The email came in the middle of the night.
Only halfway awake, I did one of those early morning phone checks, looking to see what kind of junk mail I received through the night…
Several days prior, we’d told our families over lunch that we planned to start the adoption process for a special needs child. The email was from a close family member raising concerns over what we were planning to do.
All the concerns were heartfelt and frankly very valid. I knew the questions had merit as I had wrestled with them myself and with God over many nights…
Weren’t we already spread too thin?
We were just coming to grips with one of our biological son’s special needs, how could we possibly, and willingly do it again?
The email needed a thoughtful response, so I took some time to think about it. On April 15th, 2015 I wrote the following:
“Ever since I became a Christian when I was 16 yrs old, I have always felt deep in my heart that I would be a part of the special needs community… and that’s a strange thing for a 16 year old to think… and something which I can only really credit God. Up until last year, when our son Micah was diagnosed with ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder], I always thought it would just look like volunteering or giving money to various organizations, or something of that nature, nothing really more consuming than that. But I feel now that my purpose is becoming much clearer as the father of a child with special needs. To what ultimate end that looks like, I don’t know yet, but I feel very confident that this (adoption) is a part of it.”
“We don’t know what Micah’s future holds, but we are okay with the prospect of him and potentially even another child living with us in our retirement years of life. Much of our grieving process since Micah was diagnosed with ASD has had to do with him, but it also had to do with us grieving the potential loss of a life that we envisioned for ourselves, post-children. Our plans and expectations of those years aren’t necessarily the typical plans that people have anymore, and it’s been hard to come to grips with that. To be honest, it’s been a really tough season in that regard for both Megan and me, we both cried many tears. But we do feel that in our grief, God is meeting us and is providing a community of people around us for support.”
Reading back on those words now, if I’m completely truthful with you, I’ve lost a lot of the clarity in my mind that I had at that time. Prior to adoption I thought I understood what it would be like. I had spent a lot of time working in orphanages around the world and had several close friends who have adopted. I had even worked at an adoption agency so I could’ve have easily written an “A+” paper on adoption.
Conceptually and biblically it made all the sense in the world, and I was willing to heed God’s call. But that was only the beginning of the journey God was leading me toward.
In reality, the adoption of our four year old son Elijah, who came home January 2016, has been very difficult in a different way than I was expecting.
I was prepared for the world I already knew about special needs: doctors appointments, therapies, and IEP meetings. The tactical things that I feel like I can control. What I wrote in that 2015 email addressed mostly those concerns.
What I wasn’t as prepared for was Elijah’s emotional needs.
Now a year and a half later, it’s been easy for me to replace that original, stand-strong, feel-good calling for a more bleary-eyed, shoulders-hung reality. But in the reality of what our daily lives are, I am peeling back more layers in understanding Christ’s love for me and how He wants to shape me through parenting Elijah.
A few weeks ago I found myself praying that during this time God would help me to see more clearly how His love works through our adoption of our son.
What I had in mind was something grand, like an epiphany from the spirit while watching a beautiful sunset. But I don’t think He is really leading me down that path of understanding.
When I’m wanting Him to shout from a megaphone, he’s gently focusing in with a microscope on my heart, telling me that while all those grand things about adoption are true, it’s me that He wants to make into His image.
He’s leading me down a long path of patience with my wounded little boy.
When all I want to do is yell back at him or discipline him, He’s helping me have compassion and empathy. Not just the empathy that you share with a friend over coffee, but the kind that keeps you caring for a little boy who is on his second hour of a tantrum and has told you that he hates you, and that he hates himself too many times to count.
It’s a painfully slow process and I am by no means there – and I readily admit that I don’t have these characteristics down pat. (If you saw me in the car today with my kids you would think I wasn’t learning anything at all.) But it is a process I would have never gone through had we not submitted to God’s call to adopt.
When I read through that email I wrote in 2015, I reference potential sacrifices my wife and I were willing to make one day. However, I had no idea of the sacrifices that we were going to be called to do in our daily life, just a few short months after I wrote those words.
And I was clueless about the work that God would start doing in me.
Even if I knew then what I know now, I still wouldn’t change a thing.
C.S. Lewis sums it up poetically in The Four Loves: “We are mirrors whose brightness is wholly derived from the sun that shines upon us.”
– guest post by David