Have you ever gone on an adventure with God and ended up about 180 degrees away from where you thought He was taking you? Does knowing that His plans are usually different from your own excite you or frustrate you?
I had this experience recently. And it totally threw me for a loop.
Let me set the scene: one June day in 2016, I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and came across the story of a boy in a country halfway across the world. We’ll call him Joe. Joe needed a family and was about to age out of his orphanage. We had just adopted our son, and the adoption of our daughter was a few months away.
With three young children to care for, we weren’t looking to adopt an additional child into the family. In fact, I would say we were pretty content and happy with what God had already done in our lives.
Still, something about this boy caught my attention. Over the weekend, I found myself thinking about him more and more. As I prayed for him, I was struck by a thought:
This is your son. I want you to go get him.
I knew in my heart that God wanted this child to be a part of our family. This call from the Lord did not come softly. It blew me over and began the most challenging year our family had ever experienced.
Over the following year, I dove into prayer – most of which was agonizing. Lord, I prayed, I believe You told me that You want Joe to be part of our family. If that’s what You want, then break down the barriers. But if our family isn’t right for him, You need to find him a family. Just don’t let him age out alone.
Just before Christmas that year, my husband told me that he wanted to adopt Joe, and that we should begin the adoption process right away. I was thrilled! I knew God could provide the means to make this adoption happen. It was His idea, after all. The kids were excited too. We had been praying for Joe, so they had become attached to him.
We reached out to an adoption agency that was highly recommended, who told us that Joe’s country was very strict with their approval process. We didn’t make enough money to be approved.
So I started a part-time job, took on some extra work from home, and started a business. All while homeschooling my three children. I was tired and spread thin, but I had a goal. It was a labor of love for this child I had come to want so badly.
Our family faced one barrier after another. I started to question whether we were being attacked by the Enemy, or if God was shutting down the process. I continued to rely on the words I believed God had spoken to my heart, and we kept pressing through. Trusting that God would provide the breakthrough.
One year passed, and that picture of Joe I saw on my Facebook feed finally came to fruition. After spending thousands of dollars on background checks, doctor visits, and a home study…our family was approved by our agency!
We shared the happy news with friends and family and breathed a sigh of relief…for one day.
Then, a call. The agency could no longer approve our family because they missed something in our papers. Something they could have noticed when the process began. The issue slammed the door shut.
We could not adopt Joe.
I was heartbroken and felt betrayed, even deceived, by God. Why would He lead us along like this? Joe was a whole year closer to aging out. Would he be able to get a family now?
Eventually, I found out that Joe was paired and eventually adopted by a different family. I was relieved that God had answered my prayer and that Joe would have a family.
But as the weeks went by, other emotions began to creep in. I felt embarrassed by our failure. It wasn’t fair that some other family could just swoop in and decide, “Oh, we’ll take him.” I was irritated that, after all our hard work and laboring through prayer, Joe was going to call some other woman “Mom.” I was jealous of this Other Mom and the comments on her Facebook posts about how wonderful and incredible she was and what an amazing heart she had. What about me and all the prayers and work I had put into bringing Joe home?
Wait, did I just say that? What about me?
Joe was an orphan who had no family for the first 13 years of his life, and I was worried about people not thinking I was great enough? What is wrong with me? Am I that self-centered?
Turns out I am. But God has shown me that He can use me to bring about a miracle, even if I don’t directly benefit from it. Perhaps Joe’s family would not have been motivated to adopt him if they hadn’t seen our own struggle to bring him home. Perhaps I wouldn’t have done so much work if I had known that this work was meant for someone else’s benefit. I don’t know. I might never know.
But here’s my takeaway from this whole fiasco. This light the Lord shed in my situation.
It’s not all about me. Pouring myself out for the benefit of someone in need is always worth it. Instead of choosing to despair over the child I lost, I know that I can still pour into the children in my life right now – my children, the children in my Sunday School class, the children in our community, and the children we sponsor as a family.
Joe is doing great and his family is just right for him. God answered my prayer, after all. No, life is not what I thought it would be, but it’s not about me. And I am okay with that.