Every Bitter Thing
Every Bitter Thing
Infertility. I always feared it. It was the one thing I believed I could never get through. To desire a good thing that is completely outside of my control is terrifying. I was amazed at the strength of people who walked in this reality, sometimes for many years. When I was blessed with a healthy baby boy immediately after a miscarriage, I remember thinking to myself, fertility might be the one area of my life that won’t be marked by struggle.
Adoption. I always thought it was a great idea, but I never wanted to do it. When we heard stories of our friends or family adopting, I would think to myself, I don't think I could ever do it. I never felt called to it. My insecurities made me fear it.
Then the thing I feared most and the thing I felt I could never do collided.
As we started on our journey of secondary infertility, Paul would mention adoption from time to time. My response was always the same: adoption wasn’t for me. I kept wondering what was wrong with me. Why wasn’t I as excited as Paul about adoption? What was holding me back?
Over time God began to reveal to me what was in my heart. It started with basic questions.
“What do I really want?” I want to be pregnant again. I want a newborn again. I want to capture those first sweet moments of seeing my toddler, Asher, as a big brother. I want to take pictures of sweet newborn hands and feet and experience again the miracle of life.
“What am I afraid of?” I'm afraid of attachment. What if attachment doesn't happen? How do I cope with that rejection? And what about all those adoption stories I’ve heard and read about—of the heartache and struggle? Would I be ready for these unique challenges?
“Where is my heartache rooted?” Infertility feels like failure. If I am being completely honest, adoption feels like a reminder of my failure to conceive again. How could God give me the desire for more children to leave it unfulfilled?
These weren't just questions, they were signals of deeper pain. I couldn't reason with myself. I didn't have the balm that would soothe the pain and shame behind my questions. I began to pray for God to make clear what His vision was for our family.
One Saturday this past February, God opened my heart to see how he had been answering my prayers long before I began to pray. Paul and I have been part of the Redemption Group ministry at Calvary since 2010. It is almost 5 years exactly since we traveled to Seattle for the Redemption Group leadership training. The truth we encountered in our four days there was life changing.
From that point on, our marriage was on a new trajectory-- imperfect still, but more grace filled and more visibly impacted by God. Mike Wilkerson taught a lesson on shame I will never forget. As I listened to God speak truth to my heart, the walls of shame encapsulating my heart melted under the intense heat of the truth of God's love and the reality that the shame I felt was no longer mine to carry. I faced the pain of past heartache and abuse, but rather than being consumed by that shame, I emerged victorious because I saw that Christ bore my shame on the cross. Redemption Groups has profoundly impacted us. We have been blessed to bring this ministry back to Calvary and share these truths with many others over the past 5 years.
Here we were once again, reflecting on how the Lord worked through another session of Redemption Groups. I sat on the edge of our bed and shared with Paul what God had been revealing to me during the past few days. As we talked, we started to piece together what had happened over the past two months. We began to realize God's call for our family to adopt.
This past New Year's Eve, Paul told me that he was going to start an extended fast seeking the Lord’s direction for our family and our church’s ministry. I struggled with his decision and was fearful that this would affect our chances to conceive while he was fasting. A few days later, I received an email from one of my oldest and closest friends recommending the book Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty. I visited her website that night. As I read her story of adoption and watched her video, I was fighting tears. Paul watched with me, but I couldn't utter a word, even to him. A few days later, I visited my friend who had recommended the book. I told her that I was starting to consider adoption. Her response of total excitement and support freed me to begin to get excited.
Later that week, Paul and I heard a Christian musician talk about his adoptions and his ministry. He quoted John Piper that night, "The Gospel is not a picture of adoption. Adoption is a picture of the Gospel." Over the next few weeks, I couldn't stop thinking about this. I had never thought of adoption that way before. Why did I have so many fears about something that so clearly articulates God's character and so fully embodies the Gospel? Excitement was growing in my heart. I didn't share any of this with Paul. I was still trying to discern what this all meant. One thing was clear: God was changing my heart.
Paul came to me soon after with the option of embryo adoption. I began to learn more about embryo adoption and became more excited about the idea. It would quench my desire for another pregnancy and would avoid the attachment issues I worried about. This type of adoption made my heart more open to the idea of adoption. Less than a week later, we found ourselves at an international and domestic adoption information meeting. As we explored the options, talked with trusted friends and family, and prayed daily about what God would have us do, it became clear that if we pursued adoption, embryo adoption wouldn't be the best fit for us at this stage.
I never thought I would say it, but international adoption was taking shape as a desire in my heart.
Paul and I prepared to lead another weekend of Redemption Groups. Friday afternoon, a few hours before Redemption Group started, we had a conversation with an organization about international adoption. Some of my fears were eased. I sensed continued excitement sprouting in my heart. I asked two very special people to pray for my heart during the Redemption Group weekend. My prayer was that God would speak clearly to my heart. I wanted to be sure that God was calling us to adopt. I didn't want to run into adoption dreams and plans if it was only to avoid the heartache of barrenness.
Saturday morning, during Redemption Groups, the very same truths that impacted our lives five years ago spoke again to a different area of brokenness.
The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14). This time when I heard that verse, I heard something new: The Lord is fighting for these orphans who have no one to fight for them. The Lord fought for me and brought healing to broken places. Would He use me to fight for them?
The Gospel rewrites shame stories. Shame is part of an orphan's story. Shame was a big part of my story. My life exemplifies this truth. Was God calling me to be part of his work in rewriting an orphan’s story?
We have new names. Because of the gospel, I am not defined by my sin or the sin done against me. I am not known by my failure. God has given me a new name. I am His. Would we have the privilege of giving an orphan a new name?
Tears streamed down my face. Not only was I reminded of the tremendous healing that came in my life from these truths, but I now felt an undeniable call to turn these truths into life for another. I gripped Paul's hand and quietly sobbed. God had used the pain and heartache of these years of infertility to birth in me a desire to give life to someone who was unseen, someone who was forgotten. God was calling our family to give an orphan a new name. God was asking us to be a physical reminder to them that God saw them and knew them in their brokenness just like He was with us in ours.
That evening, after our Redemption Group sessions, I began to share my heart with Paul. Not knowing what he would say to me, I cried and told him what God had showed me through Redemption Groups that weekend. I waited for his response. What he told me next, I will never forget. He recalled the night I told him that I didn't think I could adopt and that I needed him to not pressure me anymore. He said he knew at that time that it would not be him who would change my heart towards adoption. He knew it would have to be a work of God. He shared how this became one of his primary prayers during his extended fast. He recounted that it was only days after he started his fast that I received the email from my friend and began reading Every Bitter Thing is Sweet. He continued to pray and God continued to move.
The next day, we shared our sense of the Lord's call on our lives with our fellow Redemption Group leaders. They prayed for us and cried with us. Their prayers echoed so much of what the Lord had placed on our hearts. God was graciously reminding us of the community He had surrounded us with and the ways in which He was already beginning to meet our needs.
So here we are at the very beginning of our adoption journey. We expect the journey will be long and will surely entail challenges of many kinds. I am learning now that even though we are excitedly moving forward with adoption, the heartache and grief of infertility remain. We continue to plead and hope for God to allow us to have another biological child, even though medically it seems unlikely. We believe strongly, however, that adoption will be part of our family's completion. In all of these things, the joy and heartaches, the tears and laughter, may God be glorified-- for He brought us from darkness into light. He has repeatedly brought life from barrenness in our lives. Surely, He will bring beauty from the ashes of our heartache and the heartache of the orphan that will be part of our family. As we hunger for God, He is making these bitter moments so very sweet.
To the one who is full, honey tastes bitter. To the one who is hungry, every bitter thing tastes sweet. Proverbs 27:7