As an adoptive parent, have you ever had the fleeting thought that perhaps you didn’t hear God right? When you believed He called you to adopt, or that He made a mistake in calling you? Maybe you’ve expressed to God, a close friend, or even a therapist (your child’s or your own) about how hard this journey has become. Or, have you ever heard yourself saying, “I didn’t sign up for this!” when faced with a season (or years) of challenges?
If you find yourself in any of these scenarios, I want you to know that you are not alone. Nor are you crazy, despite how you may feel at times.
Being An Adoptive Parent
Loving and parenting children who have experienced hard things in life can be challenging for adoptive parents, whether neglect, abuse, other trauma, etc. Even if those hard things happened while still in the womb (such as drug and/or alcohol exposure, genetic or medical disorders, being unwanted, etc.). These known and unknown traumas impact us in our lives: ourselves as individuals, as a married couple, and as a family.
Twenty years ago, this is where my husband and I found ourselves. We felt alone and in a place so desolate that no one we knew could relate to what we were walking through. Well-meaning friends and family did their best to offer encouragement, support, and helpful advice that didn’t even begin to touch our reality. And it was an incredibly hard day and realization when the professionals working with us looked across the table and said there were no additional services that could be offered to address the needs of our family and delay the trajectory we seemed to be rapidly approaching.
It was on one of the days I may have said, “I didn’t sign up for this”. I wondered why God had not answered my prayer. And the prayers of many others, to change our circumstances and bring healing, wholeness, and restoration. This situation was a far cry from how we began our adoption journey.
As an adoptee and adoption professional, the call to adopt was part of my life for as long as I can remember. Before my husband and I married, we discussed and knew adopting the children God wanted us to have, would be part of our lives. This journey was an accepted fact, one we talked about and looked forward to. A few years into our marriage, God added our first child through adoption to our family. And then another, and then another.
We saw His hand and perfect timing in each one. It was amazing to see how He worked a unique set of circumstances to bring each child into our hearts and home for several years.
During this time, however, another set of circumstances was at work for one of our children, in particular. Events of which we had very little information. There was speculation and supposition, but nothing concrete. As our family settled into the active parenting years of school-age children, the results and impact of these circumstances, which began while our child was being knit together in their mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), began to appear. At first, it seemed liked typical childhood behaviors, but the social worker in me knew there was more to it. Despite our best efforts and those of professionals, our church family, friends, and relatives, we were introduced to what I’ve termed the Hard.
The Hard is when you find yourself challenged beyond your means, facing circumstances beyond your control. The Hard can be difficult, painful and overwhelming, and can last for a brief time, a season, or years. Perhaps all of us will be called to some form of the Hard sometime during our life on earth. It is not reserved just for adoptive parents. However, I think with respect to God’s call to adopt, it can make the Hard seem harder. When asked about their motivation to adopt, most will express some version of “being called by God” to do so. Somehow, we think being called and chosen by God should exempt us from the Hard.
Blessings and Benefits
As I’ve experienced in my own life as an adoptive parent and the lives of many others as an adoption professional, there are many blessings and benefits in the Hard places and circumstances God calls us to:
- The Hard is an invitation to go deeper in our relationship with Jesus. He is there with us in the Hard. He brings us to it, gets us through it, and safely delivers us to the other side. Like He did with the disciples when the storm arose, and He was asleep in the back of the boat (Matthew 8:23-27). Then again when He came to them in the boat, walking on water (Matthew 14:22-34). In both of these instances, Jesus told His disciples to get into the boat, knowing that a storm would arise.
- The Hard can bring us to the point of surrender and submission of our will, thoughts, and plans to His. The Hard shines the light on our insufficiency, and His sufficiency. God is enough. We can trust Him to address and meet a myriad of needs in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.
- The Hard is to be embraced, not avoided. During one of our family’s Hard seasons, a friend who had faced her own Hard in a different area, encouraged me to “make friends with it”. I wanted to do anything but that. However, she wisely pointed out that I was letting fear, worry, dread, and doubt be my focus by not embracing it. You can’t address what you don’t acknowledge.
- The Hard brings perspective, definition, and clarity to our lives. The Hard ultimately brings transformation for all involved. Sometimes, it is through our lives’ most difficult times where we can see God and His love for us the most clearly.
Thankful for the Hard
Looking back, twenty years later, I can say I am truly thankful for the Hard. Adoption is more of a pilgrimage than a journey. As a pilgrimage is an act of devotion and leads to a sacred place. As a result of the Hard, my relationship with Jesus is deeper, more personal, and, more real.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka (Weeping), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.Psalm 84:5-7