With a pen flurry, I signed our agency application casting myself in the role of child savior.
Somewhere in my well-meant thinking, it began my heroic walk to the barn of good deeds, where I grabbed my saddle.
The time had come for my husband and me to mount our white horses, heading out on an epic ride.
The number of children needing homes was mind-numbing. Orphanage photos tugged at our hearts. There was a call to action, and we responded.
Though our knees were trembling, we said yes. Yes to doing something. Yes to “being the change”. We were doing Kingdom work, so we assumed the King of the Kingdom would bless it and hurl open the gates to let us charge in. Certainly, a good story would unfold.
I thought it would play out as any good fairy tale should, white horse and all.
After all, isn’t love beautiful?
I held a subtle belief that we would ride up at sunset to save “the least of these”.
I thought we’d tick off the steps in the process like warriors.
I thought my love would be enough.
I thought I’d heal hurts with truth.
I thought having parents would be enough.
I thought a place at the kitchen table would replace lost relatives.
I assumed unicorn sheets, comfy quilts and a pile of stuffed animals would cover losses.
I thought my suburban, middle class home would be a gift, making up, over and above, for the abrupt transplant from their home country.
I was strong, capable and big-hearted and could make things happen.
My assumptions were well intentioned yet made from inexperience. I was misjudging my role and overestimating my value.
Once upon a time, I was a productive, in control gal with a big heart, and a head full of faith. I’d volunteered and served on mission trips, loving the feeling of helping “the needy”, from atop my white horse. Along that thinking, our adoption dream was founded in love, but was a romantic, one-sided view of helping.
I thought the good work of adopting a child would fill me up, and it did. But it also emptied me out. I didn’t ride in and save. I was saved. I had to jump from my saddle not long after our application was approved.
Navigating the red tape-laced, obstacle-ridden paperwork process brought us to our knees, reins released, and then parenting grieving kids keeps us in that surrendered position.
Adoption is a messy, beautiful ride rooted in trauma and loss. It’s not the stuff of fairy tales. I thought it was about helping a child in China, but God intended it to redeem a whole family. It keeps chipping away at our notion of control, hurling us out of our comfort zones and heaving open our worldview.
As God graciously allows me into His redemption work, He also attends to the neediness in me. Adoption ushered us near, and into, grief and suffering, which is the sweetest refining fire, burning away misconceptions, barriers, and haughty opinions of ourselves. Now, as we parent older kids with much to process, we know to release ourselves from the savior role.
The gift, and cost, of adoption is ongoing surrender. Instead of riding high, reaching down to help “the least of these”, we’ve been brought low. Our arms are among those reaching up for help. We find ourselves among the needy, no more important and no more capable. My perspective of myself, others, and God has been righted.
The King of the Kingdom did indeed bless our adoptions, but in a broader way than I could have conjured up. I rode in on a white horse, but today both my feet are on the ground, gratefully walking alongside the most courageous kids in all the land.
“What we didn’t fully grasp was that adoption would be a portal to understanding suffering. Choosing to walk straight into the white-hot pain of our grieving kids was an important entry point to the discovery that some of the best gifts are laced with deep sadness.” - Shannan Martin, The Ministry of Ordinary Places
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