Four years ago today, we received the response for which we’d been waiting on pins and needles. It was affirmative. Serbia was going to allow us, a crazy big family, to adopt a child with Down syndrome from their country.
Long before we were waiting to hear from them, God stirred our hearts for the estimated 15 million institutionalized orphans in the world. With a simple prayer, “God, break our hearts for what breaks yours,” uttered many years ago, our world shifted as our hearts cracked. Our knowledge increased about orphans with special needs in Eastern European countries and the terrible fate awaiting them. We were undone.
We prayed for those orphans. We began supporting families adopting them, we cheered every “gotcha day”, and read every blog post. And while we occasionally wondered what it would be like to be in their shoes, the obstacles were great and the leap of faith needed too big.
Our excuses were typical, but very real.
- We couldn’t afford it. We’re a large family living on one income. We live within our means and comfortably, but there is not much extra and adoption is expensive.
- We didn’t have much room. With seven kids already squeezed into a 3-bedroom home, I was unsure we’d even pass a home study. (Two words – vertical space. Kids stack well and triple bunk beds are a dream.)
- We were normal. Meaning we weren’t superheroes or extra patient or incredibly loving or extra spiritual or anything else we thought adoptive parents were supposed to be. We liked our comfort, we valued sleep, we got short with the kids sometimes, our house was often a disaster…just normal.
- We felt at capacity with the seven kids we already had. We forgot that love multiplies; never divides.
And they were a lot of sound reasons not to do this to overcome. So many what if scenarios playing over and over in the recesses of our minds.
- What if…we commit to a child and then don’t have the funds to bring him home?
- What if…we get there and find his medical issues are way more involved than they said?
- What if…I can’t love him like I do my other kids?
- What if…he never attaches to us and has severe behavioral problems?
- What if…he has autism? (Yes, this was an actual fear. Proof God thinks Himself hilarious.)
- And there were more. So many more. It was terrifying.
So while we’d been waiting for Serbia’s yes, it was really a giant, yet trepidatious, yes on our part that got us to that point. A year later we brought home our feral three-year-old with the functional skills of an infant. I’ve written much about our wild ride since then with my most noteworthy post here, written a year ago.
Our Bo has been home three years now and life is just normal. Well, our normal, anyway. I don’t think about his adoption much except on the anniversaries. But yesterday, as I was sitting on the couch watching a movie, he climbed up in my lap, rested his head on my chest and fell asleep.
For two hours, I dared not move and I scarcely breathed, lest he’d waken and the spell would be broken. I allowed myself to wonder and I wept big silent crocodile tears because…
What if we’d said no?
And, oh God, my throat constricts, and my heart pounds, and the tears are running again. Because for this boy, it wouldn’t simply mean no mama’s arms to hold him until they cramped, no strong papa with whom to feel safe, no tickle fights with siblings, no toys to increase imagination, no therapy to broaden skills, no school to increase knowledge.
For this boy, and for millions like him, it would mean eventual abuse, neglect, and death.
And, as terrifying as our yes seemed at the time, the fact that his very life hung on it, scares me that much more. Because we almost said no so many times and at so many points along the way and our reasons were so foolish and ridiculous when the life of a child hung in the balance!
Our excuses seemed reasonable, but next to a life, they were anything but.
I don’t like to think about what if, because it shakes me. It forces me to think about the others – the orphans, the homeless, the trafficked, the abused – and my seemingly reasonable excuses to sit idly by, while lives hang in the balance.
Complacency is easier. It’s comfortable and it costs me nothing. But for those to whom I’m saying no, my complacency costs everything. It almost cost my son his life.