On Stepping into Fear

I feel like I see posts about Why Every Christian Should Adopt, etc semi-regularly, and the gist seems to be: There’s a need, just do it! You can love a kid! You can fundraise the crazy amounts of money!  It’ll be totally fine, don’t worry!

And I mean, I get it, and I agree with the heart behind it – I definitely think more people should be open to adopting, and you do have more capacity to love than you realize, and more capacity to adapt. But at the same time … those are awfully big statements with awfully big assumptions.

I am, by nature, a planner. Before we got pregnant with Matson, we set financial goals and spent a year paying off student loans and saving up an emergency fund. I like anticipation, I like having appropriate expectations, I don’t like surprises. I want to know what I’m getting myself into, and I want to make sure that anything that I am going to do, that I can do well. So the idea of just feeling a big YES to adoption, diving in and trusting God to make up the difference – I know some people thrive with that, but I don’t.

Yes, we’re still taking the crazy step to adopt. Since I’m a planner, that has meant over a decade of general openness, a few years of slowly gaining more knowledge and creating a mental timeline of when it will fit into our family, several years of saving money into our adoption fund. Now that we are actually in process, it’s setting up a special tab on my budget spreadsheet for adoption expenses, a lot of talking with other parents who have adopted or are adopting, reading books on parenting kids with trauma. I crave knowing what to expect, and am trying to plan to do this well.


BUT, there is still a huge element of fear for me. I can read all I want about best practices for parenting kids who are coming from an orphanage setting, but I have absolutely no idea what trauma will look like for our child. Will he have crazy outbursts of uncontrolled anger? Will he hoard food under his bed? Will he curl into himself and refuse to or be unable to attach to us? Will we be able to still play with neighbors and go to small group and church and do big crowd things, or will we need to keep things small and low key for the foreseeable future? Will he be totally fine and exhibit no other-ness at all? Or will he have every symptom of trauma in the book that years of the best parenting and the best therapies will barely touch? (Ack! But it happens!) I mean, if I had a vote, clearly we know which option I’d choose, but I don’t really get one. Generally speaking, there’s at least one need not seen in your kid’s file – will it be big like autism, or small like needing glasses?

I really like where our family is at right now. Scott and I have a strong marriage, our kids are so sweet and are generally buddies (except when they’re very not), we’re past nursing and potty training. Maisie can even hike 2.5 miles on her own little legs without being carried! This is a good season. I worry that we’re going to mess this up, that we’re intentionally launching into a hard season and WHY on earth would we choose that, that maybe our our kid who we don’t know yet will have needs that demand so much that we aren’t able to care for bio kids as we want, that we could ruin our marriage. I worry that having 3 will create a strained, triangulated dynamic between the kids. I worry that my kids will grow up thinking, “Compassion is for the birds, look where it got our family!”

Clearly as a planner, I’m also a pre-worrier. And that means that a big part of this season is stepping into fear. We’ve had a weird year over here, but the biggest lesson that I think both Scott and I have gained from it is that God is present in the middle of hardship – He doesn’t just swoop in at the end to clean it up and make the story end nicely, He is present from the beginning to the end. The point of hard things is not getting a clean ending, it’s seeing God’s faithfulness in the middle. God is constant, He is a good father. And being able to stand in the midst of a hard thing and see and KNOW God’s character is good and growing for me and glorifying to Him.

Jeremiah 29:11 (“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'”) has always made me vaguely uncomfortable, I’ll be honest. It’s so often quoted as a ‘hey, everything will be alright!’ verse, but so much about the world is not alright and it just doesn’t sit well with me. But this year I happened to read the rest of Jeremiah 29 and had a total lightbulb moment. This is word being sent to Israel after the exile – after the Israelites had been led away from their Promised Land as slaves to Babylon, had lost every good thing. And it comes at the beginning of that time – God tells them to settle into their new home for the next 70 years (SEVENTY!), that he has this beautiful plan for them, and that they will seek Him in their captivity and He’s going to respond by bringing them back to their promised land. Awesome!

But a few years ago, my women’s Bible study did Ezra and Nehemiah, which address Israel returning to Jerusalem after those 70 years are over: God totally paves the way, gives Israel favor with their foreign kings, they get money and protection and permission to go back … but they return to utter ruin. The city is unlivable, all rubble. They have to rebuild, and live in mess, and there’s a lot of political drama and unrest, and such unbelievably hard work to rebuild first the temple and then the walls of the city, and the people fall away from God and they have to confess their sin. Etc etc. Maybe I’m losing you here, but I honestly found a lot of comfort in this realization. God knew exactly what His plan was for His people when He sent them into exile. He knew it would be hard, and his “HOPE and FUTURE” that he promised was … Himself! Not the American dream, not a happily ever after. But HIMSELF, He, God, who was present throughout, who is our constant Creator and Sustainer and Savior was the promise, desiring only that His people would just be faithful already. (And then fast forward a few hundred years, and He sent Jesus to be a permanent solution for our very clear inability to actually be faithful and follow all the rules all the time!)

Does this make sense? Bottom line: I know that there is potentially a lot of hard ahead of us, but I know that God’s heart is for widows and orphans and thus that this isn’t totally out of left field, and His heart is for us know Him and to trust in Jesus. So we just get to prepare the best we can, step forward into fear, and have faith that God will be present, and that there will be hope and future in Him even in whatever mess He has planned for us.

1280 words, whoops. The end!

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