It's been kind of a bizarre season of life for me. In May, I quit my job at a nonprofit that served kids in care to stay home with Brighten and to start my own consulting business. In June, we found out that we were not going to be able to continue to pursue international adoption in Ethiopia after almost four years in process. Now, I'm learning contentment, which, if I'm honest, is uncomfortable and completely unfamiliar.
The first Sunday after we found out about Ethiopia, we sang a song at church about God being good. I couldn't get the words out. I was angry, and confused, and it didn't feel like He was good right then. I had questions, big questions.
Questions like: Did we not hear Him correctly four years ago when we set out on this journey
Why do I still feel such a strong call to pursue adoption from Ethiopia when it's not an option?
What happens to all of the kiddos who are still without a family, even though families are being told they can no longer adopt from this country?
Where is God in all of this? Doesn't He call us to care for orphans and the vulnerable?
If we're not being sent to Ethiopia, where is our place in the Great Commission?
Where do we go from here, and how will I ever be able to discern God's calling for our family if I feel so uneasy about all of this?
Reality never felt so disconnected from God's calling. I didn't like this place. I may not have always had the strongest faith, but I haven't questioned God's goodness, even in the midst of other hard times and other trials in my life. I kept second guessing myself and thinking what in the world is happening right now?
After that day in church I came home and got to writing. I have a myriad of blog posts that are only for me. They're a way to work out thoughts swirling around in my brain. I doubt I'll ever share the whole post that I wrote, but I will share several pieces and paragraphs, just to reinforce how confused/hurt/angry/scared/mad/sad I was:
Several days later, I remembered Philippians 4:8, the lens in which we are called to look at things. The first command of this verse is to think on things that are true. So, I went to scripture, God's Word manifested into something accessible to me. I thought of all the places in the bible that refer to God's love for the fatherless, and I wept. If I claim to believe God's Word is true, then I have to believe that He still loves the fatherless.
- "You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child." - Exodus 22:22
- "He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing." - Deuteronomy 10:18 (and 10 other verses in Deuteronomy give direction on how to treat the fatherless)
- "because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to help him." - Job 29:12
- "O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more." - Psalm 10:17-18
- "Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation." - Psalm 68:5
- "Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute." - Psalm 83:3
- “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." - John 14:18
- "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." - James 1:27
(this is not an exhaustive list, there are many more passages to that speak to caring for the afflicted and those who cannot care for themselves)
Anyway, scripture is clear that we are to care for the fatherless, and that God will protect and care for them as well. It's clear His love for His children. And that is true.
I found myself reflecting on the fact that I don't shy away from believing God's promises when it's good for me. The fact that He died so that I may live and not be separated from Him for eternity - I believe that. It's easy for me to accept that God sent His Son to pay the price for my sins. I don't doubt that God created the world and every living thing. These are truths that are not inconvenient for me to believe.
But, if I believe those things, do I have the option of not believing in His goodness? Or His love for everything created in His image? Or the orphan in Africa? I don't think I get to pick and choose to believe what's easy. Philippians 4 doesn't say to think on things that are easy or things that feel true. That's where this Christian life gets messy, and when we need His truth, biblical community, and unwavering faith the absolute most.
Another excerpt from the unpublished June 13th post says:
I can't tell you that my broken heart is healed and that I don't still have some big questions. In fact, driving to Florida a few weeks ago to visit my parents my cheeks were stained with heartbreak and grief. But something in me shifted on that drive. I'd let myself cry for a few minutes and then my eyes would drift to the backseat and I'd cry all the more tears of thankfulness and hope and truth. God provides.
When I see the beautiful, round little face smile at me from the backseat of my mommy van, I know without a doubt that God's Word is true. Brighten is proof of that - our miracle baby. I think about how God led us to adopt her, and I'm astounded and ashamed at my lack of faith.
"I believe; help my unbelief."
Friends, God's Word is true. And while the details of life and our callings may not always been crystal clear, God's commands are sure. I may not know what will happen in Ethiopia, or where we'll adopt from next, or when we'll begin another adoption process, or how many kids we'll adopt, or where the funds will come from, or what to do right now about all of that, but God tells us to care for orphans and widows and He explicitly calls us to have a special love for the fatherless. He also promises to never leave or forsake us, and that promise isn't just for me and for you, it's for the child without a family growing up in an orphanage in Ethiopia, or India, or the child in foster care or without stability in the United States.
A little more than a month ago, my prayer was this:
I'm thankful that God has been faithful to reveal Himself to me in ways that have strengthened my faith, and I pray that I will always strive toward a renewed and stronger faith, no matter what may come in life. I think about the metaphor of God as the Potter and as us as the clay. I can't help but think right now that God is forming some really beautiful and intricate details into this piece of pottery, and that makes me really thankful to be His child, His clay.