Before we left to bring our son home, I joined a moms' group that was associated with our adoption agency. One day I was debating whether to take our jogging stroller with us to China, so I posted the question.
The response was insane. In. Sane.
"Your child will probably be overly sensitive to stimuli, so he won't be able to handle jogging."
"You're going to need to be flexible to your child's needs. Don't plan on going for any runs."
My personal favorite:
"You're going to have to do what's best for your child and not yourself. Hopefully you can be okay with that."
Somehow, my packing question morphed into a parenting question, and somehow, without meeting my child or me, I was deemed to be a selfish failure.
Because I asked for advice about taking a jogging stroller.
(For the record, I wished I had my jogger every single morning after Gotcha Day. Due to jet lag and an early morning waker, we were up long before the crowds filled the street. Li did just fine in the jogger once I got him home. No sensory issues there. Getting off my running routine needlessly made my life harder and made the jet-lag ten times more difficult when we returned. And I never got back to running.)
Where did it go so wrong?
No one asked any questions. They assumed that my son was just like their child.
But he wasn't. And I knew that because I had Skyped with him, read his file, and talked to him.
They didn't know that because they didn't ask, and they didn't seem to care.
I still don't understand why the sharks circled so maliciously. I eventually unsubscribed to updates on my own question because people continued to pound me with unkind and uneducated answers based on their own experiences that had nothing to do with my situation.
And it quickly became clear that they didn't care about my situation, or me. They cared about sounding smart. They cared about justifying themselves. They cared about feeling superior.
It's a good thing church isn't like that, huh?
Wait, it is like that!
People give you Scriptures about your issue without finding out what your issue actually is.
People pray for solutions to your problem without asking any questions to figure out what you actually need from God.
People knock you down for simply asking a question.
And I'm just as guilty.
I've given easy to remember Scriptures without considering the implications for the person seeking help.
I've prayed for solutions to problems quickly, without asking a single question to make sure that I'm praying for what's actually needed.
I've even embarrassed people for simply asking a question.
I didn't do it on purpose. In fact, I didn't even realize that I was doing it. I was so used to it, I had a hard time seeing that it was a problem. Until one day, when I was leading a Sunday School class, and one of the women had the courage to admit to her prayer group that she was struggling with real, severe depression. The person assigned to pray for her prayed something to the effect, "God I pray that you'll give her to the strength to get through her depression and do what she needs to do."
In that moment, it hit me like a ton of bricks. The glorious privilege of prayer had just been used as a weapon against a tender soul who had finally found the strength to admit her frailty to a group of women she didn't know very well. Instead of praying for a loving Father to bring His comfort to His precious daughter, this unwitting pray-er threw the blame on sufferer and compounded her pain with more guilt. I was very young at that point, and I didn't know how to remedy the situation, but it did begin the very long process of learning to ask questions and seek helpfulness over easy answers.
What you've experienced isn't the same as what I have experienced. You and I have different weaknesses, different struggles, and different strengths. If I love you the way that I want to be loved, that could be very unloving because you're not me. I have to learn to love you the way that I would want to be loved if I were in your shoes. I have to learn to listen. I have to learn to care about you, right where you are, And I have to learn to learn.
I really don't want to be the shark that takes your head off and drives you away from church forever because unlike mom groups, church is mandatory (and overall, a wonderful privilege) for the believer. I really don't want to use a prayer as an excuse for a guilt trip. I really don't want to cut you down to make myself feel big. I really want to learn how to bend down to the broken and the hurting.
I really want to be more like Jesus and less like a moms' group.