Four years, two months and nineteen days. That’s how long it took for my husband and me to complete our first international adoption and bring our daughter home. Unfortunately, that length is becoming more and more common for international adoption timelines. Even more unfortunate are the number of international adoptions that are never completed due to country closures, government law changes and the deaths of children waiting to come home.
We knew it would be hard, and we were even prepared for the journey to take a couple of years, but we never could have expected the journey the Lord was leading us on. We faced so many setbacks and disappointments. I remember often expressing to my husband in some of my darkest moments that I didn’t want to hope anymore – I wanted to be callous, indifferent and unaffected by the next wave of turmoil. In comforting one another we would often share the same refrain, “I don’t know how much more I can bear.” For more than three years we had no face, no name of the child for whom we were praying. For more than three years we wondered at times if we were fighting a losing battle.
But God never called us to complete an adoption. God called us to remain faithful to him no matter what. In the last year of the adoption process, we began asking ourselves, “Have we been faithful?” Despite my efforts in the moments I desperately tried not to hope, I couldn’t help but hope; I couldn’t help but feel the stings and blows that left us breathless; I couldn’t help but care when the news of another setback filled our ears. God gave us a Spirit and a will to fight, to endure.
After more than three years of waiting, we finally had a face and a name to call ours, but it took another 10 months to bring her home.
God never called us to complete an adoption. God called us to remain faithful to him no matter what.Click to tweet
I have no doubt when people see our family pictures now they think we have a sweet adoption story – look at the outcome! She’s cute, sassy and downright beautiful, but when I consider our adoption story, “sweet” is not the first word that comes to mind. Words like trial, turmoil, endurance, perseverance, poverty, brokenness, grief, sorrow, patience, joy, hope and grace are but a few that I first recall. Our journey to her was all of these things and more, but her journey to us also had a bitter beginning. Defenseless, voiceless, indifferent, orphaned – this was her story.
Don’t misunderstand me, sweetness abounds! She now has parents who are wildly in love with her, a family to call her own, but her story didn’t begin that way. We now have a daughter in whom we delight every day, but it was a long wait to hear her laughter and cries in our home.
The same is true for all Christians – our stories didn’t begin with sweetness. We were once orphans in a bitter state, hopeless, callous and indifferent. This is the story of the world. I am keenly reminded of this each Sunday as our church corporately partakes in the Lord’s Supper. God the Father chose to adopt us at an infinitely great cost. The Godhead chose to go to battle, to wage war for us. Christ drank the bitter cup for us and he told his disciples they too would drink the bitter cup with him. But, bitterness has a way of making sweetness taste sweeter. The promise in the gospel of Christ is this – Christ will one day drink the sweet cup of wine in glory with all of his disciples, all of those adopted by God.
It is this promise that gives us as Christians the spirit and the will to hope when all seems hopeless, to feel the deepest and rawest emotions when the world remains callous, to care deeply and with resounding affection when onlookers observe with indifference. It is a sign of life to a dead world.
In our story, I thank our sovereign God for the bitter, and I thank him for the sweet.Click to tweet
Adoption, specifically international adoption, has become increasingly difficult as I mentioned earlier. Here are a few things for couples to consider when entering the adoption process:
- Commit to the Call to Adopt.
Once you begin, stick to the course. There may be, and likely will be, things that cause you to change trajectory, but remember that the Lord does not call us to hopelessness.
- Surround Yourself with Prayer Warriors.
Had it not been for the faithful brothers and sisters who regularly prayed and fasted for us, I honestly do not know how we would have born our burdens. I am convinced, because I have seen it with my eyes, that the Lord hears the prayers of his people and is moved by them.
- Confide in One Another.
You and your spouse together are stepping onto a battlefield. At different and various times one or both of you will be weak and tired. It’s absolutely necessary in moments of weakness and strength that you share the burdens with one another. It is amazing how the Lord forges marriages through hardships, but be diligent for the enemy seeks to divide marriages through hardships.
- Remain Faithful.
Ask yourselves often, “Have I been/Am I being faithful?” We are always called to faithfulness, no matter the task before us. Sometimes faithfulness means not moving forward, but simply standing firm and waiting. From our experience, there’s a good bit of waiting to be done in the process.
Know Someone Who Is Adopting?
If you know a couple in the adoption process, here are a few ways you can support them:
- Pray without Ceasing.
Pray, pray, pray. Pray when you’re asked, and pray even when you aren’t. They need your prayers more than they can express, and probably more than they realize. In fact, offer to organize a prayer team for them if they don’t already have one.
- Encourage Often.
You may feel inclined to always ask how things are going with the adoption – before asking that question, offer some encouragement. If a piece of their story has encouraged you, tell them. Send notes, scriptures or prayers to them over messages or, better yet, snail mail.
- Pay Attention.
If you’re particularly close in community with a couple in this process, try to be sensitive to any signs of weariness. It’s difficult sometimes to say why one is weary in this process when there’s no movement, or nothing has changed in months, but stagnation is wearisome. Offer to have them over for dinner, or maybe drop a dinner off at their house. Remind them that you love them and you’re thankful for them. Those words really can breathe life into their weary souls.
Still Something to Do or Bear
We arrived home from Ethiopia on December 16, 2017 at the RDU airport with a host of people to greet us, all of them smiling, many of them weeping tears of joy with us. It was a celebration never to be forgotten in our minds. Just 24 days later, however, the Ethiopian Parliament voted to ban intercountry adoption — leaving millions of orphans without a hope of a future family and sentencing many adoption cases to failure or incompletion. As we rejoiced over being home after so many years of waiting, praying and battling, we found that Paul’s words still rang true – we are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Cor. 6:10a).
This is adoption. This is every Christian’s story – joy and sorrow, grief and gladness, war and peace, bitter and sweet, ashes and beauty. Praise God, he remained faithful to his plan for adoption.
In our story, I thank our sovereign God for the bitter, and I thank him for the sweet.