“I don’t want to need his approval,” I said to my counselor years ago, disgusted. I was still grappling with my dad’s early death, the shock of him leaving so soon, the ache that still burned in my chest.
It was painful to seek validation from someone who was no longer here. I knew he loved me, but I needed to know if he was proud of me. I craved it so deeply, and I hated craving it.
“But we all want our parents’ approval,” she said. “Everyone needs to feel that their family is proud of them.”
I narrowed my eyes at her. Only because we’re all sinners, I thought. Only because we’re weak and we can’t find the way out of our own insecurity.
Maybe I was bone-tired of grieving for him after he was gone, and admitting my need only made the grief deeper. Teaching myself invulnerability seemed safer, made me feel stronger. At least, made me feel less.
So when I saw myself seeking love and wanting attention from those I looked up to, I thought it was a character flaw. Dependence was weakness, and I wished I could stand alone.
But then we decided to adopt.
And I learned all about attachment and dependence and the foundation of the parent-child relationship. I learned about institutional behavior and brain chemistry that’s short-circuited early in favor of survival. That in the absence of a loving family, children — even infants — learn that they shouldn’t need. They learn to depend on themselves, their charm and their wits to get what they need to live another day. In that setting, dependence is dangerous.
It’s not the way it should be.
Adoption taught me that God created us to be desperate for love, to be needy for connection.
Adoption taught me that healing a child’s heart looks like dependence. You need to need me.
Adoption taught me that living in need isn’t weakness. It’s strength.
As I’ve taught my son to need me, I’ve seen how deep my need goes. It’s the same need I used to cover up, this ache I’ve wanted to hide. It’s easy to build a wall. It’s simpler, cleaner, to keep everyone out. But when I squint hard into the depth of my need, I see Jesus.
It’s precisely there, in our deepest need and most profound weakness, that God is most present.
Instead of trying to fix my neediness by pushing it away, I need to heal. And I’m learning that healing looks like staying broken.
Wholeness looks like vulnerability, and courage looks like being open. Available. Willing. It looks like radical love, all-the-way love, would-die-for-you love.
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
If I am broken, that’s when I am mended.