He's spent three entire days in his upstairs bedroom alone. No amount of asking will convince him to come down. When he finally appears on a Wednesday afternoon, he's jumpy, quick to anger. Everyone who bumps against him gets a barb. I am exasperated, losing my temper. He waits until I'm really worked up and then he sneaks in his best jab: "You don't treat your white kids like this."
Through gritted teeth, I ask him to repeat that please.
"You treat me bad 'cause I got brown skin. You don't treat none of your white kids this way." The racist accusations always bring out the street talk. He’s smirking, daring me. He knows I despise this.
I stare at him a long time before I respond because I am trying...I am trying... to make my words be about love and not anger. And it's while I'm staring at his face, biting my tongue, that I hear what he's really saying:
"I don't fit!"
The hardness in me crumbles. “I don’t fit,” “I’m different,” “You don’t want me”…it’s the heart howl coming from every abandoned child. No matter that as adoptive parents we went out of our way to find him, choose him, accept him, love him – his first parents rejected him. There is no earthly love wide enough to fill that hole.
Rejection is a toxin that spreads insidiously and alienation is its rancid fruit. He lashes at us to wound us back, make us hurt, and keep us away from that terrified, aching space inside him. It’s an old strategy used by a crafty enemy: get the vulnerable isolated and then pick them off. I can sense the vultures circling over this nearly-grown boy and I feel desperate to save him. He turns his back, leaves me with a parting shot and takes the stairs two at a time back up to his room. I’ve managed to say nothing, either to help or hurt. This wound is too big, my strength is too small. The balm is found only in the patient, unyielding, unconditional love of Christ.
And that, impossibly, is what we must give to this child.
to be continued on Friday....
(part two: the balm)