a stressful time this verse in 2 Corinthians became hugely important to me : ‘for this slight momentary affliction is preparing me for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison’. It completely changed my outlook. Nothing that can happen here on earth is of any significance if we view things from a heavenly perspective. In fact, tough times here on earth are a fleeting issue compared to an eternity with God experiencing his glory. It became clear to me that the promise of eternal life in heaven, perfect intimacy with God and His kingdom should influence how I view my earthly existence. I could experience a taste of heaven here on earth.
Joni Erickson Tada in her book ‘What will heaven be like?’ illustrates this heavenly perspective very well. She was paralysed as a teenager from the neck down during a diving accident. Confined to a wheelchair with a life-altering devastating injury…. She writes “Looking down from heaven’s perspective, trials look extraordinarily different. When viewed from its own level, my paralysis seemed like a huge impassable wall; but when viewed from above, the wall appeared like a thin line, something that could be overcome. It was, I discovered with delight, a bird’s eye view. It was the view of Isaiah 40:31: ‘those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint’.”
Perspective is everything.
The ancient proverb about a master and his slave is very challenging. It reads ‘An aging master grew tired of his apprentice’s complaints. One morning, he sent him to get some salt. When the apprentice returned, the master told him to mix a handful of salt in a glass of water and then drink it. “How does it taste?” the master asked. “Bitter,” said the apprentice. The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake. The two walked in silence to the nearby lake and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake.” As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?””Fresh,” remarked the apprentice. “Do you taste the salt?” asked the master. “No,” said the young man. At this the master sat beside this serious young man, and explained softly, “The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains exactly the same. However, the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things. Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”‘
My ‘adoption issues’ will never go away. Being adopted is at the very essence of who I am. It has shaped me and is part of who I am becoming. But I am not going to let it define me. There is a bigger picture. I am loved by a Heavenly father with an unconditional love that is ever present and available to me irrespective of my background or my repeated failings. My identity is in Christ Jesus and I have a place in his perfect Heaven for eternity through his sacrificial death. He knit me together in my birth mother’s womb and he knows my inmost being. I am His child and I am adopted into His family. He is working out his fatherly plan for me in this life and forever. This is the love-filled lake I can pour my salt into.
Perspective is everything so I am not going to look at single snapshots anymore.
I am going to focus on The Big Picture.