September 16, 2012

Not destiny or magical thinking...but still God.

A while back there was an article in the New York Times' blog that quickly became a hot potato in the adoption world. It’s called “Adoption, Destiny and Magical Thinking”. In it the author discusses the phenomenon that many adoptive parents feel their child was “destined” to be theirs. Adoptive Families Magazine posed this question on Facebook as a result: do you feel your child was brought to you by fate, destined to be yours? 

The answers given left me deflated and broke my heart.

The majority of people that answered the question felt their child was “meant” to be theirs. Most of those people also stated that it was God who brought their child to them and many went as far as to imply that the only reason that child was created was because God wanted them to be parents. I was appalled at the lack of compassion and kindness these answers showed.

Several people understandably cried out over the idea that a loving god would ordain and even create the painful situations that often lead to birthparents placing their children for adoption: poverty, loss, rape, brokenness. This comes across as a manipulative god who uses people as baby-making machines, then tears their family painfully apart (adoption is painful, people) to make those other people happy parents. It does not make sense, they said. 

And I agree.

Yet, I believe strongly that God had a big hand on our adoption of Isabel and Noah. If you’ve read this blog before, you know that very well. Except, the God I serve and love does not work the way those “destiny,” “meant to be,” “all about my happiness” people say He does and I believe when Christians use clichés like those in response to people’s pain and tragedy, we are dragging His name through the mud and hurting our witness. But that’s a post for another day.

I feel compelled however, even in my little space that does not speak very loudly, to make amends, to apologize to those who have been hurt by those comments made by adoptive parents and to explain how the God I know played a role in our adoption, just as He plays a role in every other decision I make. 

I believe in a God that gives people free will. This means people have the ability to make choices and live with the consequences, good and bad, of those choices. Everyone is making choices every day; we are not puppets in the hands of a manipulative god.

In adoption everyone makes choices as well. On one hand you have a woman who, by her own choices or the choices made by others in some awful cases, finds herself pregnant. She has three choices then. She can abort, she can parent, or she can place her child for adoption. When my children’s birthmother found herself pregnant, she made the choice to place them with an agency for adoption. She chose a closed adoption. She made use of her free will and chose what to do about her situation.

On the other side of this adoption you have two people deciding how to become parents. When we found out we could not conceive naturally we were faced with choices of how to expand our family. We could use reproductive technologies, we could use a surrogate, we could adopt, etc.

Here is where God comes in, at least in our story.

Because we are believers in God, we try to live according to the Bible’s teachings. We believe in making our decisions prayerfully and seeking the Bible as our guide. So when we are faced with choices, we go to God. Not so that He will force us to do this or that, not so He will manipulate us like puppets, but so that He will give us wisdom and insight in how to proceed.

We decided to pursue the most natural and least invasive process of reproductive help that was available, and twice it was unsuccessful. Then, prayerfully, we decided to go no further with reproductive assistance. The Bible teaches us that we are in this world to take care of one another and to be family to those who have no family, so the decision to adopt had been a part of our marriage’s DNA even before we knew it would be our only option. To stop spending money on medical assistance and instead use that money to adopt was not a hard decision for us, because we felt God directing.  

Because we are believers, we chose to go with an agency that has the same Christian values. I cannot speak for the way my kids’ birthmother made her choices because, unfortunately, we don’t know her. But for whatever reason she called this particular agency for both of her placements. Both of the kids had already been placed by the time we received the call to ask if we would adopt them. Both times we sought God’s wisdom in deciding, both times we accepted and we have never looked back. 

We don’t believe God orchestrated S. getting pregnant so WE could be parents. To think so is arrogant and unloving towards a woman whose decision was painful and difficult. But we believe God took all of our choices, hers to place, ours to adopt, and directed us to find these particular children to become part of our family. We believe He led us to that particular agency because S. went to that particular agency and He knew our two kids would need us. When we adopted Isabel, we were the only couple that agency had that would take children of color. Noah, being biologically related, was placed with us automatically and now they are together.

In that sense, our adoption was miraculous. Not in the magical sense. Not in the manipulative sense. Only in the sense of a loving God who can take the painful situations we experience by our choices or the choices others make, and finds ways to create beauty (families, loving open-adoption relationships with birth parents, true orphans who find a home) through people who seek him and allow themselves to be led and used for his loving purposes.

I realize this probably makes no sense to someone who is not a believer. And I get that. To expect you to share, agree or even understand my way of life is not fair to you and it only creates more division and separation between us. I also know that there are Christians out there who do believe God pre-determines all of our choices. Clearly, that is not my theology and it is not a theological debate I seek here. 

But if you ask me if God played a part in the adoption of my children, carefully, tactfully, but definitely I will tell you YES! I just hope you give me the chance to explain before you assume I am a “destiny and magical thinking” kind of mom. 


Kathleen Jaeger said...

I appreciate this perspective, Gaby. I fell asleep thinking about this...that God does not need our sinful choices to cause something else to happen. Rather, He can still work His purposes, beautiful purposes in spite of sinful choices. It is hard to articulate and am even having difficulty saying what I want to say in the comments but I think I'm on the same page. ..

Gaby said...

That's just it, Kathleen! God is in the business of redeeming our lives and our situations. Thank you for sharing your heart.

Lori Lavender Luz said...

I love how you bring personal choice and divine guidance together. I see the image of the path of S intersecting with your own path and I see how you can embrace both free will and miracles. Well done, Gaby!

Nancy Franson said...

Well, you know I'm tracking with you here, my friend! My children are young adults now, and I feel as though I'm only beginning to see the painful places in their adoption stories. There are missing pieces of their history, their lives did not play out as God intended--Can a nursing mother forget the child at her breast? Sadly, because of the fallenness and brokenness of this world, the answer to that question is, sometimes, yes.

But God who is rich in mercy is at work redeeming and restoring broken lives. And I count it such a privilege that I get to be part of that work. Everything is not perfect, missing pieces will remain this side of eternity, but God knew I need these beautifully broken children to bless me in my brokenness.

Gaby said...

Yes, yes! You understand just where I'm coming from, Nancy. That's what we do, we bless each other in our brokenness. That's why we live in community.

Gaby said...

Thank you, Lori. It means a lot coming from you.

soulstops said...

God redeems our choices. I think you explained your view well, Gaby. It is so encouraging to see how God's sovereignty and desire to restore and redeem intersects with our free will. Thanks, my friend :)

Jennifer 'Miner' Ferguson said...

I love our heart, Gaby. You express your heart and your life so well in this space. May God's voice be heard by many through your words.

Pamela Kuhn said...

Beautifully stated. When we lost our Sarah people told us God took her so my husband's sisters would turn to God. I so wanted God to use our pain to draw others to Himself, but rejected the thought that He would cause my baby to suffer purposely. I'm praying this post will travel far and wide.

Jean Wise said...

So well written, Gaby. I love how you clearly gave the history of what started this and your reasons - clear, open, loving reasons - for your belief. So often we speak without really thinking first. such a shame we hurt others that way.

Debbie said...

Beautifully written, Gaby! I Though adoption is probably the most poignant example, I think what you said it can be applied across the spectrum of our lives. Our God is not a manipulative chess player who uses one person's sorrow to bring happiness to another but a God who works all things together for good. Not a great comparison, but I was thinking as I read this of a picture I posted one time from our local paper. It was of a mother listening to the heartbeat of the man who had received her son's heart by transplant. Can you imagine the recipient telling that mother that the only reason God ever knit her son together in her womb was for the purpose of providing him a heart?

One of Satan's greatest deceptions, IMO, is the deception that we can put a Christian spin on self-absorption, and as long as we give God some "credit", it can still be all about "me".

Probably clear as mud, but what I'm basically saying is that I agree.

(And that Liebster award post shows me that we agree on a lot of earthly thing, too. Hope that doesn't scare you!)

Lori McClure said...

Wow, you are really making me think here. As someone on the outside, I've never thought about it this way, but you're right. I have friends who've adopted, and I think it's easy to get wrapped up in how they feel. I never looked at this way, but you're making complete sense. There is more to identify with than the adoptive parents.