The story of Isaac and Abraham has always made me uncomfortable. I mean, who wouldn’t feel uneasy about the almighty, loving God commanding a parent to sacrifice his child? It’s weird. Gives me the feelings I had watching the first Hunger Games: dread, uneasiness, and a sense of pending doom.
A few weeks ago, I was doing afternoon homeschooling with my girls. We try to start off each session reading a devotional: one story from The Jesus Storybook Bible.
Today was the day Isaac and Abraham made their appearance. And I skipped the story without hesitation, moving on to when Jacob married Leah and Rachel. I mean, what was I going to tell my girls about a father putting his son on an alter, preparing to sacrifice him, because God ordered it? What follow-up questions could I possibly ask my girls to soften the story’s blow, put a positive spin on the whole thing?
As we completed our devotional, the easier, subsequent story of Jacob marrying Leah and Rachel, something dawned on me about the story I purposefully skipped.
Sometimes God asks us to do really, really hard things, because He is preparing us for something great. Will we obey and trust, or will we give in to the whims of our emotions and grasp sand?
Here’s the deal. Choosing to adopt is hard. Almost no one comes to the decision without some soul-searching, agony and dread, excitement and anxiety, fears and insecurities, loss and grief. Almost no one goes through the process without facing a roller coaster of choices and emotions (and second-guessing both one’s choices and emotions). Almost no one adopts and then skips down a path of rainbows and butterflies.
Adoption stems from loss. Someone loses something. Arguably, all triad members lose something in adoption, though some of those losses are obviously much greater than others. To succumb to adoption takes tremendous sacrifice in many ways, whether one is a biological parent or adoptive parent. And then, of course, there is the one adoption centers around: the child.
In the midst of making choices about adoption, adoptive parents have a tremendous amount of power, though simultaneously, they have no control. Their dream of becoming parents is contingent upon a biological parent (or parents) losing their child. Even when this loss is voluntary, it is nevertheless difficult.
Because adoptive parents have so much power---which agency they use, how much money they have (Can they pay expenses? Afford to travel? Pay to use a more visible and active agency or attorney?), openness or not to certain situations (openness after the adoption, openness to the sex, race, age, and needs of the child, etc.), and more---they elect to be part of a situation that requires many choices to be made, choices that can change the trajectory of the lives the adoption situation involves.
The adoptive parents are likely very eager to adopt, perhaps enduring years of infertility and miscarriages, their reasoning can be compromised. Their hearts on the line with each possible adoption situation. They may not see the bigger picture: what their choices mean for the child they will adopt.
Our hearts can be incredibly deceitful. Despite all the cheesy “follow your heart” canvas prints I see in almost every department store, choosing to follow one’s heart is one of the worst choices an adoptive parent can make.
Adoption shouldn’t be about self-affirmation. It’s not about rescuing a human being or receiving a gift. It’s not about ministering to a woman in a crisis pregnancy and then “helping” her by becoming her child’s parent. It’s not about being “called.” It's not about trying to create a magical healing from all past pain for oneself.
Adoption is, ultimately, complex and bittersweet.
And because adoptive parents hold much of the power, I believe we should take our role very, very seriously. We need to submit to God’s every leading as we take baby steps (pun intended) toward meeting our forever children. And this means throwing aside preconceived notions and selfish desires. It means choosing to be ethical NO MATTER WHAT. No matter if we have to wait more months or years to become parents. No matter if this means we never adopt. No matter how subversive we seem to the majority of the adoption community or the public. No matter how many times we have to say no to those in power who urge us to push when we know we shouldn't push.
We sacrifice what means the most to us, our desire to become parents in a particular, pre-determined, planned way, in lieu of the greater good.
It’s a big pill to swallow. And it’s not until we are in the midst of making decisions, the ones where we are caught between our heart’s desire and what God is telling us to do, that we realize how big adoption is, how life-changing it can be. In this moment, when we choose God over self, our heart changes.
And God smiles.
Give God something to bless, friend.
Lay it down on the alter and see what happens.