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Finding Purpose in Rejection

After the devastating discovery of his adoption, one man went on to find his identity in God

Steven Eugene Carter

I was born September 23, 1975, as a premature baby. I suffered from a hole in my heart, twisted intestines, and a hernia that resulted in several surgeries during my infancy. My biological parents left me at the hospital because of my illnesses and potential adoptive parents passed me up because of my prognosis. But after being placed on television as a child in need of a home, I was graciously adopted by two loving parents, Eugene and Mary Carter, who loved me in spite of my impending death. Fortunately, I overcame my illnesses and was able to grow up healthy, in an unconditionally loving home with endless support and encouragement.

But all of that changed when I turned 13.  My aunt told me that I was adopted, my parents confirmed it, and my life was never the same. I went from a child who felt loved and supported to a child who felt rejected, unwanted, unworthy and unloved.

Throughout my teen years, I wrestled with feeling abandoned by my biological parents and deceived by my adopted parents, which left me feeling unable to trust, love or accept anyone into my life. When I first learned about being adopted, my life started down the road of looking for acceptance in all of the wrong places and with the wrong people. In junior high school, I sold marijuana to other kids for 3 days, but stopped when I imagined being caught by my father. The fear of what he might do to me if he knew what I was doing was far more persuasive than being caught by law enforcement.

I got a little more bold in high school and joined a “train gang,” where I would ride trains with friends, looking for people to steal things from. By the grace of God, I never stole anything from anyone. When it was my turn to steal something, I prayed and asked the Lord to deliver me, and out of nowhere, two New York City transit police officers boarded the train, so no one pressured me to go through with it. God answered my prayer! Thankfully, even while self-destructing, God shielded me from any serious consequences for my mistakes.

After high school, I went on to college and during my freshman year, I found validation in a better place: I accepted my call into the ministry. I poured everything into ministry because it was where I felt most affirmed. I worked hard to improve my gift of preaching so that I could continue to receive even more applause and unending invitations to preach.  However, the power of the applause didn’t last forever, because I was still feeling empty. Although I was preaching hope to many people for many years, I was still living as if I was hopeless. I did not realize at the time that I was using my calling to cover up my pain.  My feelings of rejection and abandonment resulted in insecurities, overcompensating, failed relationships and a strong disregard for the feelings of others.

After living so many years without knowing my biological parents, I was given the opportunity to meet them through a social worker.  Filled with questions and even excitement, I arrived at the planned meeting with great expectations, hoping to learn some truths about my birth family.  It hurt that much more when the social worker walked in instead of my parents and told me they’d decided not to come. I instantly went from a 35-year-old man back to a 13-year-old boy. Once again, my parents had rejected me, but this time I blamed myself for giving them another opportunity.

When my spiritual mentor, Pastor Ralph Douglas West, noticed the pain I was carrying around with me, he said, “You need to do something positive before your pain destroys your future.” I wasn’t ready to listen. I met and married my wife, Danielle, and after the honeymoon was over, my pain started surfacing in my marriage and I caused my wife to feel the burden of a weight that she did not create. But through her encouragement and support, I started the process of writing the book Resurrection from Rejection: Healing from 7 Areas of Rejection in Your Life. The journey was not easy, but it helped me place my energy towards something positive, just as my mentor suggested.

Through writing this book, I was able to take back the power I had given to others over my life; the process freed me from the pain of rejection and allowed me to begin living the life I was created for. I accepted that I was never responsible for how I arrived; I am only responsible for what I do before I depart. I used my rejection experiences as a stepping stone to self-acceptance and self-love, which allowed my ministry, my marriage and my personal life to flourish. All of these actions led to me being able to reconnect, or at least begin a connection with my extended family. 

As for my adoptive parents, I refer to them simply as my parents, again, because they have been nothing short of a great blessing in my life, and they are all I know. I am truly thankful for them. Through many nights of tears and soul searching, I have been able to forgive them for what I thought was deception, but later understood to be their way of trying to protect my heart as best as they knew how. What more could you expect from loving parents?

Knowing all that I know now, I would not change anything in my life. God has blessed me with a great, loving family and a beautiful testimony.

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