Note: When I write about adoption, I’m speaking to other Christians. I can’t write about adoption “in general” without beginning and ending with my faith. Separating my feelings and beliefs on adoption from my feelings and beliefs about Jesus is simply impossible. I think C.S. Lewis sums it up perfectly: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
I can only see adoption through the lenses by which I see everything: Christ. Adoption would never have been part of my story apart from Christ tilling up the hard ground of my heart and opening my eyes to the 150,000,000 children around the world who don’t have a mother or father to call their own.
Okie dokie then.
I haven’t written a lot about adoption in the last year or so. It’s not that I haven’t thought a lot about adoption, I think about one aspect or another of adoption much the time. I just haven’t poured my heart out here. And when I really thought about why, it’s because the bloggy world just doesn’t feel safe anymore. There are those who’d rather sling arrows at those they believe to be doing it wrong than devote themselves to working on behalf of the orphan. I’ve seen the result of many of those arrows and it has not been fruit, y’all. It’s been pain and division. It’s been shame and heartache.
But bring on the arrows, I’m gonna share my heart. Because, as much as I want to answer the Q and A’s y’all posed the other day, I need to say something first. Something that – as an adoptive mama who loves to encourage others to consider adoption – is not easy to say. And to those of y’all in the early phases of adoption, I’m betting it’s not going to be easy to hear.
There is no such thing as an easy adoption.
A smidge of pertinent background before we go on. My husband and I came to Christ in 2002. So when we prayed our little hearts out less than 2 years later, telling the Lord that we wanted His will for our lives and not our own, we were brand new, milk-still-on-our-upper-lip baby Christians. We had moved away from our close friends who had discipled us and we were on our own in a whole new community, in a whole new state. And less than 6 months after praying that prayer on trembling knee, God laid adoption on my husband’s heart. Completely out of the blue. We didn’t know anyone who had adopted, internationally or domestically. We didn’t have any Chinese friends. We had never heard a sermon preached on adoption. We had never heard of the “orphan crisis”.
We just knew what God said and we knew what we’d prayed. Eleven months later, Isabelle came home. And we witnessed God’s hand every step of the the way.
After Isabelle came home, we honestly expected to be done. Fini. The end. But it wasn’t the end. If you’re a reader here, you know the rest of our story… we stepped out again and again. And again. In 2012 we brought home Tallula, our 12th child (Esther passed away before we were able to travel for her), our 7th child by means of adoption.
Which is why, I suppose, I think a lot about adoption. We have more Chinese-born in our house than American-born. Our biological kids are outnumbered by our adopted kids. Adoption has consumed much of our thoughts, finances and energy for the last 9 years. And now that we are kinda-sorta-maybe done growing our family, and I don’t have to spend so much time changing diapers and wearing my Ergo carrier, I’ve managed to dig into the Word again and gain some much-needed and much-appreciated perspective on adoption. Because adoption is one meaty word.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” — James 1:5
When you let go of your plans and tell Him you want His plan for your life, He will give you the eyes to see it.
And I am so grateful for that. He opened our eyes and immediately our hearts broke for the orphan. He didn’t even have to give us a reference point for it… we were blank canvases who simply trusted. Some might call that naive, some might call that plain crazy. And I can’t disagree. But when you are trusting and believing in the One who made you, the One who made the universe and everything in it, trusting is really the only sane thing to do.
So there we were. Eyes on Him. And He was pointing to orphans halfway around the world. And on-my-goodness has He blessed us exponentially for our feeble trust. I have posted here for seven years, 1925 posts to be exact, and only managed shared a smidgen of the overflow of the joy that has come from growing our family by adoption.
But this post isn’t about the easy-to-see, fun-to-talk-about kind of blessings. It’s about the hard-fought blessings. The blessings that we not only don’t want to talk about, the blessings we don’t even want.
And I know these blessings-that-don’t-feel-like-blessings first hand. Thinking they were anything but blessings, I’ve resisted and ignored them. And although I didn’t see any of this at the time, I’m beginning to grasp the edges of it now. Because I had lost my sight. Or, more aptly, my Sight. Many times along the way I took my eyes off Him and I lost His perspective – I was more focused on glorifying adoption than glorifying the One who called us to adopt. Instead of loving God for who He is, I was loving God for what He could do: I was loving God for loving the orphan, being Father to the fatherless, and allowing me to be a small part of what He was doing to rescue, love and care for orphans.
Good things, yes. But God? Most definitely no.
And nothing can bear the weight of glory except God. We may be able to prop our love and devotion on other things for a time, but it will always, always fail us in the end.
When we allow ourselves to identify with good things more closely than we identify with Christ, we have a tendency to veer off toward self-righteousness. Pride. We can even feel entitled to launch arrows at fellow Christians, on behalf of the orphan, because they’re not doing it the way we think they should.
Instead of looking to Him and allowing His love to sustain me, I wrestled away from Him. Because I wanted to do what I wanted to do – deceiving myself into thinking it was what He wanted because it was a good thing. After all, He had called us to love and care for the orphan – wasn’t I loving Him because I loved the orphan?
But He wanted me to love the orphan because I loved Him.
Despite all this, God never leaves nor forsakes us. And despite my faltering allegiances, and my propensity to stray, He has carried me, sustained me and loved me undeservedly yet lavishly. He has showered me with a joy I’d never known by allowing me to be His hands and feet to my children… to allow me to witness their transformation from brokenness to beloved. Because, once my eyes were opened to the need of orphans around the world it changed me. It changed our family – inside and out. Now I want to be the mama to my children that came to me without a mama. I want to bring them joy and watch them blossom. I want to love them well and point them to the One who knows every hair on their heads.
But, let me be honest. I am a painfully slow learner. Because even as He has been revealing His truths to me, I falter again and again. When struggles surface, when issues arise, my actions reveal what I often want most: Comfort. Ease. Normalcy.
And this is what I want to share with y’all. With those of us that choose to follow Him off the beaten path and onto the exceedingly beautiful but often crooked path of adoption.
Adoption is one heck of a sanctifying experience.
It will showcase your fears, anxieties and failings. It will make you want to run screaming from the room when your selfishness surfaces or your laziness reigns again. It will reveal all the broken places you’ve not-so-effectively covered up. It will point out your sinfulness like nothing else.
Adoption is walking out God’s call to “love your neighbor as yourself.” To “care for the least of these.” To bring a child that was once a complete stranger into your home to love and cherish forever. And the truth of it is, sometimes your “neighbor” drives you absolutely nutty. Sometimes your “neighbor” shrieks all night and throws temper tantrums all day. Sometimes the needs of the “least of these” positively overwhelms. Sometimes you fear that you can’t even parent your other children well for trying to fill the seemingly unending needs of one child. Sometimes you feel like you simply can’t go on one. more. day.
This is when, if you allow Him, He will show you that you are as broken and in need as the child you are trying to parent.
This is when, if you allow it, He will do His mightiest, most redemptive work in you.
This is when, if you allow it, He will make you more like His Son.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” — 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
So don’t miss this, struggling mama. God uses the weak, the broken, and the flawed to fulfill His plans. He calls us to join Him in this mighty, redemptive work called adoption. He brings children out of orphanages, binds up their wounds and makes them beloved children. And He uses every bit of the joy and the pain to point us back to His goodness for His glory.
We just have to keep our eyes on Him, and trust Him to do the rest.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18
If you’re just getting started on this journey, know this. Adoption always takes us out of our comfort zone. You might feel more than ready for that, but undoubtedly there will be moments that there is nothing you’ll desire more than the “comfort” of what used to be. And in those moments – or for some of us, those days or weeks – instead of giving in to your own desire for normal, allow Him to have His way.
Because the Jesus that is worthy of following into adoption is the Jesus who is worth trusting in the middle of adoption. When the shiny veneer of adoption is long gone.
James 1:27 is a call to action that resonates deeply with those of us who have adopted. We highlight it in our Bibles, we wear it on t-shirts, we memorize it and share it with others because it is truth. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
But how does the book of James start?
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” — James 1:2
We need to put theses two truths together, sweet sister. We must cling to what we trust He will do with the pieces when we admit the brokenness of ourselves, and lay it all at His feet. Because His promises are true.
And as we trust Him to work on us, may we humbly recognize the sanctifying work He is doing in our fellow believers who are called to adoption as well. May we pour out grace upon grace to those who are struggling. Instead of throwing arrows, may we offer mercy. Instead of self-righteousness, may we offer help. May we point them always to Christ, the only One who is able to make all things new.
And then? When we are parenting these precious children He has entrusted to us? Children from horribly broken places? Then we can speak His truth over them like no one else. Because we have made a covenant with Him, the most unbelievable exchange in history: His strength for our weakness, His fullness for our lack, His perfection for our sin. And we can point our children to Him to be made whole – perfect and complete, lacking in nothing – as well.