When I look at this picture, my heart beats faster. This was one of the most terror-filled moments of my life. Yes, I am being serious. No, it doesn’t make sense when you look at the picture. But I was terrified in this moment because I knew God had called me to give up my dreams and I had no idea what He had in store for me instead. He gave me no direct answers and He demanded everything I thought I had and loved most.
Disclaimer: This is not a post telling you why you should adopt. I am also not discussing reasons for choosing not to adopt. This post is from my perspective as a follower of Christ, my conclusions will not align with every worldview. It’s not really about adoption…but I’m shamelessly including a cute picture of our girls anyway.
Matthew 19:16-30: 16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” he inquired.Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’d]” 20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” 26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wifee] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
- We want a phone call from God; an easy solution, something we can do, a step by step approach.
- God demands our dreams and starts something new.
- We tend to overestimate immediate pleasures and underestimate long-term reward.
- We want to look back and God calls us to look forward.
We Want a Phone Call From God
When we were in the process of deciding whether or not to pursue adoption, we kept asking God, pleading with God, to show us the best path clearly, loudly, and so we could understand. But it was always this long process of prayer and pursuit by faith, and to be honest, sometimes it was just the piecing together of a puzzle. We examined our talents and desires, our capabilities, we sought advice from others, and what we believe God’s word commands us to do and we made a decision, then we made the next decision, and the next… At times everything seemed clear and other times we seemed to be in a fog. Either way, we had to keep moving.
I think we can see ourselves in the question this rich young man asks, “What good deed must I do?” We ask something with similar intentions every time we want a phone call from God. Give me the answer! Give me the thing that is going to settle the matter. Please God, tell me what to do so that everything will work out in the most efficient manner with the least possible sacrifice. We fail to realize our place as servants of the living God and our purpose to glorify Him in all we do. Instead, we want an exchange, “I’ll give you what you want and you give me what I want.” But if God actually did call us, the answer He would give would not satisfy our desire for immediate understanding and purpose in our daily events; He would still require faith. The problem is not God’s lack of communication, the problem is our perspective.
God Demands Our Dreams in Order to Start Something New
Even in the phrasing of our original question we betray our motives, “What ‘must’ I do?” God doesn’t want us to obey Him as though He is in the business of blackmail. God is not bribing us with eternal life. He wants His creation to do that which He created it to do and that which will make it most happy and bring Him most glory; to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Throughout our adoptions, as we continued to progress, with each new decision, God demanded more of our dreams. God never fulfilled our original dreams, He began something new every step of the way. Giving up our plans was impossible without His strength and guidance, it was painful and scary and revealing.
Jesus gives the rich young man a decision to reveal the young man’s heart, to reveal that which the young man loves most. And the man failed the test by walking away. He couldn’t give Jesus what He required. He couldn’t give God his undivided love. He couldn’t present his life to God as a sacrifice, he held on tightly while Jesus demanded his dreams in order to begin something new. Jesus saw the young man’s real problem, he found his joy apart from God. The only way to fix the young man’s problem was to destroy his dream.
We Tend to Overestimate Immediate Pain and Pleasures and Underestimate Long-Term Pain and Reward
It is easy for us to see, now, that our adoptions were good and right for our family. Now, the sacrifices are also easier because we know and love our daughters personally. Now, instead of seeing Grace and Josie as possible liabilities which threaten our dreams, we have new dreams and they are some of our most valuable assets. But this shift in perspective did not come without sacrificing some immediate pleasures.
If the young man asked Jesus what he could do to gain eternal life, that means he surely believed that Jesus could give him the answer. And if he walked away sad, surely that means that he also believed the answer Jesus gave him was true. What then is the problem? It seems like an easy trade; money for eternal life, but it is not that simple. The young man walked away because he was rich. What he had was a sure deal in the moment, eternal life is not something tangible, it is not something that will buy comfort now. It is the same for us, we are afraid of the immediate consequences. We deny long-term rewards for immediate pleasures.
It is hard to follow God when we have something to lose. But, we choose to follow where the LORD leads when we believe that our current suffering is much less painful than we anticipate by comparison to the future reward which is far greater than we can imagine.
We Want to Look Back, God Calls Us to Look Ahead
It is easy for us to look back on the adoptions and realize that we made the right decision. It is easy, now, to see that Grace and Josie are assets, not liabilities, though they require sacrifice and change in our lives, though there is an element of suffering that we walked into when we decided to adopt them. But there was a time that it was not easy, a time that we couldn’t see what we see now. And the reasons we almost chose to miss out on the gift of our daughters seem foolish in hindsight.
But looking back at what God did is not where God calls us to live and set up camp. Jesus told the rich young man to sell everything and then come and follow Him. To follow means to follow. God is always calling us to look ahead to what He is doing next and what He will do in the future. God is living and present and incredibly involved in both the big picture and the miniscule detail of each moment, but is just so hard still, in this moment to continue to look ahead by faith. It doesn’t always seem to get easier with the next thing God asks us to do. We automatically tend to try and get comfortable again, to start over with our new dreams because we long to regain a sense of control.
Adoption is not for everyone, and honestly, I think it can be easier to follow God in the things that seem like “big” steps of faith, like adopting, than it is to follow Him and obey Him and live my life for Him in the daily moments because there is no one thing that we can do to settle the matter, to make us good and perfect and right with God. Are you asking for a phone call from God? Do you see yourself in the story of the young rich man, as I do in myself? Will you choose to walk away or will you trust God even if His plans threaten to destroy your dreams and control? Do you see that perhaps you tend to overestimate your immediate pain and pleasure and underestimate your long-term pain and reward? Will you settle in and get comfortable where you are and with what God has done in the past or will you look forward to the new things God is doing in the future?
In the picture below, it was still really hard…I was smiling only because I trusted that eventually, I wouldn’t look back on this event as scary, but as a gift. I knew that one day I would want a picture of this moment. I am glad I smiled, I love this picture, but it still makes my heart beat faster…