“I hate you!” Claudia’s words ripped right through me.
My stomach soured. My primary love language is Words of Affirmation; she knew exactly how to hurt me. “Give me your phone,” I demanded, reaching for it. “You can’t talk to Mom like that.”
Claudia rolled over and tucked the phone tightly to her chin. “No! I’m talking to Landon.”
“Tell him goodbye.” I reached across her body, grabbed the phone, and pried it from her clenched fist.
“I hate you both!” She sat up. As I started toward the door, she struck me in the arm. I turned. Her fist clenched and slammed against my chest. She hit me so hard, the sting radiated to my shoulders. Somehow, although the rivers of rage swept through my veins, I remained stoic. She struck me again and again with her left hand as she reached for the phone with her right. She let loose a string of obscenities and continued to pound my chest with her fist.
I wanted to hit her back, but by the grace of God I remained calm, at least on the outside. Inside I was a fireball of fury. It was a true gift from God, because I wanted to release a tsunami of equally hateful words on her, hurt her as much as she was hurting me. I held them back.
“I hate you. I wish you never adopted us.”
She punched me again, pushing me way beyond my limit. I’d had enough. I grabbed her wrists and shoved her back onto the bed. I held her tightly and glared into her eyes. Unable to move her arms, Claudia assaulted me verbally, lashing out with words so offensive and obscene I warned her, “If you don’t stop right now, I’m going to call the police.”
As if the situation wasn’t explosive enough, it got worse. Two of her siblings unexpectedly entered the room and screamed for me to let her go. Her brother pushed me, trying to break my hold on Claudia. I shot him a glance and he gave way. At this point my muscles were twitching, and in the words of Lord Capulet, my hands itched.
“Go ahead, call the police,” Claudia taunted. “You stole my phone.”
“No. We paid for it, and we pay for the service. Having a phone is a privilege, not a right.”
“Why did you have to adopt us? We were better off before.”
I didn’t sign up for this, I prayed to God. I thought it would be different. Somehow I imagined words such as, “Thank you,” “I appreciate it,” and “Please” coming from her lips, their lips. But their vocabulary lacked such gracious and kind gestures.
She continued her verbal onslaught, leaving me no other options but to call for assistance. I was about to blow, and I needed help. As I looked up the number for the local police department, she hit me with the coup de grace. “You’re not my real father.”
I bit my lip so hard I tasted the trickle of blood. I wanted to say, “No, I’m not. Your real father abandoned you, gave you up for the bottle. Oh, and by the way, your real mother isn’t here either; she chose meth over you and your siblings. They loved you so much they didn’t even show up to court. You want your real parents? Fine, go live with them…if you can find them.” But I didn’t say anything. I knew I had to be the responsible one, had to take the high road. It’s not fair!
I’ll be honest. I expected more. I don’t know. Maybe I did want to be their hero. Six years into the adoption and I thought things would be better. They weren’t. If anything, at that point in our lives, our relationships were eroding.
“I hate you!” she screamed as I walked outside and waited for the police. “Did you hear me?”
“Yeah, I heard you the first twenty times,” I shot back. I slammed the front door and paused. Leaning against the door, I stopped and savored the momentary silence, a respite from her onslaught of hate. I wanted to scream, to release the pent up anger and frustration, but that’s not my nature.
I remember my thoughts vividly. I wanted to get in my truck and just drive away. It didn’t matter where to as long as it was away from home. If I were completely honest, at that moment (and many other moments since then), I wished I could just turn back the hands of time and choose door number two.
That was nearly four years ago. Unbeknownst to my wife and me, Claudia had just discovered she was pregnant. She was calling her boyfriend, Landon, to inform him. She’d lashed out at my wife, Natalie, because she felt backed into a corner and didn’t know where to turn. When I jumped to Natalie’s defense and took Claudia’s phone, her world imploded.
The police officer mediated between us all, explaining in detail the reason Claudia was in such a tirade. She was pregnant and didn’t know what to do about it. Today, my best buddy is her son, Dallas. I’m his Pa-Mitchell. When I come home from a tough day at work, I hear this excited voice call out, “Pa-Mitchell, want to play with me?”
God’s word says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Sex outside of marriage is a sin, but why should we punish the child? Claudia and I were both wrong to wish the adoption away. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we keep trying. Life is messy. We live in a fallen world. Be thankful for God’s grace and love. We only fail when we quit.
“Love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).