“…Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”
– David Platt, Radical
November is National Adoption Month. Yesterday was Orphan Sunday. This post began forming while I was sitting in church Sunday morning, my pastor reminding us that Jesus didn’t say to take up our cross only if it’s easy and doesn’t interfere with anything else.
No, Jesus’ hard words to us are these:
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also].”
-Matthew 16:24-26 (Amplified Bible)
I don’t share that passage to pat myself or my family on the back for obeying God through adopting this little girl. Trust me, there is nothing praiseworthy or admirable about my personal history of cross-taking-up. More often than not, I’ve deferred the carrying of those heavy, splintered, pain-inflicting logs to those better suited for it.
I have a history of running from hard stuff. The only cross I was willing to bear was a tiny silver one on a delicate chain around my neck. Pretty. Admirable. Cool and clean.
And I convinced myself that was OK because after all, God made me. He knew my weaknesses. He loved me anyway.
All of that is true, of course. He made me, knows me, loves me despite myself. Trouble is, my excuses aren’t listed anywhere in that passage above. Cross-bearing — yes, the difficult kind, the only real kind — it’s for all of us who claim Him as Savior.
The twentieth reason I love this girl, our Ugandan Pearl? Because God sat her in front of me, like a beautiful present, and I couldn’t not love her.
Even though loving her meant taking on a cross like one I’ve never before borne. A cross that has included rejection, angry accusations, loneliness and a dozen shades of self-denial, all uncomfortable. Some totally unexpected. All life-changing, and ultimately, life-improving.
She was the first orphan whose name I learned, over a year ago, when my husband and I began building a website for the orphanage where she lives. Her photo was the first one that grabbed me; her sparkling brown eyes beaming hope and joy, her smile wide and welcoming.
Endearing, that’s what she was, as she started asking the pastor about this American family taking an interest in their small ministry. Unbeknownst to us, she started praying, asking God to make us her family before adopting her was anywhere on my or my husband’s radar.
But we were all drawn to her. My sons suggested we adopt her and I dismissed them, explaining that international adoption was HARD and expensive, and not something that we were likely to be able to do.
Funny how often God’s ideas, His truths, are so clear to children while we smart, sophisticated, all-knowing adults take forever sometimes to see the light. I’d spent years begging God to give me a daughter, or if not, to pluck that longing desire from my heart. I cried those same tears and plead that same prayer even after learning of Pearl because I just didn’t see His plan right away.
I couldn’t see it initially because I was still, as the verse says above, refusing to deny myself, to disregard, lose sight of, and forget myself and my own interests. Internationally adopting an older child of another race would potentially open all sorts of problematic issues that even a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed I could handle.
My daughter had to come from my womb, right? Couldn’t the doctors be wrong, the ones who said it would be unwise to tempt fate with another pregnancy, couldn’t they be wrong? Because if they weren’t wrong, why did I still feel so certain that God intended me to have a daughter?
He whispered it in a thousand ways, most loudly through an impossible set of circumstances that finally clarified it, settled it and made me see clearly where He was leading, and why.
“Here she is,” He said.
“You can do this,” He reassured.
When someone closest to me raged and ranted against me for making this choice, He comforted me deeply, soothingly, as a loving Father would.
When we waited anxiously for the social worker’s approval of our home study, and today as we wait for the government’s approval to bring her here, there’s been an underlying current of peace to keep me focused.
Every step of the way, He has sent others to help carry this cross; when I’ve gotten tired or frustrated, these beautiful people have appeared unexpectedly, offering exactly what I needed to take the next step.
Gifts of love, every one of them.
And though some aspects of international adoption are exactly as I told my sons when they first suggested it — HARD and expensive — the love makes it all possible. Love makes it all worth it. In ways I could never find words for, God has knit a mother-daughter relationship clear across the globe and not an ounce of doubt remains on either side that she is my girl and I am her mama.
I got to Skype with Pearl on Saturday morning. She sat down in front of the camera, grinning from ear-to-ear, eyes glistening, one solitary tear streaking down beside her cute little nose as she said, “Hello, mommy!”
She looks at me, her father and her brothers like we hung the moon, and though she’ll soon discover that we most certainly did not, the love we have to offer her is genuine despite its imperfections.
The director at the orphanage tells me that the other children are happy for her, but they ask him often, “Will it someday be my turn? Will I someday also have a family come for me?”
When I go for her, can I tell them yes, that one day, they will have a family, too?
I hope I can.
In this month dedicated to adoption and orphan care, could you ask God what He would have you to do to make life better for a child who desperately needs the love of God and family? Here is a great blog post about how you can fulfill God’s command to care for orphans (and widows), even if you don’t feel personally called to adoption.
“Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made?…
I believe He wants us to love others so much that we go to extremes to help them.”
~ Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God