When I was adopted I was given a new name —my mom’s middle and my dad’s last name. To be given something so personal and precious, it mattered a great deal to me. It also became a stumbling block in my walk. Part of that was because within weeks of the adoption, everything changed. Her words to me, “I have nothing to offer you.” And she made sure I knew that’s how it was going to stay. Every time I filled out a form or was asked what my name was, I had to speak out the painful rejection that was soaring through me.
While I’ve been praying over the years for restoration and healing, God was doing just that- but not in the way I was picturing. He’s been restoring my focus on Him, healing wounds that have been there since my youth and touching my heart with the love of a mother in the way that only He can do.
A couple months ago I petitioned the courts to restore my name to what it was pre-adoption. This was a heart-breaking decision, one I didn’t want to make, but holding onto it was even harder. I knew that something needed to change, and in my case that meant I had to stop hiding in the mindset that I had no worth. So, the decision was made. I filed the forms and all was a go.
I thought I was ready for what I was about to do, but when I walked into the courthouse I was overcome by tears. I headed to the bathroom with a lost feeling in my knees and fingertips. I had an anxiety attack right there. These are the kind of moments when there’s a clear choice between hiding from what’s going on inside, or boldly walking through it. I wanted to keep pushing forward, so I got myself composed and headed to the waiting area for the courtroom. There again, my heart started racing and my breathing felt impossible to slow. As the sound of footsteps echoed from one direction to the next, I couldn’t help but wish my mom would just show up and say, “I’m sorry for how I’ve treated you. I love and care about you,” or that another family member would reach out and just say, “we love you.”
I’ve always known that family has nothing to do with blood. But I’ve learned too, that it also has nothing to do with pieces of paper and court rulings. It has everything to do with those who welcome you in, make space for you in their life, choose to have hard conversations when conflict arises and share their heart.
As my name was called and I went forward, I was asked to state my name for the record. I literally froze and couldn’t remember it even though the judge had just said it. My petition for the name change wasn’t in my hand (a document the judge wanted a copy of) and emotion once again overcome me. And then I looked down at my arm, at the words I had tattooed the day before in preparation for this moment.
“You [Abba] are my hiding place and shield. I hope in Your Word.”
Hope was the name my mom had given me, the one I was releasing this day. The reminder though, was that this didn’t have to be a loss. It could be a moment of redirecting my heart from the hope of the family I wish I had, to the hope that I have in God. No matter what happens in this life, His word is always true and His goodness always abounds.
I had recently heard a sermon that talked about the correlation between having a healthy heart and knowing where to hide. We can hide in all kinds of things- whether it’s blame, self-destructive thinking, rejection… or we can hide in Him. A friend likened it to the imagery of burying your face in the armpit of God and saying, “let me know when it’s over.” A complete trusting that whatever is going on, He’s got it. That includes deep-seeded pain.
When all was done, I walked out knowing that I had made the right decision for me. Adoption can stir all kinds of emotions and wage a war on one’s identity. The changing of a name doesn’t change who your parents are (and I wouldn’t want to) but for me, it reaffirms that my worth and value isn’t in whether or not I’m wanted, it’s in the character of God and the fact that, first and foremost, I’m His daughter. This is the only truth I want to “hide” in.