January last year, my wife sat across the couch from me as we do most every night. She has a way of asking a question that doesn’t leave you alone, even after you’ve answered it. The lights in the living room were dim and an episode of The Office was playing in the background.
I was probably staring at my phone when she said, “So…” You know this isn’t going to be a question about ice cream or pizza or an invitation to go to bed early. This was weighted. She sat patiently as I let that syllable settle into my psyche. And then I repeated her, “So…,” and I looked at her knowing full well what she was about to ask.
We’d been home from our first adoption for fourteen months. And for the last thirteen months she’d been talking about the orphanage and the babies and when and in what capacity we were going back. For her, this wasn’t a question of should we. It was only a matter of when.
So on the couch that night, I knew what was going to follow the “so…” To be really transparent, I was not looking forward to it because I knew what I had to say was not going to thrill her.
We aren’t much for New Years resolutions per se. Instead, over the course of a few dinnertime conversations we ask each family member what goals they want to accomplish in the coming year. Around the dinner table that December before, we all said we’d like to adopt again in 2016. I can’t speak for everybody at the table, but my interest in adopting again was accompanied by a giant asterisk.
There’s no human work closer to my heart than adoption. It was very real and tangible. It was no longer a dream. We had done it. We walked through the grueling, heart-testing process. We had helped others do it. People had begun asking us to write and speak about it. We even wrote a children’s book about it. It seemed like we were moving in the “expert” column. My big, gigantic asterisk was full of conditional statements mostly based in fear.
So when she said, “So…” I knew we were about to venture into some scary stuff. I looked up. “So…,” I said. She looked into my eyes with a focus so sharp it penetrates the hardest shell. “We said we were going to start the adoption process again in 2016. It’s 2016. When are we going back?”
I wanted to do more. But actually going back to China seemed like too much to ask our family to go through again. And not just our family, but our community, too. We leaned heavily on them for fourteen months for financial support. And in the months post-placement they carried us through mealtimes and doctor visits and took our bigger kids out for play dates.
What happened for us in those months was miraculous to me. It might not seem that way to others, but it was for us. And since we got home, five other families in or connected to our community had begun the adoption process. This was exciting to us and we took every opportunity to cheer them on, but I was afraid of trying to start another adoption. Do miracles happen twice?
I was fearful. Doubtful. Could our community support one more adoption? I was certain our people were tapped out of all this adoption talk. Over the course of a couple years, this community has given over $200,000 to the personal adoption funds of six families including ours. That’s no small amount. How could we ask them to reach into their pockets and keep giving? I was embarrassed. I couldn’t keep asking them for money.
Fear. Doubt. Embarrassment. All smoke screens. There’s no substance. They’re almost tangible because they’re very intimate emotions. We don’t like to admit we feel these things so we hide them behind other things. We try to come up with practical replacement excuses (“We can’t afford it.” Or, “We don’t have the space.” Or, “Our life will become more chaotic,” etc.) rather than call them what they are and leave ourselves vulnerable. Just say it. Admit you’re scared. Admit you have doubts. Admit it’s embarrassing to ask for help. Admit it to yourself, to your spouse, and admit it to God. He already knows, but for your own good, say it.
I didn’t do this. When she asked me the question all I could sheepishly answer was, “I don’t know.” I hate that answer. As a man, a husband, and head of our house I feel responsible for knowing things. All the things. Most of the time when I don’t know, I figure it out. But I couldn’t just search a YouTube video to figure out how to know. I’m an internal processor. My wife is not.
I spent the next few weeks trying to figure out how to know. For a while, conversations between my wife and me were short and impatient. She wanted direction and I had NOTHING. She thought I wasn’t serious about it. But I just needed her to give me the space to process and and the grace to stay patient.
This was not an easy lesson for us to learn. She was eager to say yes to a child at a moment’s notice. I wasn’t there yet. Every few weeks she’d text me a picture of a baby she was praying for. Often, pictures of those babies would end up on our refrigerator. She would say things like, “Look at her. Is she our baby?” None of them were.
But instead of letting impatience grow into resentment, my wife decided to do two beautiful things. First, she began to advocate for these babies God would bring to her heart. Her philosophy was, “If they aren’t coming home to us, then I will help them find their home.” And for all but one of those, that’s exactly what she did. Every baby but one has a home now.
The second thing she did was to pray a very simple prayer for me: “God, move through my husband. Speak to him when it’s time to adopt.” She prayed that prayer every single day for months and genuinely trusted God to speak to me and lead us along.
Toward the end of the summer, God was indeed moving in my heart. I didn’t have much direction, but I had begun to sense my heart unfolding. I wrote a bit about this in October; about how God’s path was hidden. This felt very real to me. For months my wife had been asking me for a path. I had nothing.
Until that day.
I called her immediately, tears streaming down my face. “I don’t know how we’re going to adopt. But I know we are. The path is hidden. No plan we can come up with on our own will get us there. The path is hidden.” I submitted the article in October. I was away at a leadership retreat outside Richmond. That night my wife texted me to tell me a baby had been born across the country who would be placed for adoption and someone contacted her to ask if we’d be interested in adopting. This was our baby. I was confident. My wife was neutral. This is what she had prayed; that my heart would turn first and that she would be ready. None of my practical concerns were remedied before this point. But I knew: the path was hidden under the sea and God would lead us safely across.
If you’ve adopted before, you remember the resistance you faced along the way. It’s disheartening. It’s enough to make you want to quit. Certainly enough to make you think you’re crazy when considering putting your family through it again. You were naive last time. Now your eyes are wide open. If you’ve not adopted yet, you will feel it soon.
Either way, we all need to remember two things:
1) Our enemy resists adoption. It’s one of the best pictures we have on earth for what God has done for us spiritually.
2) You’re on the same team as your spouse. You can’t guilt your spouse into it. You won’t gain much ground by vilifying your spouse. Trust and be patient.
If God has called you to something, trust that He will call your spouse, too.