What follows is a “guest post,” written by my sister, Katie (or rather, she wrote it and I stole it…with her permission). Katie, her husband Junior, and their three children are right in the middle of adopting a little boy from India. His name is Gabriel, “Gabe.” At this very moment, Gabe waits in an Indian orphanage for the day when his parents can come and bring him home. Read Katie’s reflection, and then join them (and many) in praying that their son will soon be with them…even before Christmas:
Hope in the Wait
As I write this, the Advent season is fast approaching. For me, this Advent season feels far weightier than any that has preceded it. Junior and I started the process of international adoption in May 2018 and by Christmas last year, we were waiting to be matched- waiting for the proverbial phone call to introduce us to a child that might one day be ours. As hard as that wait felt at the time, this year, it all feels so much heavier. This year, we have a name and a face, videos that we watch over and over, and pictures that have hung on our bulletin board for the last 8 months since we first saw our son’s face and said “yes” to him (literally dozens and dozens of times as we signed our names to what felt like endless amounts of paperwork). This year, we are entering the Advent season with full hearts for him but empty arms as we still work to get through the system and bring our son home. The wait that we had hoped would be over by this time continues still, and it has not been easy. There have been tears of frustration over systems that seem determined to keep families separated for longer than necessary. There has been a mix of emotions at each new update on our son- joy at seeing any progress he has made followed by the grief of one more milestone we have missed. And deep down in the hardship of the wait is the realization of the uncertainty of it- not knowing when it will end, and more significantly, knowing that nothing is final or sure about the process until he is in our arms.
As I have begun to think about Advent, and the corporate sense of waiting that permeates the Church in a special way during this season, I have been struck by these things that the Lord has impressed upon me in our personal season of wait through our adoption process.
- It is in the wait where we find what we truly need – a deeper understanding of who God is and a greater opportunity to trust His character. Outside of God himself, nothing will bring us ultimate satisfaction. As sweet as I anticipate it will be to finally hold our son in my arms, I realize that even the beauty and joy of that anticipated moment will not last forever. Make no mistake; he will be dearly loved by virtue of his position as our son, and we hope and pray that he will be a joyful addition to our family. But for Jr and I, our newest son will not meet our deepest needs nor satisfy our souls. Only God can do that. So in the wait, I have come to realize that while withholding from me for a time something for which I long, God is simultaneously giving to me that which I most need- the good gift of Himself. I have never been so aware of both God’s goodness and sovereignty as I have been through our adoption process. My utter inability to speed things along in any significant way has made me lean into the sovereignty of God in ways I never have before. Opening up my heart to our son and beginning to love him while he lives halfway around the world, completely outside of anything I can do for him, has made me feel quite vulnerable at times. But as my Bible studies in the last few years have led me through Exodus, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and 1 and 2 Samuel, I have seen more and more the underlying theme of God’s sovereignty over all things, His ability to work out His purposes for His people, and the beauty of the faith that develops in those who joyfully submit to His sovereign rule. The saints of old who waited with hope for God to work on their behalf have encouraged me to do the same, and to trust His goodness in it. Some of the most discouraging times in our adoption process have also been those in which I have clung most closely to God’s character as revealed in Scripture and have experienced a peace in the process that can only come from Him.
- Waiting for temporal things helps develop a greater awareness of our wait for the eternal things to come. Since matching with our son 8 months ago, there isn’t a day that has gone by in which I haven’t thought about him. Some days the awareness is greater than others, but the anticipation of meeting him, the questions about how he is developing, and wondering how he is being cared for are always there. His pictures hang in our hallway and we have a timeline printed to mark our progress to him. We pray for him daily, talk about him with our kids, and took the time on his 1st birthday to mark a remembrance of him in a special way. In short, we are waiting for him with eager, purposeful anticipation, preparing for his arrival as best we can and very much looking forward to the day when he is physically with us. We genuinely hoped that our son would be with us by Christmas this year, but that is not the case. In the disappointment, God has been impressing upon me that our purposeful, anticipation for being united with our son should echo the way I can and should wait for the eternal things to come. As a follower of Jesus, I am waiting for His return and the inauguration of the new heaven and the new earth when I will be with Him for eternity, but it can be easy to let the cares of this world and the distractions of daily life dull the sense of anticipation that I should have at that coming day. Learning to be purposeful in our adoption wait is a means by which God has been teaching me to be purposeful in the wait for eternity, grabbing hold of the means of grace which He has provided to cultivate that anticipation and prepare me for it-studying the Word to know Him better, memorizing Scripture to hide it in my heart, joyfully participating in fellowship with other believers, praying regularly, etc. Even as they help me to live each day, these means of grace are also intended to orient me towards eternity and the joy of what is to come with an eager anticipation that allows me to wait with hope through this present life.
- Waiting for what is temporal and uncertain develops a greater joy that our wait in Christ is a sure hope. One of the most difficult parts of the adoption wait is the uncertainty of it. There are estimated timelines for everything, but as we have learned, there is no guarantee that any of those timelines will be met. Hiccups along the way are a reminder that nothing in the process is certain, and while our process has continued along as ‘normally’ as possible with longer timelines than we had hoped, other adoptive families along the path with us have experienced the real pain and heartache of a disrupted adoption. While we continue to trust and believe that this is what God has for our family, those disruptions have been a reminder that stepping out in faith to what the Lord has called us to isn’t a guarantee of a particular outcome. Waiting with this sense of uncertainty has made me much more aware of and grateful for the fact that in Christ, my wait for an eternity with Him is a sure and certain hope. I have been redeemed by His blood and made righteous in Him. I am sealed by the Holy Spirit, and my position as a daughter of the King is secure. There is nothing that can separate me from His love or rob me of my glorious inheritance in Him. The same is true for every person who has placed his or her trust in Jesus for salvation from sin. We have a sure and certain hope in Christ. And so, a wait for something temporal, and therefore at least somewhat uncertain, can also be a means by which God points us to look beyond the temporal and continue to find joy and hope in our certain eternal future with Him.
If like me, you are a follower of Jesus in the midst of a wait, may you be encouraged in this season of Advent. As hard as the wait can be, God is purposeful in it. While His timing and His work may be hard to understand, we can rest in the peace that comes with the knowledge that He is both sovereign and good in all that He does. And while we wait to see when and how He will act, may we find daily joy in knowing Him better and allowing our temporal season of wait to point us towards the joyful anticipation of an eternity with Christ where our hope and future is secure.
And to our son: Though we haven’t yet had the joy of holding you, we love you. Though you are still half a world away from us physically, the Lord has knitted you into our hearts. Along with your sisters and brother, we are joyfully anticipating the day when we will get to bring you home. The wait has felt long, but we know that God has been purposeful in it. It is our deepest prayer that one day, you will be convinced of the same. We are so thankful that God has chosen us to step into the pain and grief of your story and provide for you a home and a family. It is our privilege to walk this road with you. But while we will love you fiercely as your earthly family and do all that we can to meet your needs, we hope and pray that ultimately, we will have the joy of introducing you to your Heavenly Father. We pray that some day you will know that while you were an orphan for a time here on earth, you have never been without your Heavenly Father. He is the one who knitted you together in your mother’s womb, who placed His hand of protection over you even at your most vulnerable moments, and we know that He is the one who is loving and caring for you even now while we wait for you. We pray that one day you will have the joy of knowing Jesus as your savior and that your adoption into our family will be a powerful means by which God will help you to know and understand the beauty of adoption in Christ and the glorious inheritance that waits all of those who by faith, have trusted Jesus for salvation.
Merry Christmas, son. We love you, and by God’s grace, we are coming for you soon!