The Bible and its story of God’s great love for us is deeply intertwined with my adoption journey. So much so that I can tell our whole adoption story with the Bible verses that were important to me over its course. And while there have been many, many verses and stories that have been important to me over the past ten years, these verses, the ones I’m going to share with you, are the ones that I spent the most time with, the ones that I would repeat to myself, the ones that I would dwell on.
James 1:27 – Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
I’m sure I’m not the only one to get stopped by this verse’s personal implications. It’s difficult to read the Bible and not come away with the idea that God cares very, very much for the widows and orphans in this world and that God’s people are to care for them. The question for me, the parent of five young children, was how I specifically was supposed to provide this care. Not everyone is called to adopt, and there are other ways to help, but I had the strong suspicion that we were called to adopt. Especially when I focused on the story of Jesus walking on water.
It has never surprised me that Jesus walked on water. I mean, He’s God. He can do that. What has always struck me is Peter, who, upon seeing Jesus on the water, asks Jesus to call him out on to the water, too.
Matthew 14:29 – He [Jesus] said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.
Peter asks Jesus to call him to do something crazy, and Jesus does. In response, Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water to Jesus. Not only does Peter have his crazy request granted, Jesus makes it possible. Sure, deciding to adopt another child when we already had five wonderful, healthy children was crazy, but if we believed this was God’s call, then He would make it work. All we had to do was to get out of the boat.
Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Psalm 40: 1-2 – I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
We did start that adoption and were referred an adorable little three-year-old boy. We read and prepared and were convinced that we were ready to handle whatever the future held. We were wrong. We were not ready. We were not ready for a scared and angry and grieving and raging child. We had no idea at that point what trauma does to the brain. We had no idea how to parent such a hurt child. We had no idea how hard parenting could actually be. These two verses would cycle endlessly through my head, just barely holding back the panic that was always right there in the background.
Fear not. I will lift you up out of the miry bog. I often felt as though I was stuck in that bog. Fear not.
Eventually life settled into a new normal. We added more children . . . two more adopted children and a pair of identical twins I gave birth to. After our third adoption and child number ten joined our family, we couldn’t ignore the fact any longer that our normal wasn’t quite normal, nor healthy, and one of our children needed more help than we could give on our own. In the years following, through finding a therapist and trying desperately to help our child heal from the pervasive trauma that affected every part of his, and our, life, the story of the disciples on a boat in a storm became very important to me.
Mark 4: 36-40 – And leaving the crowd, they [the disciples] took him [Jesus] with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Do you not care that we are perishing? This was the cry of my heart. I felt alone, tossed and thrown by the storm we were living through. I would repeatedly cry out this phrase to Jesus, who did seem to be very much asleep and unaware of our distress. One day, in desperation, crying out to God one more time, I pleaded, “God, do you even love me?” I then opened the Bible that was sitting on my lap, hoping for some sort of reassurance, and I saw two underlined lines.
Isaiah 43:4a – Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.
Jesus was not asleep. He was aware of my plight. He cared. With that bit of hope and assurance, we persevered. Life did get better. We did see healing. While we still have a ways to go, and we can still feel a toe or two dipping back into that miry bog every so often, we have some hope.
Enough hope that we have recently brought home two new daughters, bringing our total number of children up to twelve. We are back to figuring out life again, getting to know our new daughters, figuring out what their needs are, and feeling tired. While many days feel manageable, there are some days when I wonder if there is enough of me to go around. We have only been home for two months and we are still getting settled. Some of the needs our new children have are great. Truthfully, greater than we were anticipating. I don’t have the horrible moments of despair that I did earlier, but I do wonder at my own strength. What they need can seem so overwhelming some days. So in this phase in life, I have moved on to a new verse. A verse that lives in my head and that I repeat to myself often.
Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
A new promise to ponder and dwell upon. Another glimmer of hope in what seems like a hard phase of life. A new message of love to me from an ever-loving God.