Emily and her husband Steve are dear friends of ours. I had the delight of working with Steve in ministry and traveling with him in Congo before he knew Emily. Then, John and I had the privilege of performing their wedding ceremony together! This remarkable young couple inspire me with their faith and authenticity. It’s an honor to walk alongside them on their journey! I asked Emily 5 Questions…because I knew she’d be honest and reflect from a heart seeking God.
1. Over the past year and a half you’ve had an experience that has been deeply painful and disappointing. Can you describe what happened?
In early 2013, my husband and I got the green light to travel to Congo to meet and pick up the little girl and little boy that we were in the process of adopting. We had spent 13 months previously preparing our home and our family for the addition of 2 more little ones, a little girl 18 months old and a boy 2 ½ years old. Although we knew it would be crazy to have 4 little kids in our home, we felt that adoption was always supposed to be a part of our family’s story and felt that it was a desire that God had placed in our hearts.
We had been prepared for the fact that the little boy we were adopting might be a little older than what we had originally been told, perhaps 6-9 months, however, when we met him in Congo he was clearly at least 6 ½ and was a very angry, emotionally fraught child, quite prone to physically aggressive outbursts.
Over the next month and a half, it became very apparent that we were not the right family for him, nor him for us and thus we began the disruption of his adoption. My other children were traumatized by him, including a lot of physical aggression towards the little girl we adopted from Congo. My other 2 children became quite withdrawn from us. The boy was placed, via our adoption agency, with another family in another state.
Not only was this experience disappointing – our family did not turn out the way that we had pictured it - it completely turned my faith and view of God upside down, and inside out.
2. What were your expectations going into adoption?
My expectations going into adoption were that they were almost foolproof – how could anything go awry when we clearly felt God lead us into adoption? If God was leading us to take on this big, only-by-faith adventure, then how could it fail? Why did it fail?
Another expectation is that my husband and I are really good parents – quite grounded, loving, supportive and felt like we could handle anything prior to this unraveling. I thought we could do anything; after all, “if God is for us who can be against us”, right?
3. What adjectives would you have used to describe your experience of God’s character before this, and what adjectives would you use to describe Him now?
Before – secure, protective, for us, with me, got Him all figured out.
Now – unknown, mysterious, complicated, not one to be boxed in, evasive.
4. What have you done to try to process this experience? What has been most healing?
I don’t think I realized the gravity of the situation I was sitting in. This experience took me from a grounded, confident, happy person and turned me into someone who battles doubts, fears, depression, and at times I’m joyless and rather unsure-of-myself. I have tried to process this experience with close girlfriends, some who have been through similar hellish experiences. My mentor has been rock solid for me, especially when I didn’t think there would ever be light in my life again. About a year after it all happened, my husband convinced me to start seeing a therapist, which has been good and hard work all at the same time. I have also been on medications to help me move through this dark valley.
I think what has been most healing for me has been reckless honesty, with myself and with those I trust most in my life. I am trying to be more transparent and more authentic, even when the real me I bring to the table isn’t my favorite me these days. I think it has also been quite healing to move through the stages of grief – all of them – anger, sadness, depression, letting go and to realize that grief is circular, not linear.
5. What do you feel like you’re learning?
I am learning my limits and my bandwidth for pain. I am learning that…
- Everyone will hit a hard place in life and there’s no way to predict or prepare for it
- You can’t go around the pain, but you have to go through it.
- You can’t speed up the healing process, no matter how hard you might try. :)
- I am also learning the beauty of community; my husband and I have said over and over that we could have never made it through this season if it weren’t for our incredible community of friends and family and church.
Resources that have been helpful to Emily: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning
If you liked this post, you may also like Mind the Gap.