An Adoptive Christmas Meditation


By Andrea Sawtelle

Several weeks ago, I found myself sobbing on the bathroom floor, wondering what my husband and I had gotten ourselves into. We were in Delhi, India, picking up our newly adopted 2-year old daughter, and the process had left me questioning. “Am I really capable of loving the way God loves me?” Our daughter—who we had just taken out of the only environment she had known for the first two years of her life, and who spoke a totally different language than her brand-new parents who looked nothing like her—was struggling, and so was I.

After a fairly “picture perfect” first adoption of our son just four years earlier, I had hoped this second adoption would be equally as beautiful. What I didn’t expect was that our daughter would grieve hard, push me away in those first few days, and often scream and cry in an inconsolable manner. There was no Instagram filter that could have masked the brokenness and pain felt in those first few days.

As I held my daughter numerous times in those first few weeks, listening to her sob and feeling her small hand press my face away, I felt God saying to me, “Just love her. Regardless of whether or not she reciprocates, just love her.” Those words were hard to swallow, as I had spent the prior months imagining beautiful mama/daughter bonding moments but this reality was beyond my expectations.

If we’re honest, it’s a lot easier to love people who love you back. It’s a lot easier to enter the lives of people who aren’t so messy and broken.

The funny thing is…we’re all messy and broken. We’ve all got our own stories and pain that we carry. Yet God still chooses us. Not only does he choose us, but he enters our messy and broken places and loves us without condition and that unconditional love transforms.

Tonight, as our family drove around to see Christmas lights, and I sat next to my daughter, I couldn’t help but think back to God’s prompting in the hotel room. “Just love her.” A child who just 6 weeks earlier was distant and grieving was now clutching my hand, smiling ear-to-ear, and attempting to sing her own version of “Oh Come Let us Adore Him” with her cousins. Unconditional love transforms.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself randomly sobbing as I’ve looked over at my daughter. These tears are different from the tears experienced in those first days. Her eyes are full of light and there is a noticeable difference in the way she carries herself. When I think back to those first few days together, I can’t believe the transformation that’s taken place. It literally takes my breath away. She’s discovered for the first time what it means to be loved.

This Christmas, as we come across neighbors, teens in our ministry, employees at our local coffee joints, and even our own family members who are broken and hurting, my hope is that we will choose to love without condition. That kind of love will require us to sit close, enter some messy places, push us to our limits and expect nothing in return. But it will be that love that may be the very thing that brings life to someone. May we choose to be people who love like Jesus, the one we celebrate this Christmas Season.