I talked to a mom recently who had adopted a toddler from an orphanage overseas. She and her husband rescued a little boy out of a joyless existence and brought him into the land of "milk and Honeycombs" complete with family vacations, Little League and VBS. From all outward appearances, he should have been thriving. Yet in his teens, he was exhibiting uncharacteristic anger, to the point where his parents sought professional counseling.
The diagnosis: Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). It is a condition of deep-seated insecurity that arises from a lack of bonding during infancy. It's not that he had lacked physical care, but he had missed out on that special connection that most people take for granted.
This child had received institutionalized care for the first two years of his life. No matter how hard his adoptive parents tried leading up to his teen years, they were always struggling to overcome those first recorded messages that cut deep into his soul:
"No one comes when I cry."
"I am not special."
"I am vulnerable."
His outbursts of anger were a red flag.
People often tell me that they could never foster because they'd get too attached. I used to say that too. But now I think, "That's precisely why I do it."
I am privileged to have the job of recording the first messages to a brand-new soul:
"I'm here for you."
"You are worth fighting for."
I find it amazing that our souls inherently expect to be connect in a special way.
You may say that evolution produced attention-seeking babies so that their prehistoric parents would not leave them behind as they gathered berries.
The problem with this theory is that the expectation for connecting seems to grow stronger as we move into adulthood. Reflect on all the time and energy you have spent longing for, maintaining, or feeling the disappointment of missing out on a special connection with someone.
You've heard it said that we are all made in the image of God. Perhaps to be more specific, you can say that we were all made in the image of a relational God.
God designed us His DNA to love and be loved; therefore, meaningful connections make us feel alive and whole. But we rarely experience this to the extent our soul craves.
If we are really honest with ourselves, we'd admit that we have a lot in common with my friend's teenage son. We too are suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder. Our preoccupation with Nicholas Sparks novels, the Hallmark Channel—maybe even something darker—are a red flag.
Yet this unreachable expectation encourages me. It's God's calling card baked into to my soul.
He wants me.
That's because, well, He's relational. And so not only do I struggle for this connection to satisfy my longings—so does He.
Jesus showed uncharacteristic anger when vendors were setting up tables in a place reserved for prayer. Prayer is God's special avenue for connection with His people. Jesus' outburst of anger was a red flag.
Those vendors were blocking His whole reason for coming. He came to destroy RAD by restoring the divine connection so His Father's message could be heard.
"I'm here for you. "You matter ... and you are deeply loved."
They say RAD is one of the hardest disorder to overcome. I don't think so.
It's so simple. Stop listening to old messages. Stop wishing for a Nicholas Sparks plot life.
Just rest in His love.
Then do one more thing that kicks the chord out of RAD's persistent podcast
Let God enjoy being with you. Give Him the satisfaction of reconnecting with new messages. Take them in deeply.
After all, the land of "milk and Honeycombs" was His idea!
Susan Kauffman, MBA, PMP, is a professional (or project manager), mom and "Nonna." Representing a more contemporary version of Orlando's "Snow White," Susan has raised a family of seven children that is always growing with new spouses and grandchildren. Just when she was about to fall asleep for 100 years, her Prince Charming felt the call to foster, and so the adventure continues!
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