I have heard quite a few variations over the years of the sentence I used for the title. Other variations include, "We prayed really hard for our child, and that's why he doesn't have any problems." Or there is, "We were called to adopt, so of course God has blessed our journey." Each of these beliefs has some real theological problems to it.
Let's start with the last two, because as well as being wrong, they can also be extremely hurtful. If you flip them around, you can understand why. If someone prays really hard for their soon-to-be adopted child, and that child has no presenting behavior or emotional issues, then it can also be true that if you do have a child with behavior or emotional difficulties, it must be your fault because you didn't pray hard enough. The flip side of the third belief is also tough to swallow. That would be, if God is not blessing your journey (I'll get into the whole idea of what blessing really looks like in a minute, so set that aside for the moment), then He didn't really call you to adopt, you must have heard wrong.
Think for a moment how either of those statements might feel to a parent who is struggling with a struggling child. Instead of being supported by a fellow believer, they have instead just had a punch to the gut. There is nothing like being told your difficulties are all your fault, for either not paying attention or for not being diligent enough in your prayers. I can tell you for a fact, a parent struggling with a struggling child is already feeling guilt-ridden enough, and chances are they are already having a spiritual crisis as a result. There is nothing good or helpful about giving them a nice shove along that path.
If you have not struggled with a struggling child, I am genuinely happy for you. It might just be what God ordained for you. I'm not going to try to second guess that for a moment; that's between you and God. The trouble comes when that one moment of having things work out how one hoped is made into a blanket, "This is how God works," statement.
But what I want to focus on is why the thinking in any one of these statements is just plain theologically wrong, and I want to do that by sharing a little of my spiritual journey. If you have been reading here for any length of time, you know that some of my children suffer from the hurts they endured before they joined our family. Some of these hurts are very, very deep, and the pain is real. A child in emotional pain cannot always understand or control what he or she is feeling, and the result is behavior that can be both baffling and extremely difficult. Parenting a child who has been hurt can be extremely difficult as well.
I've done this kind of parenting for nearly 12 years now... very nearly half my parenting career. There were times when I was terrified of what the next hour, much less the next day would hold. There were more than a few moments where I was convinced that I could not do this for one more second. The number of tears I have cried over my own guilt and mistakes, over my children's hurts, over my frustration, over fear for my family, or sadness that my life was not looking as I imagined it would could probably fill a large swimming pool. There have been moments that have been the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life.
(There have also been moments of great joy. I don't want to give an inaccurate depiction of our life, but the point of this post is to focus on the hard.)
With each of our children, there have been moments where I have been utterly convinced by circumstances and events that God had made us their parents. That we were the ones chosen to be the parents who had the privilege to raise and love these children when their first parents could not. I was never in doubt about that for any one of them. That is a very good thing, because in the dark moments, I would cling to that knowledge. I didn't doubt they should be here, but I did doubt the goodness of a God who would ask this of me.
I just wanted to love a child who needed a family. That idea seemed so very simple and easy. How hard is it to love a child, after all? It's good to want to love a child, to give a child without a family, a permanent family. How could something that started out as such a genuine desire to do something good become something so gut wrenchingly hard? It was a very short hop from this, to the genuine question of, Did God love me?
There were some hard years in the last twelve. It's hard to keep moving forward when things don't seem to be getting better. It's hard to keep moving forward when you feel as though you have been deserted by God, or worse yet, to feel punished by Him. Did I not do the right thing? Did I not try hard enough? Why was God making me go through this? Was it ever going to end?
I am in a better place now... a much better place. As I struggled and searched and questioned and cried, God was there. I didn't always feel His presence, but looking back, I can say He was there, but I was too focused on the immediate feelings of fear to even be aware of His presence. I can also say, that much of what was a struggle for me was because I was coming at things from the wrong angle.
I wanted to do great things for God. I wanted to live a life that would glorify Him. I wanted to make a difference in the life of a child. I certainly had my own agenda. While none of these things was bad, it was the idea that I was going to do these things... I would show people what it meant to be Godly... I would heal and love and nurture a child... I... I... I.
You know what? God doesn't need me. There is nothing I can do for God that He can't already do for Himself, and significantly better, I might add. But do you know what is even better? He might not need me, but He wants me because He loves me. And the only thing He desires in return is for me to love Him back, without any agenda.
So how does all this fit in with adoption? God used all the hard in the past years to show me that I couldn't do it. When I tried to do it all on my own, it was an abysmal failure. God used all the hard to show me exactly how much I needed Him. God allowed me to experience the hard precisely because He loved me.
Are things all easy now? Good golly, no. Some days are still hard. Some days I still wonder how I'm going to get through it. Some days I do doubt that God knows what He's doing. I'm human. It's what we do. But I am also much, much better at realizing that I'm not in charge. The more I try to push my own agenda, the more uptight and fearful I become. When I remember that God is actually in charge, I can ratchet back a bit. Because it is truly miraculous how He has worked healing and brought about change.
If I leave you with one idea, it's that God loves you. God loves you even if He asks you to walk through what seems to be too hard. It could very well be that looking back, you will see that He asked you to walk through that hard precisely because He loves you. Jesus walked through the ultimate hard for us. God knows what it's like.