Tammy speaking of adoption was not newsworthy. She always talked about adoption. Before we adopted, after we’d adopted. Not a big deal. Enoch talking about it was probably newsworthy, but he had begun to say lots of things lately that had our eyebrows up. In a good way. God had really pursued him (his words) during our Thailand trip in February, and we were overjoyed to be seeing more glimpses of “the real Enoch” than we had in a long time.
But take him seriously? Or her?
Of course not. Adoption was not on the table. There was no end to the reasons why.
Come on, we already have five kids—two adopted. Their needs are unending—not to mention varying wildly even from one another’s, each’s exceeding those of the biologicals’ put together. Already our kids don’t get all the attention from mom and dad they could really use. Already there isn’t enough of us to go around.* And suddenly adding a teenage boy to that mix is a good idea? Maybe some families can do that, but we are Not That Family. And why would I want to size us right out of seven-passenger vans just to save one more kid? OK, that sounds awful saying it out loud; but practical reasons are still reasons, you know. We can’t save everyone. We’ve Done Our Part. Not this time.
Tammy asked me if I’d pray about it.
No, I didn’t believe I would, thank you, and said as much.
She wasn’t asking so she could win me over. She was scared God was giving her this burden, not hoping that he was. Why wouldn’t the burden go away? Why, just when she’d ask God to take it away, would it grow stronger?
“It’ll pass, dear.” I reassured her. Tammy may have a compassionate heart, but all that mush is no match for my one-two punch of patience and stubbornness. I would wait her out.
Something else that did nothing to calm Tammy’s racing heart was hearing a story from another family who’d seen the boy. They knew him because a few years earlier they’d adopted one of his friends. Then on a recent visit to their son’s O, they’d spoken with their son’s friend face to face. He was dying for a family of his own: “Can’t you please, pleeeease take me home with you? They haven’t found a family for me.”
What ideas could he have of the laborious process, the months of paperwork? He had less chance of comprehending the stress his addition could potentially bring upon a family than clues about what sizing them out of a van could mean. He only wondered why no one wanted him. At the end of the visit his face was downcast. He watched his old friend leave with the family that loved him. He still had none.
That very day, we were attending our regular Saturday fellowship gathering. That particular week was Tammy’s turn to teach the kids, so I was in the service by myself, and not doing very well. Almost alarmingly so. Just that week I’d journaled a sentence wondering “if this is what descending into clinical depression would feel like?” I was spiraling. Heavy stuff—nothing to do with the kid. (Or at least it felt awfully heavy. Clinical depression is some people’s reality—my reality was not nearly so serious, though in the moment I couldn’t get my hands on that perspective.)
“Will you never speak? Will I never know WHY you spoke the way you spoke before? Did that time mean anything? Is this ‘thing’ going anywhere?”
I was desperate for God to speak. I’d even told him I would welcome a “no” to the above ‘thing’ that was tormenting me—I wasn’t demanding “yeses” to everything—I’d have taken “no” or anything. But I was getting nothing.
So into my mind came: The Deal.
Though to me it seemed absolute epiphany. Nothing smelled of “dealmaking” from my vantage point––one does not make deals with God. Unless…unless (I see now) one does not realize that that is what one is doing. No, in my mind this was no deal, this was an “opportunity”: a golden opportunity for God.
“Hey! You know that boy? Tammy’s kid she can’t stop thinking about? Are you the one doing that in her? I’ll tell you what: I’m so serious about needing an answer from you on this other thing that I’m willing to put even him on the table: If you’ll answer me this week—positive or negative, doesn’t matter—I’ll match my enthusiasm for this boy to what you do.”
The next day I was horrified. But a deal’s a deal. The desire to put the ‘thing’ behind me and move forward or move on was so strong that I still secretly hoped the week would hold some news (“secretly” meaning that I didn’t even tell myself I was hoping; certainly it was secret from everyone else, especially Tammy). Every morning (that’s when the day is just ending on the U.S. side of the world) I checked email. One home-run from one particular person, or…several various other emails from any number of several other people, and I’d consider that hearing something. (“Why, Mr. Dealmaker, what generous terms you have!”) It had been weeks upon months of nothing but waiting.
There was nothing in the email. After the kids went off to school, I spent time praying. Journaling. Reading. Seeking.
The next day was the same. All six days that week were the same. Ulcer territory.
Saturday came again. I’d had no emails, no thoughts, no inspiration, no Word.
“Are you really going to leave me hanging like this? I don’t know where you are anymore…”
Walking into the service, my faltering hope still hadn’t died, though. Perhaps the service would prove significant. God still had one hour.
I would walk out at the end of that hour not only discouraged about what didn’t happen, but stung over what did.
*Though in any family (I recall one overwhelming us at times) all kids could probably thrive under “more” from mom and dad, kids from hard places really do come to us with unique needs (and not just emotional, which I only discovered after adopting) that may not disappear for years, if ever.