Have you ever envisioned something a certain way only to have it turn out differently than you planned?
How did you feel about that?
Happy? Probably not. Disappointed? That’s more likely. Maybe you even felt disillusioned?
That’s the way I felt in 1999 when my wife suggested we adopt all our kids. I adamantly resisted and even flat-out said “No!” Not that I was against adoption or caring for children who weren’t biologically ours. I just didn’t fully understand how adoption works. I had grown up in a family that did things the old-fashioned way. Everyone came in to our family biologically.
But adoption was a big part of my wife’s family story. Thus, her heart was passionate about it. And soon enough, my heart changed too. I have God to thank for that. He woke me up and brought me out of shallow thinking and a rather self-centered existence.
To be honest, the foster and adoptive journey has tested us over the past 13 years like nothing else. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying — we love the precious children we’ve been blessed with and have been called to parent. But some of our children suffer from special needs, a result of past trauma, that has made this very hard; at times it feels completely defeating.
While we wouldn’t trade a moment, or a child, we’ve found ourselves on the brink of complete exhaustion. Beyond that, our hearts have been broken — broken for our children and the past trauma they’ve endured, broken for birth parents and their deep sense of loss and pain, but most of all brokenhearted for a world in which innocent children long for a forever home.
That’s when the words in Psalm 34:17-18 envelop us like a warm blanket, in spite of the cold world in which we live: “The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
God allows us to experience seasons that are heartbreaking, but character-molding and spirit-enriching, and then He faithfully draws us near and heals our brokenness.
I may have resisted the adoption and foster care journey in the beginning, but the tragedy and heartbreak of it was exactly what I needed to understand the depth of my heart and the healing power of my Heavenly Father.
The life I’m living is the furthest thing from the story I originally scripted for myself. But it’s a more beautiful and powerful story than I could have imagined. It’s penned by the Creator of the world. And it’s making me the best possible version of myself!
Mike Berry is the author of Confessions of an Adoptive Parent and cocreator of the award-winning blog of the same name. He and his wife, Kristin, have cared for dozens of children through foster care and have adopted all eight of their children.