Author: Rebecca Mayes

The Waiting Game: Domestic Adoption

PrayerThis weekend I participated in an adoptive parent panel discussion hosted by our adoption agency, which is part off the required training for families who are on the waiting list. When I had first walked in at the back of the room, having arrived plenty early, I sat down and looked around at all the couples who were sitting in the same place I had sat three years ago. Out of the blue, I started tearing up. Why? It reminded me of the ACHE. I don’t know how else to put it. Seeing all those waiting couples brought back the same emotion I had had in that same room while we were waiting for J. Little did I know at the time, but the wait would be another two years.

When it was time for me to speak, one of the things I shared with the group is something I don’t think I’ve addressed on this site yet, and that is how one can best get through the waiting of a domestic adoption. Kristi has often shared with us her experiences with waiting for an international placement, but domestic adoptions are very different. In most cases, when you work with an agency you are notified periodically when a birthfamily is looking at your profile and you’re given some limited information about the child. Sometimes you are notified if there is a child who doesn’t quite match what your preferences were on your paperwork, but the agency thinks you might still want to be considered. In our case, we received these notifications every few months, sometimes several back-to-back. How can you not get your hopes up? How can you not feel rejected when you’re not picked? With international adoption there is often just silence. With domestic adoption there can be plenty of false alarms. Both scenarios can be torture.

The perspective you have during this process determines whether you can handle these potential matchings with grace and patience, or whether they give you ulcers and prematurely greying hair. If adopting really is all about YOU and what YOU want, then each time you don’t get picked you will feel like the victim of injustice. (Hey, been there!) But what if the waiting period wasn’t just about how long it is taking for a family to pick you, and instead it is about you being in a unique position where you are made aware of women experiencing crisis pregnancies who need lots of prayer, both for themselves as well as for their babies? What if this time was designed to give you another chance to serve your neighbor and better understand the needs of families in your community?

Quite a number of birthmothers contact agencies before letting anyone else in their family know they are pregnant. Some do this because they have relatives who will pressure them to abort the child. When you find out about this mother and child through the agency, you may be one of only a handful of people who knows that this child even exists! Because of your new “vocation” you are given the most wonderful privilege to be able to approach the Heavenly Father on this child’s behalf and ask that He would shelter, protect, love and care for this baby by providing the best home possible for her. And you can ask for wisdom, healthy, maturity and peace for the birthparents, that He would give them what they need to either responsibly parent or confidently release this child into someone else’s arms.

When your focus is on serving these children and their biological families through prayer and not just on getting a child for yourself, you can sincerely rejoice when you hear that a baby is being placed with a family, even if it’s not your family. Your prayers have been answered! Thank God that He is caring for these children through your agency and the money you are paying the agency is not just helping you find a child, but it is helping women in your community who are in crisis to get support and guidance in making the most difficult decision of their lives.

The waiting period is not wasted time. It is not a time to navel-gaze and wonder what’s wrong with you and your spouse that you haven’t been chosen yet. The waiting period can be about serving through prayer, and ACHING for the difficult lives and tough decisions these birthparents have, not just aching for yourself. Spend your time wisely and prayerfully, and one magical day you may be surprised to find out that the latest child you’ve been privileged to pray for  is about to become your own.

Shepherds Who Point Us to the Lamb

gethsemaneThere is no better time to talk about suffering than Good Friday, and our church body is blessed to have so many learned, compassionate, and insightful shepherds who know that the life of the Christian is one of taking up our crosses and following Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Take some time this weekend to watch, listen, and read the following as we focus on the suffering and death of our Lord:

Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller’s comments on Issues, Etc. about Sanctification and Suffering

Synodical President Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison’s video, “Suffering is Purposeful through Repentance”

and Rev. Dr. Gifford Grobien’s comments specifically to you, the barren:

When couples experience barrenness, with Job we should want to worship God and to say,  “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of  the LORD” (Job 1:21). But in the midst of the devil’s temptations such  faithful action and confession seem out of reach. We are distraught. There really isn’t any reason we can hear that will ease the questioning and the sadness. Once again, suffering has overshadowed the way things ought to be. Suffering overtakes even the faithful person. The cross looms and gives no reason.

Instead, the cross calls the church faithfully to follow. Faithfully. That is, even without seeing. Even without perceiving or  understanding. The cross beckons us to see suffering and to see deliverance through suffering. It does not explain suffering; but it promises deliverance from suffering. More than this, the cross of  Jesus Christ promises deliverance through suffering to fellowship with the one who suffered ultimately. The church is a fellowship of  suffering; a fellowship with the passionate One; a fellowship with God of the universe who nevertheless stooped to suffer not just with you, but for you.

Suffering, by its very nature, takes time. We, on the one hand, desire immediate results. We have our food through the drive-through, our information at the touch of a screen, our friends at the click of a  mouse. Even our sins are forgiven in a moment, at the Word of  absolution. That much is true. Yet suffering connotes experience. It  implies time. Deliverance comes after a time of suffering, and this time is not in vain. During this time we are sanctified. We grow in the love of God through the Spirit of God. We are sustained by this  same Spirit through God’s indomitable gifts, so that no temptation overtakes us that is beyond our ability. God is faithful, and with the  temptation he will also provide the way of escape.

Escape. Deliverance. God provides the way of deliverance from suffering. He conforms us to the cross so that we would die and live in Christ. God delivers from infertility. It takes time. It may take a  lifetime. But there is deliverance in the cross.

One of the ways to endure suffering as we await deliverance is to hear God’s Word and to pray. When we pray the Psalms we do both. God knows what it is to suffer, for He gives us psalms to pray even in  suffering–psalms of lament. Thus we pray the psalms of lament. Psalm  13: “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” Psalm 59: “For the  cursing and lies that [my enemies] utter, consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, that they may know that God rules.”

Pray these psalms, knowing that the enemy spoken of is the devil, the tempter overcome by suffering. He is overcome by Christ’s suffering, indeed, but it is true that Satan is overcome in his work in our lives when we persevere through suffering. When we are afflicted, the root temptation is to curse God and turn away in unbelief. God is all powerful, so our affliction must be his fault! That is the temptation of Satan. That is the theology of glory. So, when we persevere in faith, in spite of affliction, the work of the devil in our particular circumstances is also overcome through the power of the Spirit in the Word.

Wrestling With God, Against God

Sad Teenage GirlI remember hearing a sermon preached years ago that made such an impression on me that I have thought of it many times over the years and wished that I still had a copy of it. I believe it was called, “Wrestling With God, Against God,” with the corresponding lesson being Genesis 32 when Jacob wrestled with God incarnate. The message stayed with me because it was something I had never heard vocalized before, though I had felt it: sometimes in life we find ourselves in situations where God seems to be against us. No matter what we do we just can’t get a break. It’s as if we, like Jacob, were battling with a force who we thought wanted the best for us, but who won’t let us by to get to the destination that we seek. We are angry that we can’t proceed, we’re exhausted by the fight, and we are confused about who this contender really is: our friend or our foe?

My friend Sara, who lost her one-year-old daughter last May, has seemed a pillar of strength through these many years of dealing with serious health issues for two of her children. She has written beautiful posts that encourage and uplift her readers, even through her tragedies. She knows what Scripture has to say about God’s love and compassion. She can repeat it well to her readers. But in her recent post she confesses:

Round moons, and all the tulips in Holland couldn’t change the fact that this life of pain and sorrow was threatening to swallow me.  From where I sat, in the throes of depression, the truths I’d believed, rehearsed, written and proclaimed couldn’t gain traction.

Sara is wrestling with God, against God. Even she, who was and is a model to so many who are experiencing their own trials, has arrived at that point.

Jesus’ own cousin, the one of whom He said, “Among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist,” (Matt. 11:1), sent word through his disciples from his prison cell to find out from Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3). Some commentaries say that John did this only to prove a point to his disciples; he never doubted Jesus’ mission. After all, he’d been at Jesus’ Baptism when the heavens had opened and the Father Himself had spoken. But some pastors I’ve talked to don’t buy this. John was in prison, suffering, and Jesus, his own relative who had proved to have power from on high, was apparently doing nothing. Is it possible that John, great as he was, reached a point where he, too, was wrestling with God, against God?

You can get to that point and still be a Christian. You can shake your fists and yell and feel forsaken and beaten down and still be “with God.” Because He isn’t going anywhere. In our frustration we can beg God to let us by and yet simultaneously we beg Him not to leave us. When your heart doesn’t feel the joy that was meant to accompany all of God’s promises to you in His Word, He doesn’t turn His back on you. When you demand answers for why this is happening to you, He may not give them to you, but He won’t plug His ears either. Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller made an excellent point in his Issues, Etc. radio interview following the shootings in Aurora, CO (paraphrasing): “Jesus doesn’t always give us the answers—but He always gives us Himself.” He gives us Himself sacramentally, when He is literally poured out for us into the chalice from which we drink. He gives us Himself through the absolution spoken by our pastors, “I forgive you all yours sins…” He gives us Himself through our fellow Christians, who reach out to us in love and concern.

Sometimes you just reach the bottom. All your efforts to feel better have failed. The hope is gone. And yet the Hope is not gone. Jesus is at the bottom, too. How you feel about His promises or the plans He may have for your life do not in any way change the validity of those promises, the efficacy of His Words, or His real and ever-present love for you. It’s easy to tell you to take comfort, to have faith, to “hold on.” It’s easy to tell you what to do or what to feel. But when you’re at the bottom, sometimes you can’t do or feel anything. And it’s OK to be honest with God about this.

Lord, I can’t wrestle anymore. I have nothing left. Dear Jesus, please carry me. Please give me the gifts You promise, even if I can’t receive them joyfully yet. Even if I don’t feel comforted. Keep giving me Yourself so that I may not drown in my sorrows in the bottom of this pit, but float to the top on all that You have poured out for me. Stay with me, even when I despair. Amen.

A Bit of Overdue Recognition

Sabre of BoldnessThis evening, at the annual Gottesdienst party that took place as part of symposia week at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind., our very own Katie Schuermann received the Sabre of Boldness award. She is the first woman and first layperson to ever win the award. Here is the reason she was nominated:

Mrs. Schuermann is author of the book He Remembers the Barren, and had spoken to groups of women burdened like her with the affliction of barrenness. In the course of these meetings she soon found herself hearing from women who had turned to in vitro fertilization as a last resort to ease their pain. In spite of the sensitive nature of the matter, she felt constrained to tell the truth in love about the unacceptability of in vitro fertilization. For us who know that life begins at conception, there is really no ethical alternative than to reject in vitro fertilization, in whose process fertilized embryos are always discarded. For her to have the courage to say so in such circumstances, and to speak up for life, for which she has endured much grief and rejection, is commendable.

The award was presented by the Rev. Chaplain Jonathan Shaw and the Rev. Dr. Burnell Eckardt, editors of Gottesdienst: The Journal of the Lutheran Liturgy.

Congratulations Katie!! I’m sure your readers would like to give you a standing ovation to further honor your work. Thank you for all you do!