Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Different Kind of Family

My skin is varying shades of light depending on the season.  In the summer I crave the bronzing effect of the sun to scare away the pasty white pallor that sets in over the winter, but even when I do not heed the warning of the medical field and sit in the sun for hours, you wouldn't think I was anything but Caucasian.  My soon-to-be son, however, does not have my complexion.  His skin is the color of smooth coffee, distinctly different in shade from either Andrew or myself.

Before becoming a transracial family I did not think much of the fact that we would most likely be welcoming a child of color into our home.  Race was not an issue for Andrew and I in adoption.  I underestimated the fact that this is not always the case for others.  Sure, people might be curious when they see us together but this is the 21st Century!  I didn't realize that people's curiosity would often lead to prying questions and condescending assumptions.

It has been just over a month since we met our little guy and only 2 1/2 weeks since he moved in full-time and we have already encountered the world's perspective on race.  Although the courts have yet to make it final, he is already our son in our hearts and we just feel like a normal family until people stare at us in public...then I more or less feel like a normal family with weird people staring at us. 

The fact is that people are very blatant with their curiosity, even in this age of political correctness.  Yesterday, while standing in line at the bank in our community a man asked me if our little guy was my son.  Clearly he was just a little curious and making conversation, but, really?  "What do you think?" I want to say as my big Mom-bag weighed down my shoulder and I'm telling him to stop running around and stand next to me every few seconds.  However, I smiled and kindly answered in the affirmative.

A few weeks ago a lady approached us and asked if we had adopted.  "Where is he from?," she asked.  When we said he was from "here" she almost looked disappointed, expecting us to say Ethiopia or something I suppose.  And, on yet another day, a couple told us "It looks like you do so well with him."  Um, he's our kid, should we not do well with him?  We just smiled and nodded as we walked by.

On one hand the opportunity as a family to live out God's call to be the Body of Christ with no categories or divisions is exciting.  I pray that our family will be a beacon of light and love and that we can be a part of breaking down barriers in the world and in our community and, sadly, in the church as well.  

But, on the other hand, it makes me feel protective of my soon-to-be son, even defensive.  I know there will be a day, sooner than I think, when our son looks at me and asks, "Why isn't our skin the same color?" and one day after that, when he asks again he won't so readily accept the answer, "Because God made us that way."  As he gets older, when someone indelicately asks me in public if he is my son, I dread what look I might see in his eyes.  Will he be ashamed, thinking there is something wrong with him?  Will he be frightened and confused, wondering if the color of his skin could ever make him not my own? 

I want race to matter to my son in all of the positive ways and none of the negative.  I want him to embrace his beautifully dark skin and celebrate his ethnic heritage and identify with people doing awesome things in the world that look just like him.  I also want him to never think he is anything different than an expression of God's awesome creativity and to never feel alienated or of lesser value in the world and the Kingdom of God.

Life's harsh realities won't always allow this to be the case, but I pray that God gives Andrew and I grace as people point out in front of everyone (including our child) that he looks different than us and I pray that God will give our little guy a strength of purpose and security in our love but most importantly in God's love that will never allow him to be shaken.

There are beautiful things ahead for our family and my greatest hope is that we navigate the challenges in such a way that glorifies the Creator of all people, the Artist that uses so many colors to declare His vast beauty.   I pray that as our family grows people won't just see how different our skin is but how alike our hearts for Jesus are.  I want people to notice that our family is different, but not because we check different boxes when asked our race, but because we are a family on mission for the Lord bringing God's healing and love in a broken world.


  1. Funny how things like that confuse people. I've had friends in adopted families and known plenty of parents with kids of different colors. Or families of mixed race. It always makes me smile. I know there will be moments that won't be easy, and you're right -- that question probably will come up. But with your affirmation -- and the affirmation of friends and family members and neighbors, I think your little guy is going to know he is loved. And I think any shame that is felt will only be temporary. You are family -- and that's the best kind of dysfunction there is =0)

  2. What a beautiful message. We need to be reminded of our uniqueness in Christ and that our Loving Father looks only at our hearts. May the day come when we as His people will view one another as He does and not stop and stare when families happen to look "different" through the world's eyes. Thank you again for blessing me with your words.