Educating Love

Meeting her new daughter for the first time was surreal. How does one even explain the feelings involved in coming to finally lay eyes on this school-age girl you’ve been imagining from thousands of miles away?

And then suddenly she is there in the flesh, sheepishly seeking the approval of this strange-looking woman who is to be her second mom.

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. -Philippians 1:9 The Message

Claire enveloped Maria in a fierce hug, then relaxed a bit after realizing she might either strangle or frighten the child. She pulled back to examine the girl’s eyes, suddenly seeing what she had fought hard to ignore from the very core of her being. Maria’s face — all of her body language, really — showed the telltale signs she had seen great trauma in her short life.

Many families who adopt choose to do so because of a deep desire to save a child like Maria. While this is an amazing and completely worthwhile goal, we must caution ourselves against the misguided romantic notion that love is enough.

What Claire found out later that night brought her face to face with the horror of Maria’s life: years of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, as well as the neglect that often comes from being born into poverty in the second poorest country in the western hemisphere.

But, wait! Isn’t love enough to save a child like Maria? Isn’t that what the Good Book tells us?

Let me clarify: God’s love IS enough. God’s love is deep enough. It is strong enough. It is wide enough.

The thing is that our love is not. We react harshly. We get frustrated. We fear the worst. We fail. And because of all that we aren’t big enough, strong enough, or wide enough to save a child like Maria on our own. Human love isn’t enough. And neither is human education. Instead, we need educated love.

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but love well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush…” – Philippians 1:9-10 (The Message)

So what does that look like? Educated love means we throw out the theoretical parenting rule book in favor of giving the hurt child a voice through which to express herself, and then allowing her room to heal from that past hurt. It means we learn as much as we can about the child’s situation, we investigate what ails him, and explore options to move past that pain. And it means that above all else, we show her the kind of love that understands her brokenness and loves her anyway.

We should know this love, after all, because it is the very same love we are shown by our Heavenly father. He sees the depth of our brokenness and loves us in spite, or even because, of it all.

This is the educated love children like Maria need to recover and redeem their lives.

Part of our work with FIT Nicaragua is to help educate and prepare families before, during, and after the adoption is finalized, to help ensure the future success of the new family unit. We need your help to continue this work. Please consider a monthly donation to enable us to offer these services to adopting families free of charge.

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*Note that names have been changed, and photos do not depict the actual child being discussed.