Part V: Abandoned Children and Attachment Disorders
It was an international adoption. The abandoned boy came to the attention of a single parent in a neighboring nation. The paperwork was the easy part. The problems started when the youngster seemed unable to respond to the tenderness of his adopted father.
He taught him to walk, caught him when he fell, spoke to him with tenderness, wrapped him in bonds of love, but the boy did not respond. The child never acknowledged the affection of his adopted father and seemed intent on taking up the values and concerns that his father most abhorred. The harder the father tried to express his love, the more the boy rebelled.
Those who work with abandoned children commonly encounter attachment disorders, the difficulties that uncared for children have in responding to compassion. What may be uncommon about this particular story is its source.
The child’s name was Israel. Abandoned in Egypt, they cried out. God, the Father, responded to their cries and made Israel his son. The new father showed the child how to walk in the living room of Sinai, but young Israel seemed unable to fully comprehend the love that was offered and the beneficial instruction he had received. So he rebelled against his adopted father.
Hosea may tell the story out of his own anguish of being stepfather to teenage children of his promiscuous wife, Gomer. Jesus may have Hosea’s words in mind when he told about the Prodigal Son. Hosea’s touching words are in chapter 11 of his book where he finally cries out “How can I give you up….How can I hand you over?”
Hosea has two points in mind: First, we never give up on children because God never gives up on us. That takes attachment disorders out of the social work manual and frames them with the love of God. We have yet to meet a child who has more resistance to the adoptive parent than Israel had to the love of God.
Second, we never give up because we celebrate the smallest victories that love has over injustice. Hosea’s last chapter dreams of restless Israel taking root in the deep soil of God’s love just as we dream of the unsettled child at last finding home in the love we offer. At times, God seems to have planted and replanted the seedling Israel so many times that the soil would be worn out with the shoveling, but God takes each brief glimpse of growth as reason to go on.
The whole premise of Hosea’s book may be illogical: to go on loving those who seldom respond to that love. In that premise, a whole host of child care workers and foster or adoptive parents find hope, and like God, reason to go on.