I remember reading an account of a pastor who traveled to an orphanage in southern Uganda on a mission trip. He had prepared himself for the heartbreak which inevitably comes from seeing abandoned or orphaned children, but he was most stricken by the silence that welcomed him as he entered the room of occupied cribs. He expected to hear crying, screaming, cooing, and babbling, but no sounds could be heard. His concern at the lack of reactivity from the babies led him to ask a volunteer about the silence. He learned that when babies are brought to the orphanage, their instinct is to cry. They cry and scream for weeks but after the third week, the babies learn that no one is coming for them, and they find that their efforts to communicate their needs are pointless. So they live silently in their cribs and begin to accept that their needs for care, attention, and affection will not be met, so they adjust to a reality without them.
As adoptive parents, we recognize this story as an example of the early stages of an attachment problem. We were all required to read books and take classes on this very issue. Sometimes we look at the pictures of our little ones and doubt with every fiber of our being that attachment could be an issue for our families. At other times we read horror stories of kids that were adopted as toddlers who still have an inability to bond with others even as adolescents. Attachment is a real issue for our kids, and for good reason. At an early age, many of our kids, especially if they spent an extended time in the hospital or orphanage, had to survive their first months or years without any meaningful relationships. They grew to adapt to a life without reliance on others, and then when they enter our families, they will suddenly be expected to understand what it means to be cuddled, rocked, held, adored, tickled, and seen. This is why so many adoption agencies recommend an extended “cocooning” period after bringing our little ones home. It gives us the chance to show our little ones what it means to be cared for exclusively by one or two people and to experience the feeling of being adored and nurtured.
There is so much science and psychiatry dedicated to the issue of attachment that you are probably aware of, so I will skip the analytics. I want to instead give you hope and encouragement as you begin to collect ideas, strategies, and methods of promoting attachment with your little guy or gal. Even though our little ones at such a young age have gone through more than many will ever have to face, and even though their little hearts have developed callouses from all the wear and tear they’ve had to endure, our God is in the business of not just softening hearts, but replacing them. When we seek God and ask him to be our Lord and savior, scripture says that he takes out our old, unresponsive, and stony hearts and replaces them with brand new ones, which are responsive and malleable enough to seek after and love him. We have to believe this truth and pray it over our kids, even now, that God can heal and remove the callouses they built for survival and learn to instead rely on God and the new parents he has selected for them, otherwise all of our efforts will prove only partially effective.
Ezekiel 36:26 offers the promise I want you to claim for your little ones today. God says, “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”
I cannot think of anything I want more for my son. I’m sure you feel the same way.
Let’s pray this truth together as we start our day.
Verses to Consider:
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. –PSALM 51:10
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. –ISAIAH 61:1-3
A Prayer for Your Day:
God, your word is alive and powerful. It is sharper than any blade and can cut with enough precision to expose the innermost crevices of my child’s heart (Heb. 4:12). Lord, I can only see the fruit of [child’s name]’s heart and cannot see the scars and callouses that have built up in [his/her] short little life already. Lord, I want so badly to give [him/her] the love, care, and attention [he/she] deserves and was neglected, but I realize my affections may seem foreign to [him/her]. God I pray that you would begin to work on [his/her] heart even now and renew a steadfast spirit within [him/her] that when I am united with [child’s name], [he/she] would recognize my face as the fulfillment of your promise to provide [him/her] with a crown of beauty from the ashes of [his/her] past (Psalm 51:10; Isaiah 61:3). Give [him/her] a new, soft, malleable, and responsive heart that can receive our love and build meaningful relationships with friends and family (Ezek. 36:26). Father, of all the things I could pray for this morning, this is the most important to [child’s name]’s future. Help me to make this request to you with faith, boldness, and thanksgiving for the worlk you are already doing in [his/her] life.
In Jesus’s name,