In his book Forgotten God, Francis Chan writes,
I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for Him to come through. That if he doesn’t come through, I am screwed. …
I don’t believe God wants me (or any of His children) to live in a way that makes sense from the world’s perspective …
This is a powerful and tough standard to meet. In fact, I would bet most Christians never will. I certainly wouldn’t have understood what this meant for much of my Christian walk.
Recent experiences, though, have helped me to begin to grasp the sentiment. Last week, I posted about the most significant one: my family’s adoption of our third son (which you can read here). When my wife and I received God’s call to adopt a child from Ethiopia and began moving forward with the process, the questions and comments came rapid-fire from all directions.
“What if you lose your job?”
“Your family won’t look like others.”
“If you can have kids, why are you adopting?”
“International adoption is really expensive.” (As if a guy who orders water at restaurants and takes home every leftover scrap hadn’t figured that one out yet.)
“There are tons of American kids who need to be adopted.”
“What if the two sons you already have become jealous or resentful?”
“What if your child ends up having a bunch of medical issues?”
And on. And on. And on.
Our decision didn’t make sense to the world (or many Christians, for that matter), but to us it was so simple: God wanted us to adopt a child from Ethiopia, so we intended to, regardless of the risks. We expected struggles, but we weren’t doing it because it was going to be easy. We just trusted that if God had truly called us to adopt, he would make a way.
Now, I have to be real and say that we could never have anticipated the full-on financial, emotional, and spiritual assault that we would endure over the next three years as we proceeded with the adoption process. In fact, had we known in advance what turmoil and darkness we would face, in our weak humanity we probably would have pulled a Jonah and fled in the opposite direction.
It was brutal. My wife’s health began to deteriorate, resulting in frequent and severe migraines and fatigue, making it very difficult to care for the two ridiculously energetic boys we already had. We weren’t sleeping well. The adoption was taking far longer and costing much more money than it was supposed to. Other major and unexpected expenses continued to pile up that were draining our already minimal savings. My company began to struggle financially, which caused me to take a big salary hit. And with my wife’s being physically unable to work, my salary couldn’t match the bills.
Two separate times we were matched with a child, only to have both potential adoptions fall through – one when we were just days from traveling to become her parents. When we finally were matched with a child whom we were able to adopt, he was a four-year-old boy who had been severely malnourished. He weighed a mere twenty pounds and could barely sit upright on the couch in the orphanage. My wife and I were strangers to him, and he didn’t speak a word of English. I was terrified, having never felt more ill-equipped for anything in my life than becoming the father of this fragile, young, special-needs boy from halfway across the world.
Just weeks after the adoption, I got laid off. I had been with my company for fourteen years and never seriously searched for another job. I was totally out of practice and had very few promising leads for a new job.
With everything pressing down on my family, how could this all possibly work? In Chan’s words, if God didn’t come through, we were “screwed.”
Well, if you read my other post, you know how it turned out. If not, allow me to summarize.
Our new son Amare is thriving in his new home. He eats well and has grown. He has a grand total of zero medical issues (not even a cavity). He now speaks excellent English, learned a lot in preschool, and is doing well in his first few weeks of Kindergarten. He makes friends easily and is best friends with his two older brothers who think the world of him. He emotionally attached almost immediately to my wife and me as his new parents, and his presence has greatly lifted the spirits of my entire family.
Furthermore, while my wife still struggles with her health, it has improved significantly, allowing us to better manage our boys, our sleep, and our stress levels. On my final day of work at the company that laid me off, I accepted an offer for a much better and higher-paying job that would alleviate our major financial concerns. I also received a large severance package that – along with the federal adoption credit – retroactively paid for the entire adoption we couldn’t afford, almost to the penny.
Now, let me be real again. Anyone who personally knows my wife and me can attest that there is absolutely no way we could have pulled any this off by our own power. We can barely keep track of our cell phones (which have tracking devices). We were totally ill-equipped to handle this monumental task God had given us, so we were forced to depend fully on him.
And he came through. Miraculously.
This is an example of when my wife and I fulfilled the sentiment in Chan’s quote. Sadly, though, we will often fail, instead relying on human or worldly reasoning to make our decisions. But when we do get it right and watch God come through to conquer insurmountable human odds, the joy that follows is indescribable. Just this one experience has greatly deepened our faith, liberated us from worrying about much of anything now, and filled us with a desire to live all the time in a way that makes no sense.