Note: In this post, I use the term “special needs” because that is the phrase used in this story. All adopted children have “special needs”. What we’re actually talking about here is the adoption of a disabled child (presumed brain damaged, later diagnosed autistic). I think the vernacular could have been cleaned up, but hey. You get the point.
Yesterday, I wrote about a couple who rehomed their adopted son because his special needs were too great.
I was unrelenting and harsh. Like many others, I believe they did a bad thing.
And today, I’m here to come to their defense. Because I also think they’re casualties of a profitable machine founded on making people question their own judgement.
There’s this one little line in the Myka Stauffer story which I haven’t seen commented on. It’s gone widely unnoticed but it’s so very revealing. One phrase which reveals how this all happened.
“God softened our hearts”
In an article in Parade, Myka says:
“We couldn’t wrap our heads around special needs adoption. We would just say, ‘No we can’t handle all of that, we just want a simple adoption.’ But as we let the idea soak in, God softened our hearts.”
They then adopted a special needs kid from China and called him Huxley. They were right. They couldn’t handle “all of that” and he was found a new family.
The Stauffers are Christians. I was raised Christian and have remained so throughout adulthood.
It is widely taught in Christianity that we are inherently bad. That we carry something called “original sin” and are born with a “sin nature”. The Bible says “you are not your own”. It also says that the sinful mind rejects God’s will. We are raised to reject our “flesh” and give in to God’s will for our lives. Songs we sing in worship sessions say that we aren’t worthy of God’s love. If not in God’s will, we’re “broken vessels” or “slaves to fear”. Chanting phrases like this for one’s whole life causes a sort of conditioning.
These teachings cause a sort of disembodiment for those raised in it. We do not trust our bodies or our minds. After suffering religious trauma for years, going back to church made me tremor inside. My teeth wanted to chatter but I clenched my jaw to stop it. My body was telling me that I wasn’t safe, but my spiritual conditioning was telling me “this is the devil trying to stop you from coming to church” and “your flesh is evil and just wants to stay home in bed”. So we disconnect from and mistrust our bodies, our desires, our comfort levels.
Myka reveals this when she says they DIDN’T WANT A SPECIAL NEEDS ADOPTION. They said “No we can’t handle all of that”. They knew what was right for their family. They knew what they could handle. They did not want to be special needs parents. Until they started to question their desires and, no doubt, felt they were rejecting God’s will. And their hearts were “softened” by God. Which is to say when they didn’t want that lifestyle, their hearts were hard.
Which is to say “God changed our mind about what we knew was right for our family”.
I wouldn’t have chosen to have a disabled child either. I had a healthy baby who developed this way over time and I love her deeply so it doesn’t matter. Which is very different than knowingly choosing to take a child with a disability. It was wrong what they did. But I am very familiar with the teachings that created this perfect storm and also blame this version of the Christian faith for making these people second guess the kind of adoption they knew they could handle.
Myka and Jim, I’m sorry you were conditioned to mistrust your own better judgement. You’re not alone.