This month we’re focusing on Reluctant Spouses. Or, when one of you is ready to adopt, and the other isn’t.
I’ve had some time to reflect on writing this. Ok, that may honestly be another way of saying I’ve been putting it off to some extent. I’m not sure, in all fairness, that it’s all been intentional on my end.
You see, there’s this little girl that has come into the two-dimensional part of my life, or rather, our lives. There she is…. on a screen, on a phone, in a file, now in a heart. An amazing child of God to be valued, cared for, held.
I think this is how it usually works, at least for us.
There is something about the kiddo’s situation, or eyes, or however else God seems to be getting our attention these days. Because that’s really what it is… getting our attention to say yes, or at least consider saying yes, and then having the conversations that must take place with our loved ones to decide what steps to take next.
With our first adoption, it was “done” at first sight for both of us. With our second, it was a loving spouse, encouraging me to let go of any fear, or rather, place God’s will above reasonable fear. I sort of knew how the eventual story would play out, I just needed time to get there.
This time is different. This time, there is an unbalance of one heart in our family ready to dive in, and another not ready.
And it’s tough.
I don’t believe in coincidences, and while I’m not one to see signs in every leaf that blows across the yard, right after I volunteered to do a bit more reflection on adoption, I have found myself to be a character in my own story.
What do we do when one spouse is ready, and one isn’t? Well, I was about to find out – again – what this is like. Within a few weeks of saying yes to an article, I was asked to consider saying yes to a lonely child of God, thousand of miles away.
And I don’t think I’m ready.
I remember like it was yesterday with Alex, our second adopted child. Still my hero, but man, did I put up a fight to not give in to God’s calling. My wife was ready to go – all in. And I didn’t want to, at first.
Looking back, it wasn’t that I didn’t care to, but I wasn’t ready to. I had not had my heart’s soil plowed, and sowed with the awe and wonder of saying yes, even when most earthy reasons said no.
But the absolute hardest part was not the making excuses, or fighting back irrational fears of adopting an infectious disease kiddo, but knowing that my wife and I were in different places. She was ready to say yes, and I was a solid no (we now know how that ended up by the way).
These were some dark times in that for someone who avoids conflict like a cat in a bathtub. The seemingly nightly “What are you thinking now about him?” questions couldn’t be avoided. Looking back, this was probably more weekly, but when you are on the defense, everything gets amplified.
To be clear, my wife wasn’t pressuring me at all, just really wanting to know where I was, and wanting to talk through both of our thoughts. I was exactly where some of you may be — feeling guilty or defensive that you are saying no.
I become an overnight expert in construction, but not anything useful or beautiful. Instead I built giant guilt mountains because I was saying no while I saw my spouse saying yes. Each attempt to climb one was met with “It must be me, because she can see it’s God’s will, why can’t I? What’s wrong with me?”
So, my solution was to articulate what is known as the man response: “I really don’t want to talk about this right now.” This response was to avoid any type of conflict I thought might ensue. Even when I knew that my wife had no intention of guilting me into any decision that only God has the right to convict, I emotionally ran.
Whether warranted or not, the emotional tension I felt was real. And the division between one saying yes, and one saying no was only created by the lack of really taking time to be completely honest with each other and to learn it was ok to say no.
It was ok to be in two different places.
I just never took the time to look at it that way. And, as God would have it, the minute I was willing to say no with honesty – and express more than just a few words that amounted to no – I was freed to say yes.
I had to stop running, and start talking.
So how do we handle the misalignment of God’s will at a given point of time between two people, both of whom equally want to follow His will?
When only one of “us” says no, or at least, is saying no for the time being?
For starters, take it from someone who was on the “not-ready side”…
saying no to someone undoubtedly beautiful can be harder than saying yes.
If you’ve said yes, you are already in the proverbial commitment and conviction pool. As someone either not sure yet, or not feeling called to say yes, you are walking around the edge, thinking about the water, wondering if you really should jump in, or if God is calling you to support from afar….
How about being a cheerleader for others trying to complete their own adoption journey? How about coaching instead of being in the swim lanes this time?
This should never be an excuse to run from God’s calling if you indeed are called to bring a child into your family. But God’s calling can also take many forms.
One thing is clear — I am convinced in God’s calling for us to be a part of caring for orphans.
Wait. Not just a calling or suggestion, but a commandment. A must do. Not optional.
But this can take many forms – from financial and prayer support, from fostering to respite care. And though it could be that I am not meant to be this girl’s father, I keep coming back to the “Why can’t I just go swimming like my spouse?” thoughts. And even at times, “Why don’t I feel God’s voice in this?” I once again find myself in a place where I can decide to respond in two ways.
On one hand, I could begin to dread the conversations. Because it would just remind me that maybe it’s just me not being obedient. Maybe God is calling me and I am being stubborn. Or selfish. Or worst of all, maybe I don’t love those God has unequivocally told me to.
Or, instead, I can respond as God intends, with a prayerful heart. Convicting me that perhaps I need to get to a different place to say yes. Maybe there is a major life-changing event that needs to delay this process. Or prompt me to be all in and expedite everything. Maybe it will be a harder journey than in the past, and I need more spiritual maturity. Or maybe, if I can suggest, my wife has to get to a place where she can be the cheerleader for this precious child, and not the mom.
I have come to realize something critical to understand about adoption. It’s messy. It’s hard. It’s complicated. And while it is completely worth it to care for those God holds with special esteem, even the discussions about taking the step can be difficult.
With Alex, to be clear, my wife never pressured me, but did challenge me to allow God to eventually change me. At first, I would look for opportunities to not have opportunities to talk. I dreaded the subject coming up, for no other reason than the fact that I really, really didn’t know if I wanted to adopt again or not.
Looking back, it was so hard being in one place, and my spouse in another. Neither one of us was right or wrong on this decision, but just not together yet in the same spot. But something amazing happened when I began to realize that if we never talked about it, it had the potential to drive a huge wedge between our marriage.
Simply talking about being in different spots brought us closer.
While I feared being the bad guy to say no, just the fact that we were engaged in honest, tough conversations about life-changing events brought us closer than we had even been.
There were so many reasons for one of us to say yes, I’m ready. And there were equally a number of reasons to say no.
And this is where we find ourselves again…
Did I mention there is this girl that is in our hearts? Every reason to say yes to her, and every reason to say no.
Some days, she is in my wife’s heart only, but there are days where she is more in mine. There are even days when my wife isn’t sure either. And the only reason I know all of this is that we have decided we have to talk about this life-changing decision – even if it is uncomfortable – because we aren’t in the same place.
We have decided that being honest about why we want to say no, or yes, or maybe later to another child is almost as important as the decision itself. I’m convinced that Satan can use even beautiful things like adoption discussions to bring contention and anxiety, and frustration. But we know that God works all things together for good — even conflict during honest conversations that could seemingly divide marriages.
My wife and I have realized that me saying no right now could mean that God is preparing my heart a little longer, and He is cranking up that tractor again to prepare the soil.
Or it could mean that I’m being obedient as much as she is in simply using our discussions at this time to bring us closer, even if they won’t lead to another adoption.
Maybe in not having us on the same page about personally adopting this child, God is fostering a heart for advocating, having us to pray for this child, and dream for her, and watch God respond in another way.
Only our heavenly Father knows why we are in this place of divide.
But division doesn’t have to mean something is wrong. We’ve learned the person saying yes right now, and the person saying no isn’t the good vs. bad or right vs. wrong thing. It’s life.
And it’s also possible, I believe, for us both to be in God’s will at the same time with different convictions. It’s God shaping one, or both of us for the next step, whatever that needs to be.
I’m convinced that only through prayers together, communication together, and holding hands along this journey together will we be in God’s will. And the outcome will be beautiful.
But in the meantime, we pray for this girl. We pray for us to be her parents, or for us to have the courage to pray for another family to receive her as a blessing instead, perhaps. But we pray.
We talk about her, we think about her, and even cry about her.
But we journey with her together, both with a yes and a not now. And while waiting for God’s clear answer to align both of our hearts and minds, we trust that the outcome will be beautiful.
Perhaps incredibly hard, but beautiful.
= guest post by Scott