This post has been two years in coming……Two years ago I had my life together. I had acquired a great wife, had four children blowing my mind every day, and was advancing in my profession (“ministry” is a better word, but “profession” is probably more understood). Here I sit two years later, a little more ragged, often out of breath, in need of some new rhythms, sometimes exhausted, and more convinced than ever God has ordered every step we’ve taken.
I don’t want to indicate my life was better or worse before June 18th, 2015. It wasn’t either….just different. Honestly, everything was easier before we adopted. Literally everything. The emotional toll has been massive on all of us. We are so far out of any kind of rhythm it has affected every other part of my life and work. I honestly (and naively) believed, when we returned home from Poland, our lives would go back to normal just with four extra passengers. Amy and I tried very hard to fit our new life into our old. It caused great chaos, stress, and tension. Our kids felt it. Our church felt it. We felt it. This perfectly imperfect thing called adoption was shaking us to the core.
I suspect most adoptive families go through something like this – just at various levels of severity. I’ve been known to say it is these moments or seasons of difficulty God is using to forge in us the material and mettle required for the life He’s planned for us. While I believe this to be absolutely true, often we miss the larger picture of what God is doing through the circumstances of our lives because of the challenge of walking through it. The darkest part of the night is when you’re in the middle of it!
It took us a while, but by early this spring we began to realize what was really going on and began to work through the internal and external challenges. I don’t want to suggest I have figured it out or arrived, but in many ways this process saved my life. The list is certainly not exhaustive but as I’ve reflected over the past year, these are nine ways turning my life upside down through adoption actually saved my life.
- Adoption Forced Me to Stop Ignoring the Marginalize
Most of us know the statistics….143 some odd million orphans in the world. That’s a staggering number. But did you know the foster care system in your county is likely overrun with kids (orphans) who need YOU? Maybe you could adopt one of those 143M orphans or one of the 100K kids in the US in need of a home. Maybe you could provide respite care for foster families. Surely there’s something you could do, besides read blogs, to participate in the the mission to take care of orphans. Until your hands are dirty….you’re still ignoring the marginalized. But it’s more than that. Adoption has opened my eyes to the broken all around me. It’s made me more sensitive, more compassionate, more aware of what others are walking through. Humans have always been the point of life. Especially a godly life. Adopting my own broken kids, bringing them into my home, forces me to pay more attention to others who may be just as broken, just not as obviously so.
- Adoption Grew My Faith
If you want to learn how to really depend on God, foster or adopt. Where do you get $50K to adopt? How do you take 7 weeks off of work to go to Poland? How do you help your biological kids navigate all the emotions and issues which will arise in them through adoption? What about the baggage your adopted kids have, some of which they can’t articulate?
He knows where to get resources. He knows how to heal the heart of the orphan. He knows how to strengthen the heart of the child. He knows what you need to do and even how you need to do it. If you’ll allow Him to guide you, if you trust Him, if you let Him teach you, your faith will grow in ways you never imagined.
- Adoption Strengthened My Marriage
Amy and I have always had a good marriage. But this journey has forced us to iron out whatever wrinkles we had allowed to creep in. In adoption, you CANNOT afford mis-communication. You CANNOT fill your emotional tanks (which drain much more quickly) through empty wells. You CANNOT be on different pages when you parent – especially orphans because they will turn you against each other!! You MUST find consistency in parenting methods. What you give your children must be the same as your spouse – especially in areas of discipline. All of this means your marriage cannot afford to be a distant one. You can’t be in a dead-end marriage and be successful. If you allow it and approach your marriage sincerely, you will be closer as a couple than you’ve been since you dated!
- Adoption Provided Us a More Broad World-View
I say “us” because this includes all my children. Adoption exposed my biological children to the brokenness often masked in America. They have realized the world is a much larger place than Central Indiana and Central Florida. There are really good people who don’t speak English. Need is everywhere. We are incredibly fortunate and blessed to live in the USA. Most countries don’t have Chic-Fil-A, which is tragic. My adopted kids never traveled more than about 20 miles radius from the place of their birth. Now they’ve traveled 5,000 miles around the world. They are discovering what it means to trust, to love, to just BE. It’s an amazing process.
When our worldview expands, it’s always a good thing.
- Adoption Exposed My Selfishness
I’m an incredibly selfish person. Most of us are. Some of this dies when you become a parent in general. But to adopt (unless your reasoning is selfishly motivated) requires a complete abdication of one’s self and one’s desires. To love someone deeply and unconditionally NOT born of your flesh is one of the greatest challenges a person can know. Honestly, this idea is what keeps some people from adopting at all. We ask ourselves, “Can I love this child as much as I do my biological child?” The answer is an unequivocal NO. At least not without the help of God. I believe even people who do not follow Christ, unbeknownst to them, when they adopt, receive a deposit of grace and love from God. Why? Because He loves the orphan more than you do. He has hopes and dreams and plans for them which surpass your own. Dissolving selfishness is a supernatural process. God is always trying to lead His people to this end, but adoption will expose it and force the issue.
- Adoption Forced Me to Slow Down
I should say LANGUAGE forced me to slow down!! But the result of that slow down required me to slow down in general. Orphans typically process the world at a much slower rate. Too much stimulation too fast can throw them off. We experienced this very thing in January, and it took two months to re-calibrate. Slowing down is not only something adoption will force you to do, but if you embrace it, you’ll discover you should have done it a long time ago.
- Adoption Helped Me to Ask “WHY?”
Not in exasperation. I ask “why?” in self-examination. This idea is a little too psychological for some, but asking why is HUGE for deep personal transformation. Why do I feel this way? Why am I anxious about ________? Why am I afraid? Why am I angry at _________? Why does it annoy me so much when _________? And many other “why” questions force us to look deep inside for the REASON rather than just trying to address the SYMPTOM we are feeling or observing. Once I realized I needed to do this, I began to help my children ask this question of themselves. Sometimes my daughter is really angry and she doesn’t know WHY. So we ask that question in an attempt to get to the heart of the issue. It’s amazing what you will discover about what’s really going on inside of you or your kids when you ask “why”.
- Adoption Exposed My Unsustainable Rhythms
My rhythms had been unhealthy for a while I just didn’t know it yet. Through the process of the last year, I began to understand this. Asking the “why” question has helped me identify the dysfunction in my rhythms and begin the process of change. I’m not gonna lie….when you’ve established a set of rhythms for a long time, changing them isn’t easy. Your subconscious fights you every step of the way. But I concluded, ultimately, if I didn’t transform and establish some new rhythms in my life, ministry, and in our family, I would not survive. God has been gracious to us and allowed us this discovery before it became life and death. Now Amy and I are in the process of working these things out and finding new rhythms all the way around. Adoption exposed them. Seeking new rhythms is saving our lives.
- Adoption Demanded I Grow Up
We can’t be emotional children ourselves and effectively parent emotionally broken children. I often mention to Amy how the emotional brokenness in our adopted kids has exposed long forgotten emotional baggage from our own pasts. To help them, we had to grow up ourselves. This is really a rather new understanding, just in the last couple of months. It’s probably why I’ve not written since early April. We’ve been in the process of working through this ourselves. Still are. We found a book which has been exceedingly helpful. It’s called “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero. You can order it HERE!!! EVERY SINGLE PERSON but especially EVERY CHRISTIAN needs to read this book. It’s incredibly life changing if you choose to do the hard work of growing up. We are. We’ll be better for it and so will ALL our children.
So there you go. How Adoption has saved my life. It’s been a painful journey. But it’s also been exhilarating as I’ve learned more about myself in the last year than probably any year previously. While we’ve worked to rescue our kids from brokenness, they have served to rescue us from our own.
If you’ve adopted, are adopting or fostering, how has it saved your life? How have you transformed into a better person because of it?