Monday, October 15, 2007

The Detached Parent

St. Teresa of Avila taught her sisters that the two virtues that are most essential to the Christian life, besides love, are humility and detachment. Humility is what keeps us from deluding ourselves into thinking we have more than a modicum of control over our lives. Detachment is what makes us a source of security and happiness for others, rather than the other way around.

The authentically detached soul has a secure inner core; it loves freely because its security is Love Himself. Of course, most of us spend a lifetime attaining this kind of detachment. Little by little, the circumstances of life and the people who surround us force us to let go, or be crushed under the weight of the unknowable.

Couples who remain open to life learn to detach from selfish desires and aspirations, that Love might take their place.

Infertile couples learn by having to offer up their sweetest dreams … life with a tangible reminder of their love. We unite our grief and longing with that of Christ on the cross and His Blessed Mother, and wait in the shadows for the light to come again.

For adoptive and foster parents, our detachment marathon is a series of short sprints. In the beginning, we relinquish our privacy to invasive prying and questioning. As foster parents, we hold loosely the rights other parents take for granted: the ability to have a child baptized, or her hair cut, or go on a family vacation out of state. As adoptive parents, we let go of cherished hopes that the child will be anything like the child we once were. And as we reach the stormy seas of adolescence, we brace ourselves for the moment we are cut loose in favor of their "real" parents.

This pathway to detachment isn't a pleasant one. There are times when taking even a single step seems unbearable. So we breathe a prayer, close our eyes … and let go a little more. It's the only thing to do, really … for the sake of our family, and for the sake of ourselves. We open our clenched fists, and offer up the words of St. Teresa:

Nothing shall trouble me,

Nothing shall frighten me.

All things pass away,

But God never changes.

Patience obtains all things,

But the God who possesses me is all I need.

God alone suffices

-St. Teresa of Avila-

H/T Heidi Saxton