Adoption is For the Faint of Heart

Nothing comes too close to grinding a heart like meeting orphans in rags, painful scars, and broken smiles. The power of the suffering in the eyes of an orphan can haunt you forever.

I was in high school, after just becoming a Christian, when I participated in a summer camp outreach for orphans in the beautiful Carpathian mountains. You see, I was born and raised in Romania where orphans were kept so marginalized and dehumanized that few people knew of their needs, or even existence, for that matter. It was after that summer camp, in my youthful enthusiasm, at the sight of these kids’ heartache and inhumane living conditions, that I vowed to myself that I will one day save them all! It was then and there that I dreamed of making a difference in their lives, even as I was aware of then extreme cultural prejudices against orphans.

After high school I moved to America for college. My grandiose plan of saving all the Romanian orphans got buried under piles of college work and activities. I kept pictures, notes, and books signed by orphan hands as a distant memory of what blatant pain and suffering looks like. Random YouTube videos would make me cry and, at times, rekindle my soul-fire for justice and love for the orphans. But as any college saga might attest, I’d quickly forget about the troubles of orphans as life moved on with midterms, essays, and more presentations.

Fast-forward eight years after I married my husband and had 3 beautiful biological daughters, that the seed once planted in a post-communist Romanian summer camp for orphans began to produce some shoots. As it became clearer and clearer that adoption was to be part of our family story, we found our hearts to be faint and weak even as our convictions and calling for adopting an orphan were growing stronger and deeper.

Even before we began our journey, we often heard it say that “Adoption is not for the faint of heart.” That adoption’s trials are only a match for the strong and enduring folks. That weak and humble people can’t possibly face the ups and downs, the lengths and depths of the adoption process. Adoption is warfare. It is tough, grinding work and it takes tough, strong folks to match such a process.

So, are the faint of heart not cut for adoption?

Well, I am here to tell you that, in spite of how often you may hear that advice on adoption blogs and chat-rooms, my family and I are convinced that adoption is only for the faint of heart.

1. Detours in the adoption process—only for the faint of hearts.

It turns out that it truly takes a faint and humble heart to place itself under the strength and wisdom of a sovereign God who knows the numbers of days for this adoption, the deadlines, the approvals, all the detours, and where all the finances will come from. We learned that pretty early in our adoption process as doors were closed and plans were diverted. Twice we were turned to different countries as new regulations and political developments stopped us from proceeding with our well designed plans.

The malleable heart is a heart that adjusts to God’s plans and guidance even as the road seems uncertain and rerouted. Our family had many impromptu family conferences along the way: we readjusted, re-planed, started new paperwork, waited for delays and mistakes to be corrected, signed new paperwork. We found ourselves more often than not crying out to God for strength, wisdom, faith, and provision. 

Our faith was tested and the end result was never to prove us strong but rather to reveal how great our God truly is when we walk depending on Him. Had we not followed God’s delays, stops, and new alleys we would’ve never met our son now Levi Andrew, who celebrated his 2nd birthday with us soon after we brought him home.

2. Commitment to the process and the child over strong emotions

It turns out that the faint of heart rely on their commitment to the process and the child, and not on the storms of feelings that adoption is sure to stir in pretty much everyone. Here is our blatant confession: we were never strong enough or enduring enough to start, continue, and finish this adoption process. We simply relied on God’s call, power, and His guiding hand. We took our various feelings and tumultuous thoughts and wrestled with them in God’s Word. We allowed His precepts to guide us and our friends and church to encourage us. We were so weak that God’s Word was our daily dose of hope and sustenance.

When we decided to begin the process of adoption we committed primarily to the child this journey will lead us to, and not to the process alone. We kept the bigger picture in mind that no matter the ease or the hardship of this process, we devoted ourselves to staying true to God’s calling and to the child we were pursuing. Come what may (delays, mistakes, cultural differences, tired adopting parents, frustrations, etc.), we were in this to stay and endure by God’s grace and the encouragement of our family and friends.

3. The faint of heart and Jesus’ adoption

It takes a humble heart to recognize that the final signature at the customs office is but the beginning of the life-long parenting commitment. It turns out that the faint of heart allow themselves to cry with their adopted child, feel with them, laugh with them, walk with them through the ups and downs of the ongoing and lifelong relationship of post-adoption. No form, video, or book prepares the adopted parents for the day they meet their child. Or for the rest of the days onward. And though each adoption is unique and different, we are reassured that as we face hurdles and struggles along the way, we remain always in Jesus’ care and presence. In fact, we are more compassionate, loving, and gentle towards our children when our weak hearts draw from the gospel reminder that we, too, have been the recipients of Jesus’ compassion, love, and gentleness.

As we comfort and train these little hearts into our family, we are reminded that as Christians, we’ve also been comforted from the very beginning of our spiritual adoption by a committed, gentle, and kind Savior who will never leave us orphans again. Jesus paid the excruciating price of death for our adoption into God’s forever family. He never complained nor did He refuse the cup of wrath. He signed off every Old Testament decree, He bore all the iniquities with humbleness and perfection. He cried and was insulted. He was praised and cursed. And yet not once did He forfeit His commitment to the Father and His adopted children. He walked prayerfully and faithfully the process of our adoption knowing that His life will bring many spiritual orphans into God’s family. Jesus knows our process all too well!

Levi has been with us for almost one year now. He is not a Romanian orphan like I once dreamed I’d pursue, but a beautiful Asian boy with kissable cheeks and blackberry eyes. He is not all the Romanian orphans I once brazenly dreamed of rescuing, but he is one less orphan in the world today. He is the boy the Lord blessed us with even as we faced detours, delays, interruptions, late FedEx pickups, and great emotional tumult. He is a Martin now, with a new family tree, a new mother and father, sisters and grandparents, aunts and cousins. He is ours.

Drawing strength from our Lord and Savior, we are still the same faint of heart parents who are just as committed to Levi today because Christ is evermore committed to us. So, if your heart is faint and you are considering answering God’s call to make a life changing difference in the life of an orphan, then adoption is certainly for you!