Almost five years ago, Angela and I ventured to Jamaica on a missions trip. We thought we knew everything that this trip had in store for us. We knew we were going with some wonderful people. We knew we were going to work on a construction project. We knew we were going to share devotions with some school children. We knew we were going to visit an orphanage. What we didn't know was how God would use this trip to radically change our lives. Radically, in ways we could not imagine. Radically, in ways that would challenge our faith, our marriage relationship, and at times, our resolve to keep pressing on.
As many (or most) of you know, that trip to Jamaica is where we discovered Ian, a non-verbal, non-ambulatory bundle of smiles and charisma with an absolute love for people. We brought Ian home as our son in September 2008, a year and half later. I can honestly say that he has changed my life in a positive way that I never imagined. God has used Ian to open our hearts toward those with physical handicaps and opened our bank account to help others who are adopting.
Ian tends to impact people everywhere we go, whether family, church family, or even strangers when we are out and about. Ian was cared for by loving people in the orphanage and the transition into our family was seamless. He trusted us immediately and as a result he has been free to enjoy our home, our antics, and even receive discipline well.
However, our adoption saga does not stop there. The sun has not always shone and the birds have not always been singing. Adoption can be a messy, challenging and frustrating endeavor. We have seen most of our family accept our decision to adopt, while some did not and strained relationships developed. We have made many new friends because of adoption, yet we have also felt isolated at times because of how this has changed relationships. We are most thankful for our Care Group and their ministry to us through prayer and encouragement.
Still being burdened for orphans and orphan care, we adopted again, this time through the foster care system. We were totally unprepared for what we would deal with. Reading reams of paperwork and diagnoses did not prepare us for how much damage had been done to two boys in a previous home. It did nothing to give insight into young minds that have seen nothing but rejection in relationships. We did not anticipate how much we would learn about the gospel in dealing with children who expect to be rejected, are fearful of trusting and determined to be in control at all times.
While holding an angry child and singing “if you hit, I will love you anyway; if you spit, I will love you anyway; if you kick, I will love you anyway,” we were reminded of God’s undying, unending love for us. Even when we hit, spit, or kick at him, he does not abandon us. We were reminded of how we don’t want to give up control of our lives and are fearful of trusting God to lead us where He wants. The contrast in how Ian’s trust drives his behavior and how Lucas’ lack of trust drives his has caused us to really consider how well we trust God and how our behavior reflects that trust.
Adoption has changed us, and continues to change us. We have moments of sheer frustration, followed by moments of utter joy. As a couple, Angela and I have not undertaken anything this difficult. God has used the challenges to expose our hearts and the many idols we still hold onto. Slowly, ever so slowly, God is prying our fingers from a death grip on control of our lives.
We recently meditated on what Paul said in Acts 20:24: “But I do not count my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
May we continually live that out with our lives.