"Margie! Answer me quickly!" the text lights up my phone. It's Karina. The urgency in her message is tangible. She needs to connect. She needs to be reminded that she is important ... that she is loved ... that she is human. If, for some reason, I am unable to answer immediately, the next communication I receive from her will be a wave of angry words hammering across my screen. "Why you no like me?" "Why you not my friend no more?" "Okay, I go away. I not bother you no more." "Good-bye!" "I hate you!"
But as soon as I pick up my end of the line, that self-protective facade simply melts away. "Margie! How are you! I am so HAPPY to see you."
It's not Karina's fault her emotions are so unstable. She is one of the unlucky ones. Never chosen for adoption, she remains another faceless statistic, a name on a file, a broken child left behind to try to figure life out on her own.
Being an active member of the adoptive community for more than 20 years, I never thought much about the ones who weren't adopted. Theoretically, I knew they existed ... but ... somehow, I focused mostly on the happily-ever-after stories. The ones where the lonely orphan is engulfed in the loving arms of a forever-family and they all step out wrapped in smiles to face their fairy-tale future. I liked those stories. They made me feel good. They made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
But they didn't tell the whole story.
What happens deep in the hearts of those who have through the years watched in pained silence as one after another of their friends gets adopted, but no one ever comes for them? What does it do to a developing psyche to know you are not wanted ... not desired ... not valued enough to be invited into a family.
Four months ago, through the wonders of social media, Karina reached out to me across the ocean because, as she said, my profile picture "looked happy." Happiness is a mystery for her. She chases after it endlessly, but it is as elusive to her as a shadow in the sun. What she thinks will bring her happiness offers only more heartache and problems.
Bounced from home to home and from orphanage to orphanage, she now exists as an outsider in society. Legally an adult, inside she is still very much a child longing to be held and rocked and loved. There is a tremendous void in her life. Where she should have a core of security built into the very fibers of her being by stable and loving parents, there is only an aching emptiness.
Phone calls reach me from a "friend's" apartment, from beneath a stranger's house, from a psychiatric ward after yet another unsuccessful suicide attempt. I never know when or where I will hear from her next. But I do know what she will ask. "Will you pray with me?"
Somehow, in the shambles of her life and despite the predominant atheism of her country, she has met God and she knows He loves her. Despite that knowledge, hurt and loneliness sometimes overwhelm her and, without human love to lift her spirits, she slips back into the darkness of her empty world. "Why does God hate me?" she asks through her tears. Listening to her stories, it is very difficult to explain that it's not God's hate that has done this to her. It's the apathy of His people.