When I was a baby, I was adopted by two wonderful, loving parents. I was given love, safety and security, and every opportunity to grow. My talents and abilities were fostered and encouraged. I really could not have asked for a better life, and how the Lord had guided me and protected me through that vulnerable time as a baby and led me to parents who would also guide me and protect me. I felt like I had gotten extremely lucky. Growing up as an only child I felt like I was my parents’ princess. The three of us were so lucky to have each other. Being adopted felt like something that made me unique, and I fully embraced it and accepted it as being part of my story. I understood that my birthmother had been young, unable to care for me, and had given me up because she wanted me to have a better life. I was Joseph with the coat of many colors– set apart, favored, and special– but also immature and full of pride.
At age 18, I was preparing to go to college to study voice, which was my lifelong dream. Just after my birthday, I was reunited with my biological Mom, and all of my understanding of the circumstances of my birth, adoption, and of myself completely unraveled. I discovered that my birth mom had kept me for almost a year and then surrendered me to the department of social services where I became a ward of the state. A year later, she became pregnant with my half-sister and kept her. A few years after that she had my half brother and kept him too. I learned that she had no idea who my biological father was, which was contrary to the information she had sent along with me to my social worker. She came to my family home to meet me, and I proudly sang her an aria by Mozart to show her who I had become and how I used the life and talents that she had given me. She stared blankly at me and said, “Wow. If I had had voice lessons I would be able to sing just like you.” She then commenced to talk about how stunning and talented my younger sister was. As I tried to develop a relationship with my birthmother and extended biological family, it strained my relationship with my parents. None of us had anticipated how hurtful this meeting and relationship would be. My parents and I had thought it would provide answers to questions and fill in gaps. Instead, it created more questions, more confusion, and more gaps.
This is when Satan started whispering lies to me. My young, prideful heart and immature self believed them. Satan whispered, You were a mistake. You were an accident. You weren’t wanted. Your birth mom didn’t want you and she still doesn’t want you. Your parents’ first choice was to have a biological child and you were second best. You aren’t your parents’ perfect princess anymore. You were born out of sinfulness and you are sullied by it to your very core. You don’t have a right to be here. You weren’t good enough then and you aren’t good enough now. If your own biological mother can reject you and forget about you, it means that no one can ever really love you. You have to earn your worth in the world by accomplishing and achieving things.
I was Joseph in the pit. My heart and soul were in the darkest depths of an emotional pit and I didn’t know if I would ever come out of it. An anger and unforgiveness formed around my heart and locked me in like a prison. I felt a soul-crushing cognitive dissonance around feeling lucky and grateful for my parents along with this aching wound for feeling “tossed aside”–having been the only one excluded from my biological family. Some extended biological family members even added to this feeling, with one commenting that my presence was so disruptive to their life that they couldn’t wait for me to be given away. I was crushed. I felt like I was worthless.
Ten years later when I started having my own babies, this anger and unforgiveness towards my birth mom festered and grew. As I looked into my first daughter’s eyes at 11 months, the age I was when she gave me away, both a sadness and a rage burned inside me. As each of my four daughters were born and reached this age, my rage grew. The prison walls closed in tighter.
Four years into my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, miracles started happening surrounding this pain and unforgiveness. As I came to know Christ better, I came to understand just how valuable I am to Him. I came to understand, through His example, how to forgive, as He too was rejected by the people He loved. The Holy Ghost reminded me that Christ had also been of low birth, technically born out of wedlock to a teenage mother. Later, the Lord extended a true miracle to me. I bore my very first testimony as a new convert. I stated that while I didn’t know my biological Dad, I was so grateful that He sent me to my parents and that He gave me the ability to create my own family with my husband. Two days later, my biological father’s identity was revealed through a 23andme DNA test I had taken years earlier. My biological Dad had NO idea I was even born. He took an interest in me, my husband, and my daughters immediately. He told me how I was a gift from God and a blessing. He hugged my parents and thanked them for being so wonderful to me all of these years. He reminded me that God doesn’t make mistakes and that people do not come to earth by accident. Meeting him answered so many questions and connected so many dots for me.
I started finding refuge in the scriptures, particularly 1 Nephi 21 and Isaiah 49. As I sang “I Am A Child of God” with my young daughters, I started to really believe it. I had experiences in the temple with biological ancestors who confirmed to me that I was NOT an accident, that I was sent here on purpose, by Jesus Christ.
But still, deep down, I was in the prison. I still couldn’t find forgiveness for my birth mom. Even as all of these experiences were happening and the Lord was slowly healing my heart, I still couldn’t make the leap from knowing that I needed to forgive her to actually being able to do it. I prayed and prayed for a change of heart. After over 20 years, it finally came through studying Genesis 42-50 in the Old Testament for Come, Follow Me.
I was reading chapters 45 and 50 of Genesis, and through Joseph’s example, I found my forgiveness. Joseph was rejected of his own family. He was sent to the pit, and later the prison. (and Joseph had it SO much worse than me! I merely felt wounded for being rejected!) In Genesis 45 when he was reunited with his brothers, there was not a hint of anger or unforgiveness on his part. He said to his brothers, “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you…So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God” (verses 5, 8). In Genesis 50:19 he says, “for am I in the place of God?”
The forgiveness I felt for her was spontaneous and immediate upon reading these words. So much so that it took my breath away and the tears began to flow. I read the words again, as the Spirit read them: “It was not SHE who sent me hither, but God. Am I not standing exactly in the place where God needed me to be?” The Holy Spirit continued by telling me that The Lord wanted me to forgive her and free her and myself from this prison of unforgiveness-“You can let her off the hook now. This was all of God’s doing, and all things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good!”-just as the Lord had said this to Joseph Smith in D&C 122. I came to this part of what ancient Joseph said to his brothers, in Genesis 50:20 ”But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.” But God.
The victory of Satan’s lies were short-lived because God meant ALL of my experiences and heartache unto good. When we know the Lord, we can trust that even our pit and prison places can be used for our good. God led me to my wonderful parents, and I had a safe and happy childhood, and we get to be an eternal family someday. By facing the truth of the circumstances of my birth, I have uncovered a deep sense of the divine dignity that exists within every human being. I learned through my Endowment in the temple that my parents who adopted me are my rightful parents and that I can be sealed to them. The temple president told me this just before the ceremony started. This was a tender mercy of confirmation for all three of us that it truly was God’s will from the start that we belonged together! I was NEVER unwanted! This experience has also made me all the more fiercely protective and loving towards children.
I have witnessed firsthand how God was able to turn my heartbreak and my pit and prison places into a refiner’s fire that has helped me to understand Christ better and what He went through. The fruits of this are more humility, more compassion, and the desire for my bowels to always be filled with mercy. Sometimes our pain feels like a mountain that won’t ever move– But God.