Over the years, I’ve referred to them as my “spiritually adopted daughter,” “kindred spirits,” “brother by another mother,” and even “four-legged children.” They’re unquestionably my family, but it didn’t start out that way. They were chosen. They took long-term occupancy in my heart. And they became my family.
My adopted daughter, Veronica, was a little girl when her mom brought her to the Children’s Support Group at the Jenna Druck Center. Her dad and big brother had died tragically, and her young heart was shattered. I watched “Vero” slowly heal and grow up, year after year. Her Quinceañera (a special celebration for 15-year-old Latina girls), visits to my daughter’s and her dad’s graves on Father’s Day, and wedding are sweet memories I will cherish forever.
A surprising number of the people we hold sacred in this life are those we “spiritually adopt.”
The relationships we form with them are special in a way that’s often difficult to describe. What we do know is that they’re members of our “tribe” and “BFF’s” whom we’re blessed to have found.
We may cherish the special relationships we had with our parents, sibs, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins growing up. If we’re lucky, the love in our families of origin only grew more. But the inner circles of love, trust, understanding, and companionship in many of our lives are populated by members of the family we choose. They may have started as childhood friends, neighbors, co-workers, sorority sisters, teammates, classmates, fellow seekers, or confidants we turned to in moments of need. But the deep bonds and sense of connection we have with them can play more of a part in our lives than members of our families of origin.
Because we don’t always integrate all parts of our lives, the family we choose can go unrecognized. In fact, members of our family of origin are often taken by surprise at milestone birthday parties or memorial services when the depth and breadth of what we have shared with others is celebrated in full force.
However, some of us have learned that spiritual adoptions that occur during times of great vulnerability and/or desperation can be risky. We have to be smart and choose wisely. Not all spiritually adopted friends or groups are safe, or make good choices, despite their seemingly great “curb appeal.” They do not, in fact, bring out the best in us, as promised. They are not worthy of our devotion. Nor are they an effective way to divorce our former lives.
Going in search of meaning, hoping to meet the unmet needs of our childhoods, and aspiring to evolve into spiritual beings can be noble quests. But joining a gang, religious group, radical political movement, or cult led by sinister, power-hungry predators and masters of deception is not going to accomplish these things.
Real family members have our well-being at heart. They are trustworthy. Humble. Loving. Forgiving. Respectful. Compassionate. Capable of admitting mistakes. And rather than attempting to control us, they ask us what we think, what we need and what we want.
Along with a loving family, our adopted family members—be they friends, co-workers, confidants, mentors, teammates or soul mates—can be some of the greatest blessings in our lives. They certainly have been for me. Each season of my life has been blessed with spiritually adopted friends who became beloved brothers, sisters, daughters, and family members.
I wish the same for you.
Please feel free to share your experiences with “Spiritually Adopted” and “Chosen Family” members with me.