I’ve started this post numerous times over the last few weeks. It’s been a long, difficult wait to pour out what is in my heart. But Jesus has been working on me, helping me to weed out the things that don’t belong there.
A desire to please others over Him.
He’s managed to spoon feed me all sorts of wonderful verses, sermons and wisdom from fellow believers. He is so good to me.
And this is my thank you note to Him. For Him. About Him.
It’s my story, but it’s really His story. The teeny tiny part of His story where it intersects with my life. And how loving Him has changed me, and continues to change me…
I spent a summer in France and fell in love with it’s sophistication, it’s baguettes… and it’s cigarettes. It didn’t take long and I was hooked, I’d go through three packs on a good day. And as much as I tried, I could. not. quit. Eventually I came to detest so much about smoking, how unhealthy it was, how the smell covered my clothes, my hair, how I couldn’t live a day without it. And yet, I loved it. I leaned on it. Smoking soothed my soul, if only momentarily.
I’m ashamed to say, even when I found out I was carrying my precious first child, I still could not manage to quit smoking. I justified it, “My mom smoked when she was pregnant with me, and I turned out alright…” and made other excuses that satisfied my guilt. But inside I felt awful about doing something I didn’t want to do, but really couldn’t stop myself from doing. Something that was unhealthy for me, and unhealthy for those around me.
Thankfully once my daughter was born, with all the shock and trauma and absolute wonder of being momma to that little life, I quit. Cold turkey, in fact. I never picked up another cigarette.
And blessedly, she turned out alright.
But over the years I have had a recurring dream in which I am smoking again. Like a chimney, in fact. And, upon realization of this, I am panic-stricken, wondering “how will I break the news to my loved ones that I’d started smoking again? Will they know? Should I try to hide it?” In my dream I’m defeated. Depressed. I’ve let them down. And I’ve let myself down.
I hated having to endure those dreams.
But in my waking hours, those dreams renewed my gratitude for the decisions I’d made. Once fully awake, I’d shake off the dream, and relief would settle on me like a warm blanket. The sky was bluer, the clouds fluffier, the world more lovely knowing it was just a dream. And knowing that I had really endured and stayed the course, stayed true to myself, even when it wasn’t easy.
This is a most insignificant parallel to my feelings about the call Jesus placed on our lives. We were headed one direction, a direction that in the world’s eyes was ‘normal’ and thoroughly ‘acceptable’, but that for us, and our relationship with Him, wasn’t healthy. It focused on ourselves, our needs, our desires, and placing those above Him and His heart. It was self-soothing, self-seeking and focused on worldly possession and goals. And as we grew closer to Him, we realized that it was unhealthy for us and for our relationship with Him to continue on in the direction we were headed. So we fully laid our plans down at His feet. And asked for His plans in return.
And I believe that when I wake up in heaven one day, when my life is over and done, that I will be so glad, so relieved, so full of joy that we answered His call on our lives. And didn’t turn back or give up when it got difficult, but kept running the race He’d laid out for us. Instead of trusting in our own abilities, we relied on on Him and His promises. I believe this down to my very soul. The truth is, I’m betting my life on it.
Because shortly after my husband and I prayed that prayer, that He show us His plan for our lives, He stopped us dead in our tracks. My husband had an undeniable encounter with God. And subsequently, our lives were changed. We dropped our old habits and picked up the new life He had for us. I’m not gonna lie, it’s been an effort, and we fail daily, but the success or failure of my efforts isn’t what God is after. I could ‘work’ all day for Him, and if my heart isn’t seeking to know Him, trust Him and walk with Him, it would all be worthless.
What God wants from us is a desire to seek His will above our own. To hear His voice above all others. To worship Him with our whole hearts. And He wants us to reply with an unqualified YES when He calls.
The questions that have been swirling around our little neck of the bloggy woods… being ‘equipped’ or ‘adequate’ or ‘called’ to be an adoptive parent… aren’t really about whether we are able to parent an adopted child. These questions can only be answered by the truth of what we believe at our very core. What we believe about God. A.W. Tozer sums this up brilliantly: “The most important thing about me is what I believe about God.”
I am fully aware that among believers there are going to be differences of opinion, and God has accounted for this in many ways. I am comfortable knowing that we are not all necessarily going to see eye to eye on all things. But if you truly believe, even though He has called you, that God can not equip you, and give you all the tools you’ll ever need to parent your adopted child… you’ve allowed the ‘world’ to influence you. And cloud out the true vastness and greatness of God.
When God calls His people to action, He doesn’t say, “After you’ve had time to do some research…” or “I’m gonna help you out on this, but you’re going to have to get some outside help. This is just too big for Me.” The God of the Bible, the God I know, is the one who told Abram to leave everything he’d ever known for the complete unknown. The LORD said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” Genesis 12:1. And Abram left. No questioning, no research, no thoughtful reflection. And, in obeying God’s call, Abram had his socks blessed off in every way. Most importantly, in his relationship with God.
We are a society hungry for information. Now. Before we even think about taking the first step, we want to plot out the directions on our computers, print out a map, check the weather forecast and then track our travel on our GPS as we go.
But God doesn’t work that way.
Equipping comes in the process. God doesn’t drop off all the tools we’ll ever need to complete a task right at our feet. It’s the relationship He’s after. He wants us to continue to come to Him, seeking His will above any ‘plan’. It is in relating to Him, walking with Him, that He gives us what we need, and in receiving what we need, when we need it, that we learn to trust Him completely.
As we obey in faith, God will equip us with the tools we need to be the parents He wants us to be. And in the big picture, He will equip us with the tools we need to be the people He wants us to be. If we had it all at the onset, what sort of faith would that reveal in us? And isn’t faith upon which much, if not all, of our relationship with God is based? Having faith in His promises? His ability? His character? Having faith in Him above all things, especially above the opinion of others?
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6
And if we were privy at the onset to what might be involved in parenting our children, might we have faltered? I can honestly say, I might have. I would certainly have worried that I was inadequate and ill equipped… and I’d have missed one of the. biggest. blessings. in my life. To think that there are people out there who, after reading all the recent postings about adoption, and the ensuing comments, are now questioning their ability to parent an adopted child because they’re not good enough or smart enough? Not only does this break my heart, but I believe it breaks His heart. His people choosing to believe the roars of an unbelieving crowd instead of His promises. And missing the biggest blessings God has for them.
In a perfect world, there would be no need for adoption. All children would live, happily every after, with their biological parents. But right NOW, there are over 1500 children on the shared list in China. They are orphans. They have been abandoned. And hundreds of thousands more that are laying in orphanages scattered across China. Many of them receiving inadequate care. Absolutely, I think it’s wonderful to support foster families in their efforts to adopt children in their care. We’ve participated in this effort through LWB. But really? Most of these kids don’t even have foster families, much less foster families that actually want to adopt them. They’re laying in cribs, staring at empty doorways. Waiting for someone. Anyone.
So, just the thought that I’m here, you’re there… in our warm houses, with full bellies, perched in our cushy chairs typing on our laptops questioning whether we are ‘equipped’ to parent one of these children? Who so desperately just need someone to love them and care for them? Asking ourselves if we are smart enough? good enough? well read enough?
When we become so consumed with concern over the losses and hardships our children might potentially endure… it clouds our ability to clearly see the desperate need that exists NOW. Basic, in some cases the most basic, needs are not being met. And if we spend so much time and energy focusing on our children’s possible future needs, and how to best and most fully fill that gap, are we not, in essence, idolizing our children? And our role as parents? Our ability to make their lives complete? Placing it higher in importance than our relationship with God?
Martyn Lloyd Jones says: “an idol is anything in our lives that occupies the place that should be occupied by God alone.”
And therefore our assumption must be that if we do make the efforts, the reading, the preparing, that somehow, this will make our adopted child’s life better, or more fulfilling. Certainly, creating and maintaining a loving environment for our children to grow and thrive is our duty as parents. And I believe even more so as adoptive parents. But the truth is that their ultimate destiny, whether or not they find joy and peace, is out of our control.
It is not in my ability to make my child’s life complete. Nor is it even in my ability to make my own life complete. I am in total and complete dependence on the One who created me. In fact, I believe that becoming a Christian is a full and total acceptance of our utter dependence on Him. A falling flat on our faces before Him and recognizing our inability to find any meaning without Him on this journey called life. Only He can fulfill me and make me whole. And I will rely on Him to do the same for my children, biological and adopted. After all, He created them. And He loves them, even more than I.
A truth in this life, as well as in adoption, is that there are no promises of happy endings. And if my children grow up to hate me or hold me responsible for their heartbreak and their losses, I can live with that. Indeed, I will have to live with that. When we chose to adopt, we fully understood the lifetime commitment involved. Children don’t stay little, and ultimately we all grow up into women and men with ideas and feelings unique to each of us. And I expect that all of my children will react to their ‘stories’ on their own terms, in their own way, and in their own time. And we will be beside them, every step of the way.
We did not adopt to gain any appreciation or gratitude from our children, or from anyone. We adopted because we wanted to obey God’s call on our lives. And if that includes sorrow in our lives, brought on by the sadness and heartbreak our children have and will endure, I can live with that. If it involves work and sacrifice and suffering, I can live with that. What I cannot live with is the knowledge that I was too afraid to step out of my comfort zone, too fearful to trust Him, and that when He asked me to do something for Him, I said no.
I hope you won’t say no. To whatever it is that He is calling you to do. Because when you answer His call with a yes, you will undoubtedly be blessed. But know this, if God calls you to do something, you will know. Adoption isn’t a cause to take on as an emotional response to a perceived need… God needs His people doing what He calls them to do. Not picking and choosing ways to ‘do good’ in His name. Just because something is good doesn’t mean it is part of His plans for your life.
I am a flawed, flawed person, just trying to put my heart into words here. But please know that I am posting this thoughtfully, and prayerfully. I am trying to do my best as a small part of the body of Christ, as is my friend, TM. We are two distinct parts of the same effort He is making in the lives of orphans, each with different views, different perspectives, but the same heart.
Don’t take my word on any of this. In fact, don’t take anyone’s word. Consider the perspective of others, remain open to differing points of view. But then take it all to Him. Get out your Bible. Seek out His will for your life. Ask Him to open your eyes and to speak to your heart. On adoption, on caring for the orphan, on everything.
And then trust Him.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17