I can’t imagine the pain adoptive parents faced just a few decades ago when people were unwilling to acknowledge the reality of ongoing difficulties associated with traumatic family histories. I have many friends with bio and adoptive kiddos. They all share a simple, connecting truth that removing a child from hard circumstances does not immediately fix their broken heart. And while I cannot begin to understand what they go through in continuing to fight for resources, support, and even acknowledgment – I do believe it is getting better. Conferences, public figures in the Christian world, books, simulcasts, and support groups are becoming more and more commonplace as believers are taking real steps to address the challenges adoptive parents face.
At the core of this newfound hope for healing is the recognition of sin. The Bible sums it up like this:
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Things brought to the light are purified, washed, made clean… in the words of Ephesians, “Christ will shine on you.” And we know from John 8:31-32 that the abiding presence of Christ is what sets us free.
It is important to note that the passage in Ephesians is not necessarily referring to personal confession of sin. Unlike 1 John 1:9, where personal confession and healing are linked, this passage is calling people to a broader acknowledgment of sinful acts happening in their midst. Not only are the people to refuse participation but they are also to expose them. Paul says these acts are so detestable that it is shameful even to speak of them. This statement is not contradicting the verse immediately prior to it. Rather, it is identifying that these acts, done in the darkness, must be seen as only shameful and worthy of exposure rather than titillating gossip or carnal entertainment.
In adoption, this translates to recognizing the ways neglect and/or abuse were perpetrated against a child and honor that reality. Validating that a secure environment now does not erase past experiences is crucial for survivors. And giving grace to the families fighting the everyday battle of healing must become our second nature as a body of believers. We do not know the demons they are currently slaying.
It is the same for families impacted by sexual abuse.
The fallout from sin is ugly. There are no two ways around it. But we still walk in much darkness when it comes to sexual abuse and especially when it comes to intrafamilial sexual abuse. We speak openly about the need to report abuse but when do we speak of the long, hard path back to wholeness? We speak freely about the travesty of sexual assault and the need for greater awareness in our communities, but when was the last time you heard anyone speak about the ways family dynamics must shift to take into consideration the ebb and flow of traumatic triggers and PTSD outbursts?
As a society, we need to do more than abhor the detestable acts done in secret. We must expose them plus acknowledge their repercussions. We want to show children and their families that we are not afraid to walk a path of difficulty in order to bring them to the Healer.