Too Many Triggers


In 2012 I lived in Uganda. First in Entebbe, then Kampala, with a few visits to Luero and Jinja. It was never my intention to live in Uganda. I had planned on visiting while adopting our youngest son, perhaps three to five weeks. Soon after arriving it became apparent that if we wanted this adoption to happen ethically I would be living there for months, perhaps for years. My husband and I had walked into this adoption as Evangelical Barbie Saviors. We had done all the right Christian things. Checked all the boxes. We had read Francis Chan Crazy Love as a Bible study. We raised our hands during worship, sold our souls to the Sunday performance, and only listened to K-Love Radio. We drank fair trade coffee, thought Dave Ramsey had all the answers, and were adopting internationally. So basically we were super-saved.

I lived in Uganda for sixteen weeks: not nearly as long as we had anticipated and not as long as some others adopting from the same country, who were doing it ethically, had to stay. I returned to the states with our youngest son, and both of us had PTSD. The first Sunday I returned to church a sweet woman, who I did not know, asked me if I would be willing to talk to her daughter and son-in-law about international adoption. I looked her in the eyes, and said “You have the wrong girl …” and walked away. I had seen and witnessed things that affected my viewpoint of evangelicals, the church, and international adoption forever.


I sat down to write this article seven separate times. Each time I wrote it, it wasn’t that I couldn’t think of what to write about, it was that I had to decide which of the million things I wanted to say. I even submitted a draft I thought was finished. But here I was on the first Sunday in Lent, supposed to be paying attention to the Lectio Divina and all I could think about was that I had just submitted an article tearing apart international adoption. Who was I going to hurt? And was that really what I was upset about it? Was this the trigger that gets my heart racing? Or should I write about systematic racism, white privilege, community gentrification, LBGTQ, gated communities, Republicans, church gentrification, fair trade, smashing the patriarchy … too many triggers and not enough time.

When I was a little girl I was told repeatedly that I was “too sensitive.” I would cry when others were hurt or upset. I would take on the feelings around me as my own. This little towheaded girl carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. I was made to feel ashamed of my sensitivity. So it turned inward and became anger. That is what sadness does when it isn’t given the room to feel safe enough to breathe. It stays inside. It becomes another unhealed wound.

I think that is what triggers are: unhealed wounds. A raw awakening to the world around us. Experiences or emotions that were never given space to be heard and healed. We all have them. Some of us were bravely shown how to stay present and enter into our triggers. Others of us were shown how to shame and numb them into anger, or worse yet, silence them.

My youngest daughter was born with what the doctors call a “special heart” because she has a hole in the fourth ventricle. When she was born that blustery Tuesday afternoon in February twelve years ago, a team of specialists were waiting for her. She came out with a heart-shaped mark between her eyebrows. My grandfather called that her “angel kiss,” that somehow the angels were telling us who she would be. She too carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. But we don’t call that “too sensitive.” We call that Superpowers.