Monday, September 26, 2016

Is He Possessed? - An Adoption Update

Sensi's emotional range has expanded. For the first few months we had happy faces and vacant looks. As he has grown to trust us, Sensi has added sadness and anger to the repertoire. These emotions blend together, angry eyes typically soften into shameful tears.

In a twisted sort of way, I take delight in his emotional outbursts. I don't enjoy his apparent pain or frustration, but I celebrate the growing freedom he senses to express himself. I suspect much of his orphanage life instilled in him the values of compliance and inconspicuousness.

Now he has a family giving witness to all his moves and moods. We regularly summon him from the drawing table or Garfield loop, inviting him to dinner or ushering him to the car. Intimacy can be intimidating. Family and good friends invade our safe places and threaten our independence.

We have invaded Sensi's life. We have called him out of smiling compliance and silent withdraw. We have said, "Close your book. Say it louder. Put the marker down. Come to the table. Put your seat belt on." We have shattered his independence in the name of intimacy.

The result is an increase of control struggles and escalation of Sensi's anger. Most of the time, he plods about in smiling compliance, but several times a week, Sensi pushes back. He lowers his brow, purses his lips, and scrunches his hand in front of his set face to express his anger.
When Sensi becomes angry he may turn aside and ignore us. He may push his hand toward our faces and reject us. He may retreat upstairs to his bedroom or throw something on the floor in disgust. One time Sensi pinched my face in anger. This act did not go over well with my wife.

The triggers for Sensi's anger are numerous, but they all boil down to control. We have battled Sensi to brush his teeth, put on shoes, buckle his seat belt, wipe down the table, put on his pants, take off his pants, and go to bed. We regularly fight him to close his book, put on his socks, or respond to our questions. And if we press Sensi too hard, we awake the demon. His nostrils flare, brow descends, and eyes lock momentarily before rolling to the back of his head. Yes: all the way back.

I must admit the first time his face took this demonic cast, it rattled me. We were in a heated bedtime contest. Three times Sensi emerged from his room and strolled about the house. On the final occasion, I marched him upstairs, sat him on the bed, and scrunched my hand before my face. Two can play at this game, I thought. "I'm angry, too," I said. 

My expression unglued him. His eyes rolled back to his amygdala.

I said his name. No response. I lobbed a few sentences at him, but his demon face remained fixed. So I wrapped my arms around him and said, "Sensi, I want you to know Jesus is the Lord of this house. I am not afraid of your anger. It has no power here."

A few minutes later his eyes returned. They came with tears. Sensi folded. I reaffirmed my love for my boy, tucked him in, and waited beside his bed until he fell asleep.

The Apostle Paul warns against letting the sun go down on anger, for it gives the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27). There may be other demonic footholds in Sensi's life. He comes from a hard place, a broken place, where shame reigns. He would not be the first adoptive child to manifest signs of spiritual oppression. Orphaned children are targets, so I've been warned by other adoptive parents.

Fortunately, Jesus is Lord of my house. May he set my child free.

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