I was four years old when my first brother was adopted. Given my understanding of “the birds and the bees” at that time, I thought that this was how a family grew. Four years after that, my second brother was adopted, and I grew into my role as the “bossy big sister.”
When each brother came home, I remember a sense of anticipation and joy that is still vivid to this day. Granted, they were a lot of work, but being my mother’s “best helper,” I was delighted to get into the thick of babies and diapers and looking after my little brothers.The years have passed, and they aren’t so little anymore. One of them has even sprouted some gray hairs (I need to refer him to my hairdresser). I tend to forget how they became my brothers; they just are and always will be.
I recently read in the newspaper supplement Parade a short article by 13-year-old Grace Knobler, whose family adopted a little boy from Ethiopia when she was around six or seven. She recounts that occasionally others would stare at her family, and she didn’t know why: “I would forget sometimes that Nati’s skin was a different color, that his eyes were brown and not blue and that his hair was black and not blond.” For her, Nati was one of her brothers, and when someone commented one time that she resembled her brother, her question was, “Which one?” Grace forgot Nati’s differences, as if they were of no consequence, and saw him as a brother equal to her biological brother.
It’s this forgetting that intrigues me, and it makes me think that maybe it’s less a forgetting and more a remembering. By this, I mean forgetting what might separate us (biological roots and genetics) and instead remembering that what matters is relationship.
I think the Father, Son and Spirit take this view in their adoption of humankind. They forget what we might think could separate us (sin, errors in beliefs or even lack of belief), and they remember their plan from the foundation of the world, which is to share the joy and love of their relationship with creation. The love of the Triune God flows through all creation, revealing the beauty of relationship through the connections we see in nature and in our interactions with others. As we rest in the knowledge of our adoption and acceptance by God, we are better able to see the interconnection among all people and creatures.
This recognition of our interconnection is the remembering that I think takes place when families adopt. We forget any feelings of separateness, and instead, we choose to remember, perhaps just intuitively, that we all participate in one Big Adoption that was planned from the beginning of the world.
Even though my brothers are grown, with spouses and families of their own, I am still “a bossy big sister.” It comes with the territory, I guess. I often forget that they were adopted; it seems as if I’ve always had them with me. But in this forgetting, I remember that we are all interconnected and never alone.