Christmas Eve morning we received an email: a sibling group of four was in need of adoption. Four kids under the age of five and one with significant special needs. At first Dean and I laughed out a, “no way…we can’t possibly…” but as the day progressed we both started letting our imaginations wander. We found ourselves interested in these kiddos, but we needed more information. We made a list of questions and sent it to the social worker and then waited.
In the beginning of January we got some answers, along with a case study for each child. I spent an evening reading each case study and crying…no…sobbing. I started to recognize just how much love I had to offer. These kids made their way into my heart and I prayed for them daily. I would pray for them by name and wonder if they were to be our children. It seemed impossible…four kids all at once. We don’t even have a car that would fit all of us. We would have to do some major work on our house. But something about them kept us going forward. We kept asking questions and taking the next steps. Dean and I prayed that if these were not our children that God would shut it down.
We asked our social worker to send our home study to the kids’ caseworker. And then we waited. The caseworker was going to look at home studies from interested families all over the U.S. She would then narrow the group down to two or three possible families. So, we waited. We waited to see if we were enough and if this was what God wanted for us.
I couldn’t help but feel special, like the whole reason for my infertility was because God had giant plans for me and Dean, plans that the average person could not fulfill. In my human mind, that would make sense, why else would these years of pain happen to a couple who loved the Lord so much? It must be because the Lord has something extremely special for them, right? Everyone would finally see that my infertility had a purpose. When future us would send out our “coming soon” announcement with four empty pairs of shoes, everyone would see that Dean and I were special instead of a cause for pity and prayer. (Like this one, but with a lot more shoes…)
When we would stand in front of the church to baptize our four children the church would see that I wasn’t infertile because God didn’t think I couldn’t handle children, but because God knew I was the only one for this calling. I was worthy of motherhood, and motherhood to the max! I wanted everyone to see that I was worthy, that I was capable, and that I was a great mother, especially since I went from 0-4 in a matter of days. I would love the shit out of those kids and everyone would say, “That’s Liz, she is incredible, her story is amazing.” (Ewwww, just writing that makes me sick of myself. Sometimes I can be so annoying…)
And then, I got a call…we were in the top three; actually we were the top three, everyone else backed out. But the caseworker was very excited about our home study and it was time to take the next steps: training tailored to the specific needs of the children and a home study addendum.
We planned all the meetings, but the whole time I had this little nagging feeling. I kept pushing it aside. It was that little voice, “you can’t do this; this is too much.” As a Christian I was taught that that voice was to be fought with scripture. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” “Nothing is impossible with God.” “With faith as small as a mustard seed…”
Many of us believe the lie that Christians aren’t allowed to have the luxury of not being enough and walking away. We aren’t allowed to be overwhelmed. No, because we have Christ, so we must do ALL THINGS! We aren’t allowed to be human and have limits, because Christ lives in us and he is God and God is limitless.
My thought process was as follows:
God didn’t shut this down, so he must want me and Dean to parent these kids, and oh my gosh, I can’t do this!!! I want these kids, I can love these kids, but I don’t have the physical or emotional energy to take on four at once! Let alone, a special needs child in the mix. But if this is what God wants from me he will give me the strength. Day by day he will give me the strength. I must say yes to God. But if I say yes, I know I will be fully dying to myself. I will have to give up so many desires of motherhood.
You might not realize this, unless you are in the adoption world, but adoptive parents are often berated for their parental desires. Adoptive parents want to dream about names for their children and dream about raising their child from the moment they make it into the world. I specifically dream about having my baby fall asleep on my chest, suckle at my breast, cry in the night and calm to my voice and touch. I imagine spending months and years getting to know each child and their habits, and their facial expressions, their coos, their cries, their giggles. I want to witness their first words, first steps, first everything. But if you go onto an adoption support group site there are tons of people who will tell you that those desires make you a selfish person. “How dare you want an infant when there are so many children in need out there?”
Does my infertility not only deem me “not worthy” of having my own children and experiencing pregnancy, but does it also forfeit me the joy of naming my children, cuddling my children as infants, and having a relationship with my child as soon as their lungs fill with air for the very first time? If you have biological children or dream of having biological children, wouldn’t you think it would be your right as a parent to name them, cuddle them, and parent them from day one? I want that too. Don’t I deserve that?
I felt like I was in the garden of Gethsemane with Jesus, praying that God’s cup would pass from me. I would not choose to miss out on all of these things that parents dream of. I wouldn’t even feel right renaming the kids; because that name was the only thing their mother was able to give them. I couldn’t take that from them. How would we do this? But if it’s God will then I know it will be good. I should just shove those fears aside and trust God…blind trust…I’m all in…do it huge…Not a fan, but a player. (Those were some of the sayings I tried to live by in the past 10 years)
But it was not God’s will. It was not God’s will and I was missing it.
We have this process in yoga that fits perfectly with life as a Christian:
In order to SAFELY express a pose you must first engage the specified muscles and soften the other muscles. Once your body is properly engaged then you can move onto alignment. Alignment without proper engagement is very dangerous, you could pull a muscle. Once you are aligned then you can set your gaze or drishti (also known as your focus), if you set your gaze without alignment you risk hurting your neck, falling over, and completely missing the benefits of the pose. We are taught not to let our ego or pride drive our poses. We are taught to accept the daily limits of our body and honor our bodies in the moment. If we find ourselves trying to express a pose for the sake of expressing the pose or proving that we can express that pose, or because we could do it yesterday, then we are not gaining the benefits of the actual pose, we are just performing.
Christianity works the same way. First and foremost we must engage with God, when we engage with God then he starts to align us with His will. When we are aligned with God’s will then we are able to set our gaze and focus on what HE wills for us. It can be very dangerous if we try to hijack this process. It can also be very dangerous if we don’t accept the limits He places on us. Accepting our human limits does not mean we don’t trust God.
For example, my current situation with these kids…
I’ve spent a great deal of my life trying to prove myself…to God, to boys, to my friends, to my parents, and on and on. I still backslide into this mindset, because let’s be real, 26 years of my life have revolved around proving myself and only 3 years of my life have been spent unlearning this behavior. This behavior may seem relatively harmless, but it’s not. When I stop trying to prove myself to everyone around me and start accepting me just as I am in this very moment, limits and all, the crushing weight of the world lifts off my shoulders and I am able to laugh, praise, run, dance, jump, and live energetically (in essence, express myself fully).
Deep breath in, deep breath out…AAAAAAAAaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh. It feels nice.
I’ve started to notice that as a Christian I don’t accept my limits because, of course God can do what I cannot. That is a dangerous practice, my friends, not because God has limits, but because, for myself, I start to see God’s limitless power as an extension of my own power, will, and desires. I use verses like Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” to prove to myself and others that I can do it all. But what I’m really doing is using verses to puff up my own desires, my own ego, and my own prideful agenda to prove to the world that I am strong because I am a Christian! I am special! Look at me and my specialness! Muahahahahahahaha! Muahaha….oh shit….
You see, in Philippians 4, Paul is talking about contently and joyfully living in plenty and in need, living within the limits that Christ has given him. It is because of Christ that Paul found contentment and joy. Christ did indeed give him the strength to do so, but it wasn’t because Paul didn’t accept his limits. Paul accepted when he was in need and ENGAGED with God. God ALIGNED Paul with His will and then set Paul’s GAZE. Paul was not to worry about making money or food, but he was to continue spreading the good news of Christ. Paul accepted the calling God placed on his life and God provided for Paul’s needs. But we often use this verse as a way to get out of spending that time engaging with God and allowing him to align us with His will. I will use this verse as a reason to not accept the limits I have been given. Instead of engaging with God and being aligned by Him, I will try to do it all myself with the hopes that God will give the strength I need to do it all! If Paul lived as I did, he would have tried to make money, acquire food, and preach the good news to all people, the whole time praying that God would give him the strength to do so and wondering why he was so overwhelmed and without God.
So back to me, with these kids: I kept praying that God would give me the strength to do it and I kept forcing myself to read verses that would push me forward with this desire. I thought that if I was dying to my parental desires then I must be doing what God wanted me to. I thought I was engaging because I was praying, but I wasn’t really. You see, when you engage muscles for a pose you need to soften other muscles in order to open yourself up and I was refusing to soften the Liz muscle, so I was not receiving anything from God. I was trying to figure it all out myself.
When I finally sat on my mat and cried out to God and prayed, “I don’t know what You want from me!!!” without expectation, I felt him aligning me with His will. These kids were not His plan for me. God has given me emotional, mental, and physical limits and I must accept them. He may take them away in the future, but right now, they are there. It is with the acceptance of my humanness that He is able to work through me. Not me trying to harness the power of God to do everything in the world and prove that I am awesome and good. No, God has given me limits, and he has given me the strength to accept these limits, and he has provided for me within these limits.
These kids were not to be mine and Dean’s. I must say, “No.” I must say “no” to the very thing I have wanted for six years. I must say “no” not because I don’t want to but because it is not what God wants for me. I must once again mourn the loss of children that were never mine and wait.
It is not all loss though. Because I am saying, “no” to something God does not want for me, I am opening myself up to say, “yes” when it’s right. There is contentment and joy and hope. But all these feelings are simultaneous. It is not sadness or joy; it is joy in this time of sadness. It is not loss or contentment; it is contentment in a time of loss. It is not despair or hope; it is hope in the midst of despair. It is light within the darkness.
John 1:5 “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”