When we started the adoption process we felt like Jesus had asked us to join him on the volatile Sea of Galilee. My husband and I knew where we wanted to end up, but the journey of getting there—of stepping out of the boat—seemed daunting.
But we did eventually get out and set foot on the waves. We now have kids that I birthed and kids that we’ve adopted—our family doesn’t match when it comes to skin, hair, eye color. So it’s not an uncommon experience to be approached in public or have close friends whisper inquisitively in private spaces about any one of a dozen fears related to adoption:
“I’m afraid of getting attached to a child, only to have them taken away.”
“I’m afraid of the substance abuse, the mental health issues, the physical abuse that could be a part of a child’s biological family’s history. What if those traits are inherited?”
“I’m afraid of what people might think or even say to us if our family doesn’t match.”
Being an adoptive family has become our norm and so the stigma and fear that lace those questions often rub me the wrong way. However, it’s only upon honest reflection when I realize, almost with shame, that I had some of those fears too when we first entered into the adoption world.
The Questions Fear Asks
During one of our adoption processes, we were matched with an expectant mom and came face-to-face with the brokenness of her story. I’m not sure why I was shocked by the extent of the trauma and heartache she experienced. No parent opts to place their child up for adoption without having lived through some very dark days. We had prepared for the adoption process and it was something we had spent years in prayer for. But when I found myself sitting in an office with our social worker, looking over a file folder detailing an expectant mom’s journey to choosing adoption, her story felt too heavy.
I would be lying if I said I was not fearful to accept her invitation to enter into that tattered yet holy space. But any time someone is brave enough to share the hard parts of their story and to invite you to be a part of God’s plan for redemption, you know deep in your soul that it’s a holy moment.
Despite the sacredness of the moment, as we listened to her story, questions bubbled up in my mind. Fear crept in masquerading as wisdom.
“Would it be wise if we opened up our home to the unknown? And what do we do with what we do know? Is this adoption even a good fit for our family?”
Instead of initially asking what I could do to walk beside an expectant mom, my instinct was to protect my comfort, my heart, my home. I knew in my head that the good news of Jesus compels us to run towards brokenness in this world, but worry filled my heart. I couldn’t sleep as I tried to find solutions to every “What if?”
What if the dangerous people in her life become dangerous people in our lives? What if after she meets our kids, and we all get attached, she doesn’t like the way we parent and she breaks all of our hearts? After all, it is her baby and her right to choose a family that is a good fit. What if after she places her child for adoption, she returns back to the life she’s trying to escape? What if what we’re doing isn’t enough?
Those questions and more haunted my nights. My facade of bravado was shattered when I realized that comfort, wisdom, and the appearance of control were ruling my thoughts and my decisions. I was frustrated with myself. I knew we wanted to walk down the road of adoption but fear was now holding me back, keeping me from stepping out of the boat.
The Answer Love Gives
But in the middle of my fear, I saw an example of love that tossed me a kind of lifeline. It was the kind of love that puts the well-being of others in front of itself. The kind of love that takes risks for the good of someone else. The kind of love that chooses life for the sake of another, no matter the personal cost.
I didn’t see that kind of fearless love in the mirror. It wasn’t in the latest pro-life blogpost or an inspirational square on Instagram. I saw it shining in the face of a brave expectant mom, doing everything she could in her power to choose life, safety, well-being, and redemption for her child.
Scripture says, “There is no love in fear. But perfect love casts out fear.”
It was a love I could not muster on my own. A love I couldn’t fake by doing the right thing or forcing myself to take the next right step.
But when we sit staring into the eyes of that perfect love—the kind that mirrors the warmth of Jesus—it changes us from the inside out. When my husband and I came close and held hands with that love, when we looked love in the eyes and knew it was an honor and a privilege to be invited to witness it—it was then that love cast out all fear. It was in the eyes of another image-bearer where we found peace in knowing that the God of all comfort, the God who ordains every sunrise and sunset, the God who is close to the brokenhearted was in control of all things. He sat right in the midst of the waters, inviting us to abandon our boat of comfort and into the unknown.
He asked us to throw aside the chains of our fear. And so we stepped out of the boat and onto the water and found a brave birthmom waiting for us there. With one hand she held onto Jesus and extended the other out to us, inviting us to entrust our fears to the one who calms the wind and waves.
Cover image by Dark Rooms.