Expecting Ingratitude

All the books will tell you and you will hear it over and over again from your caseworker, your support group and everyone involved in making your adoption journey a reality--do not expect for your child to be grateful.

Do not suppose, when he is home and safe, well fed and well clothed, secure and loved that he will look at you, eyes wide with gratitude, and say, "Oh, thank you Mommy for saving me from that life I had before."

An orphaned or abandoned child has experienced more loss in their short lives than most of us will experience in our entire lives. And though there will be times when she is able to express her gratitude, there will be more times when her heart will hurt and she can't explain why, more times when he simply can't understand why you don't understand him or how he needs you to respond, more times when she has to deal with what life is instead of what life could have or should have been.

The loss of biological family, the loss of family identity, the loss of medical history and genealogy, often the loss of culture and the chance to grow up in a family that looks like you--adopted children will grieve these losses and others in different ways and at different levels for their whole lives no matter how loving their adopted family.

It's not about ingratitude. It's about sincere loss.

With all this loss added to all the newness of their lives, children don't know how to, cannot express and often genuinely don't feel gratitude towards their adoptive families, and it is perfectly understandable.

Gratitude should not be the expectation.

I read another article on this subject last week as I was dealing with my own ingratitude issues and found myself being so thankful for a God who, being the ultimate adoptive parent, doesn't expect us to always respond with gratitude to his blessings but rather offers us more love and more grace in our ingratitude.

I wanted to be grateful. I wanted my heart to be overflowing in the bounty I was given. I wanted to thank God well and be a grateful child, but I simply couldn't find it in my heart. And I felt guilty and shameful for not being so.

I find it's in those moments when more than any other moment I ought to be grateful and I want to be grateful--it's in those moments when God comes down close and whispers his grace again--when he comes in a gentle whisper as he came to a heartbroken Elijah, an Elijah who ought to have been thankful for God showing up in an awesome way, but an Elijah who couldn't muster the strength for gratitude (1 Kings 18:16-19:18).

I am grateful for a God who doesn't expect my gratefulness.

I am grateful for a God who knows my heart in and out--who knows my sadness, who knows my fears, who knows my laments--and knows the gratitude at the core of me when I can't express it in my outward me.

I hope I can take a lesson from my Papa, and show Hannah the same sort of grace on those days when the laments overwhelm the gratitude.

I hope on those days, I can lean down and whisper in her ear of my love and my nearness. I hope I will lament with her and not shield her from her loss but help her walk through it. I hope I can hold her and love her through her ingratitude no matter how much it might hurt me.

I am amazed by a loving Father who chooses to love us both on the days when our cups are overflowing with gratitude, awe and adoration and on the days when there seems to be a hole in the bottom of the cup.


I am amazed by a good Father whose love never fails us even when our love fails him.


I am amazed by a joyous Father who draws near and laments alongside us when we don't know how to do anything else but lament.