These open letters have become pretty popular recently, and to be honest, they’re not really my style. But here I am writing one. With the countless adoption blogs on the internet, and our culture of social media, it’s tempting to think that everyone else has it easier than we do. It’s tempting to think that we’re completely alone in our experience. That is simply not true. My prayer is that in sharing my experience, other women who have walked a similar path will be pointed to our Savior, our only hope, and will receive strength to persevere in what God has called them to. You’re not alone, hopeful adoptive mom.
* * *
Dear hopeful adoptive mom who may be losing hope,
You have been waiting a long time. A very long time. Longer than you ever anticipated. You had an abundance of hope (and were admittedly a little naive) when you first began your adoption journey. You were confident that you wouldn’t be “that couple” waiting longer than everyone else who walked this path before you. It was going to happen fast, right? God would grant you the desires of your heart lickety-split, right? And you would certainly never become an adoption horror story. You know the ones, from a friend of a friend of a friend? They share your story, about how long you’ve been waiting, and all respond with deep sighs and versions of “gosh, I could NEVER do that!” That was never going to be you, right?
Now, here you sit. Still waiting on the Lord, praying that He would bless you with children. Your hope is dwindling, and you wonder if He brought you into this process solely for the sanctification aspect, and possibly not to fulfill your desire for a family. You’ve out-waited all of your friends, and every other adoptive couple you know. Friends who began the process after you have been placed with children before you. Lots of them. Your heart hurts constantly. It’s sick with the hope that has been deferred, and you long desperately for that tree of life (Proverbs 13:12). Yet, your desire is left unfulfilled, and your home remains quiet and empty.
Maybe you came very close to being placed with children and it ended up falling through. Or maybe an expectant mom chose you to parent her baby, and after the birth she decided to parent the baby herself. I understand that pain because it happened to us recently. For almost six weeks we were moving forward with a sibling group we had been matched with. The details don’t matter. It was a complicated situation as every adoption situation is. What matters is that it hurts, and it’s an incredibly isolating experience because there are really no good comparisons for it. I’ve heard others very cautiously compare it to a miscarriage. You’re filled with excitement, and healthy levels of fear and nervousness. You plan and prepare. You shop and you dream. Your life is about to get turned upside down. You’ve started to let the word out to friends and family, and everyone is excited. Your love for these precious children grow more and more each day. Then suddenly it all ends. As quickly as you heard the words “you guys were chosen” from your case worker, you’re back in the state-wide computer system, waiting to be chosen again. The comparison to a miscarriage fails on many levels, I know. These are two very different experiences with uniquely devastating pain. For now though, it has given me some type of category to process this experience through. If you have been there, I hope it helps you process too.
I want you to know that if you have experienced this, it’s good to grieve. Going through this is incredibly heart-wrenching, sad, and will test your faith in a deeply profound way. You ought to grieve it. The best, and most loving advice I was given was “take time to grieve.” This advice came from a friend who experienced something similar in her adoption journey. She’s absolutely right.
Grieving an experience like this will look different for everyone. Adam and I have grieved in very different ways. This is ok, and good. As I’ve processed through this experience, my faith has been tested in ways that it never has before. My heart is in a constant tug of war, frequently doubting that God cares (He does care – 1 Peter 5:7), and wondering if He even sees me in my pain (He does, and weeps with me – John 11:35).
Maybe you feel deep regret for letting this news spread as far as it did, building excitement among those who have been waiting alongside you for years. Having to backtrack and tell your friends and family that it’s not happening anymore only amplified the pain. Well-meaning people, who love you very much, unintentionally say things that cut to the quick. I know you’re weary of hearing optimistic versions of “It just wasn’t God’s timing!” and “They just weren’t meant to be yours!” and “Everything happens for a reason!” Although these sentiments may be true, the deep pain you’re experiencing is often unknowingly disregarded during those conversations.
Or maybe those closest to you just kept silent. That often hurts the most, doesn’t it? They probably didn’t know what to say, and they didn’t want to make your pain worse by saying the wrong thing, so they retreated. That’s certainly understandable. You know they can’t read your mind, but you would have loved to hear them say something like “I don’t understand what you’re going through but I can imagine this is deeply painful. I’m so sorry. I’m praying for you.” Not many people do understand what you’re going through, and it just plain hurts sometimes.
All this to say, I see you, hopeful adoptive mom who may be losing hope. I understand the pain you’re going through, and the wrestling your heart has been engaged in. You may feel like you’re hanging on by a thread because your hope has dwindled so much. You wish you could go back in time to your naive, optimistic, idealistic self just starting out the adoption process, and give her a swift reality check punch to the gut. But, you can’t. You know it will be worth it if it actually happens one day, so, you move on with the tiny glimmer of hope that you still have. It’s only a glimmer, and it’s dim, but it’s enough to move you forward by faith, trusting in God’s sovereignty, goodness, kindness, and love towards you.
Psalm 77, a lament, has been deeply comforting to my soul during this time. It’s beautiful to see how the Psalmist (Asaph) is so honest with the Lord about his feelings. Sweet, hurting sister, allow these verses to give you the freedom to be honest with the Lord. You may feel like “your soul refuses to be comforted” (Psalm 77:2) and your spirit may be faint (Psalm 77:3). Your heart may be so full of trouble that you find it nearly impossible to put your feelings into words (Psalm 77:4). You may be like me, where verses 7-9 are the cry of your heart right now and you’re tempted to believe that God will never again show you favor.
Allow your spirit to “diligently search” (Psalm 77:6), and then, as it says in verse 11, “remember the deeds of the Lord.” Recall His faithfulness in your life. Even if it feels nearly impossible to do so. Allow this lament to shape your prayers as you fight for hope in Christ.
I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3 When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
4 You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
7 “Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
10 Then I said (emphasis mine), “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders; (emphasis mine)
you have made known your might among the peoples. (Psalm 77:1-14, ESV)
He is the God who works wonders. This is true. It doesn’t necessarily mean He will grant you the desires of your heart, but it does mean that He can. He can redeem this ridiculously long, emotionally bumpy, seemingly unproductive, roller coaster ride of an adoption process for His glory. That has always been my prayer, and I’m guessing yours too. If you know Jesus, He has redeemed your soul, granting you salvation through his life, death and resurrection. If anything would be difficult for God (and we know that nothing is), turning our hardened hearts from a life of sin to one that desires to glorify Him would have been it. But that wasn’t hard for Him at all! He can certainly do this too, for the sake of His name. There is hope in the name of Jesus (Matthew 12:21), and He’s the only hope we need.
Fight for hope, sweet sister. Keep your eyes fixed on the One who knows every hair on your head (Matthew 10:30), and sovereignly rules over the smallest details of your life. He can work wonders with your situation, and sprout up a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12) after an exceptionally challenging and long wait. Even if He chooses not to, He is still all of these things, the same trustworthy God today, yesterday and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
A hopeful adoptive mom fighting for hope by your side
P.S. This old school resource from Pastor John Piper brought hope to my soul recently, and reminded me that “blessed are those who wait for Him.” It’s called Battling the Unbelief of Impatience.
UPDATE: Our family has grown since writing this post. God is good, regardless, but we have seen His kindness and mercy in the gift of our foster son – Our Family Has Grown.