I used to think it was as simple as wanting to adopt, that the physical act of engaging the adoption process was all that was needed to get a child. After all, aren’t there orphans all around the world waiting to be placed in a loving home such as mine? That’s what the social workers, pamphlets, and websites tell me. It’s simple math, right? A homeless child + a couple with a home + some money = an adoptive family.
It wasn’t until my husband and I engaged the foster process ourselves and came up empty handed that we learned our wanting does not automatically equal our getting. You’d think that I, a barren woman, would already know such things; but, sometimes, even barren women forget that children- all children, adopted children included – are God’s gifts to give.
I have since learned of many other would-be adoptive parents who have yet to hear a “yes” from the Lord. You already know that Kristi and Rebecca waited years for their adopted children. Many of you are still waiting. Some of you have even abandoned the adoption process, still childless.
The truth is that God is faithful and just and wise, and He tells some of us “yes” and some of us “no.”
After living through the devastating “no” of our first attempt at local adoption (as well as two, additional, private adoptions which fell through), I am now gun-shy of adopting. I am afraid. I am afraid of opening my heart again to the hope of a child only to be crushed in the end. I am afraid of contractually and financially engaging an adoption agency during a political season when the government seems to be against me and what I believe about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in my own home. I am afraid of continually pushing my will to the front of the line when maybe my will is not what’s best for me or for an adoptive child.
Gilbert Meilaender offers this convicting instruction:
“[Adoption’s] principal aim must not be to provide children for those who want them but are unable to conceive them. If we think in that way – to the degree that we already think in that way – some of the dangers of assisted reproduction will lie near at hand: Potential adoptive parents will want not just a child to care for but the best child, a certain kind of child. The aim of adoption, by contrast, should be to serve and care for some of the neediest among us. It may, of course, also prove fulfilling for couples who have been unable to have biological children, and there is no reason to object if their interests and the interests of potential adoptive children should coincide. But adoption must remain an emergency measure, aimed chiefly at caring for children whose biological parents have not, cannot, or will not care for them.” (Meilaender, Bioethics: A Primer for Christians, 2nd ed, 17-8)
Ultimately, after living with and reflecting on God’s “no” for several years, I am afraid of adopting for all the wrong reasons. Here is the ugly truth about me:
I want to adopt, not because I have a burning desire to care for the least in the world, but because I care so much about myself. I feel guilty for having plenty, and adoption is a sacrificial, shiny, good work that might temporally assuage my guilt. Deep down inside, I still want to work for my righteousness instead of trust that Christ has won it completely for me on the cross. If I just adopted a child, I might feel better…
I want to adopt, not because I want to serve my little neighbor in need, but because I want so badly to please everyone else in my life. I see how my barrenness hurts my family, my friends, and my church, and I want to make them all happy. They often ask me about children with hope in their voices and on their faces. I have not been able to give them a child through conception. If I just adopted a child, they might feel better…
I want to adopt, not because I want to give a child a home, but because I want a child in my home. I get so lonely sometimes. I want to snuggle and soothe and sing to a child at night. I want to cook macaroni-and-cheese, hang finger-painted masterpieces on my walls, and plan birthday parties during the day. I want to put a carseat in my Honda and take a child to the park, the state fair, music lessons, dance recitals, little league games, and confirmation classes. If I just adopted a child, I might hear someone call me, “Mama…”
I want to adopt, because I am a guilty sinner, a people pleaser, and a selfish barren woman. I am so gross.
Yet, even in my grossness, my husband and I still think of adopting. It is the question we ask ourselves every month, and every month, thus far, we come up with the same answer: not today. The green light we currently see before us seems to lead straight towards serving our neighbors in our church and in our community. Our hand continually hovers over our turn signal, but the left-turn arrow still shines a stubborn red.
In all of the questioning and the hovering and the waiting, it helps me to remember this comforting truth: whether my husband and I adopt a child or not, the Lamb of God covers my grossness with His precious, redeeming blood. Christ is my salvation. Only He can truly assuage my guilt. And only He can give me the gift of child.
Thy will, Lord, not mine.