It came out of the blue just last month - our young teenage daughter collapsed into tears. For the first time in the eight years since her adoption, she mourned the loss of a father she never knew.
Theories abound about how adoptees deal with separation from birth parents. And caring adoptive parents often feel as if they're on a continual search for ways to respond to questions that don't have easy answers.
In the midst of our child's heartache, I wanted much more than a theory or even a well-researched opinion. I yearned for permanent comfort and healing.
I knew that a mere reminder of the love we've showered on our daughter - as true as that might be - wouldn't resolve her deeper concerns: Why is a person who should have been important in her life missing? And what does that very personal disconnect imply about her?
When I don't have answers, especially in a case as agonizing as this one, I feel there's only one way to go - prayer. This isn't so remarkable, since God is by definition the source and intelligence of all creation. And as our Maker, He must supply the needs of every child - whether our kids come to us through birth or adoption.
What both my daughter and I were hungering for was the feeling of being divinely parented - embraced, reassured, supported by our ever-present, all-loving Parent. I thought of a simple prayer, written for little children by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Monitor:
Guard me when I sleep;
Guide my little feet
Up to Thee.
And a companion prayer for older children:
Father-Mother good, lovingly
Thee I seek,-
In the way Thou hast,-
Be it slow or fast,
Up to Thee.
Like the Lord's Prayer, these statements show me how God is known to us by His parenting activity. We call God "Father" because we can trust His strong, protecting nature; "Mother" assures us of God's warm, nurturing character.
To perceive God as Father-Mother is to understand His-Her complete, uninterrupted guardianship and boundless affection for every one of us. Not only do our children benefit by learning this, but our own parenting becomes more confident and inspired. Because our Mother's love is constant, the fathering activity it's linked with can't vary or fade.
Because our Father provides wisdom and guidance, the mothering it's partnered with can't be misdirected or indulgent.
My daughter is still learning how tangible and dependable God's fathering and mothering of her are. The day of the emotional storm, she quieted enough to listen to my reassurances. Interestingly, though, the message of her divine Parent's love was brought home in the pages of the Monitor's sister publication, the Christian Science Sentinel.
Sometime around this episode, the kids' edition of the Sentinel arrived at our home. When she got around to reading it, she burst into my office with the words, "I just read that someone else who was adopted learned how God is his real Father and Mother!" Any vestiges of sadness were replaced by pure delight in both our hearts. This was parenting at its best - communication exactly as needed from the One who fathers and mothers us without fail.
Concerns about how the errors of family members affect children, whether adopted or not, can be settled only by looking to our real Parent. His divine direction is more than adequate to right wrongs and provide solutions. Her spiritual affection is more than enough to heal rifts and satisfy longings. Our Father-Mother has always been, and continues to be, on the job. Kids and parents alike can trust that.