My Adoption Story
Twenty years ago, I was adopted by my grandparents. My parents split up when I was one and my grandma and grandpa decided to take me in. Growing up, I often resented my parents’ and grandparents’ decision. I hated the fact that I was being raised by my grandparents instead of my mom and dad. Of course I loved my grandma and grandpa, but I couldn’t help but feel sad whenever I saw my friends with their own parents.
Nine years later, my life changed again. My grandpa, who I saw as my father, became really sick. He spent weeks in the hospital, only to come home hooked up to an oxygen tank and end up right back in the hospital. Just a few months later, my grandpa passed away. And so from my middle school to college years, I've been under the care of my grandma.
When I was younger, I was always jealous of other kids who got to say the words “mom” and “dad” so casually. For me, these words were foreign, and they still are. Even today, I can’t say “my mom” or “my dad” without it evoking a wave of emotions and thoughts. Growing up, I occasionally saw my dad. I rarely ever saw my mom. I only remember seeing her once when I was in elementary school, and only for a few weeks. I remember all I ever wanted as a kid was to have a normal family. I wanted my mom and dad. I wanted to be like other kids who got to go home and see their parents. I didn’t want to have to say goodbye to my mom, having no clue when the next time I would see her would be. There was always this emptiness. Family was perhaps my least favorite topic to talk about.
The summer before my junior year of high school, my mom invited me to visit Korea with her for a month. I was so excited. I hadn’t seen her in 8 years, and I spent weeks daydreaming about that month we would spend together. I imagined us going shopping together, eating, having girl talk. I thought I was finally going to have the mother-daughter relationship I had always wanted. To me, a month with my mom was a precious gift. I thought I would finally be happy and feel fulfilled.
Two weeks before I left to meet my mom, I was scrolling through the photos she posted on her Kakao when I came across a photo of her, a man, and a baby girl. I was so confused. I thought, “This can’t be her husband and baby. That man must be a brother or a cousin or something. And that baby must be her niece”. But then I saw the ring on her left hand and my fears were confirmed. She had a new husband and a new baby. I tried to push all the angry and hurt thoughts out of my mind and I forced myself to be positive and be happy for her and for me. I had always wanted a sister, and now my mom wasn’t alone. She had a new family, and that meant that I did too. I told myself to be excited to meet my step-dad and my half-sister. I told myself to be happy for her, and I genuinely thought I was.
However, the moment I stepped off that plane and saw my mom and her family, I knew that I had just been lying to myself. I was not happy about this at all. I was hurt and angry. Why did she have to have another kid? Why did she leave me? Why was she capable of raising this child but not me? That trip to Korea was supposed to be all about my mom and me, but my half-sister came with us, and all my hopes of having a real relationship with my mom were shattered. I spent the month feeling very alone. I felt abandoned and unloved.
My Second Adoption
As soon as I came back from that trip, I attended my church’s youth group summer retreat. There, I shared with my teachers and friends what had happened with my mom. I had debated whether to say anything at all, as I had never been one to be so open about my family. I rarely talked about my adoption because I didn’t want to highlight the brokenness in my life. I preferred to avoid it altogether, but at that retreat, I felt God pushing me to talk to my church community. And as soon as I did, I could feel the love of my brothers and sisters encompassing me as they prayed for me and hugged me, and I knew that God had not abandoned me. He had adopted me into His family. And from that moment on, I no longer saw the Church as merely a group of individuals, but as a family: my family.
I’ll be honest. Being raised by my widowed grandmother was really hard, and I still struggle with feeling unloved and lonely. I still have fears that I will never be truly accepted and valued by anyone, but then God comes and gently and powerfully reminds me that He loves and cherishes me. He let His own Son, Jesus Christ, become a sacrifice for me, so that I could become His child. Romans 8:14-17 says “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” We have nothing to fear.
I received a lot of pain growing up, but both when I look back on my life and now, I see how joy-filled it has been. I have no way to explain this joy except that it comes from God and His love and grace. I know that I am not alone. God is my Father who fills my emptiness with a love that is fierce and everlasting. He will not leave me. And He has given me a family called the Church, who I can share my pain and joy with. I don’t keep my struggles to myself anymore. I’ve learned that I have a family here that I can cry and laugh with. I have a family that encourages me and prays for me. I have a tendency to forget this, but God never lets me forget for very long. When the loneliness creeps back into my life, God always places people in my life that show me that I am not alone, and I see that He is taking care of me.
My relationship with my mom has not changed since that summer. And I still don’t feel quite ready to reach out. I still feel hurt whenever I think about my mom, but one day I’d like to build a relationship with her, and I know that when I do, I will have no reason to fear feeling abandoned and unloved because I have seen what a family I have in Christ. I know that I will have my brothers and sisters to lean on. I may not have what the world calls a perfect family, but I have a family that is eternal. I believe that God is using this brokenness to draw me closer to Him. Through everything, I have come to realize how much I need Him as my Father.
Hannah Kim is a junior at Pepperdine University studying Religion and is a member at Living Hope Community Church.