Adoption and the Reluctant Spouse-
you are not alone
If your spouse is reluctant to adopt, you are not alone. I would venture to guess that over half of all adopting couples experience a tension of readiness. So, how do you get to "readiness" vs "reluctance" or even "refusal?" Strap in-let me share a piece of my past related to roller coasters...
When I was a young girl, Knott’s Berry Farm was not far from my home in Southern California. It was the ultimate fun with its rustic, down-home-themed amusement park complete with country-fried chicken, Knott’s boysenberry jam, enormous pickles in wooden barrels and dirt streets bordered by plank sidewalks.
So it was completely out of character when the park added a modern, spiral-formed, tubular metal roller coaster known as the Corkscrew. It was famous for its ability to propel riders through a series of gut-wrenching twirls and twists guaranteed to elicit screams from the most steadfast girls. The steel monster pummeled riders upside down over a reflection pond, thereby doubling the hysteria of its passengers. The man-made pond deceived the innocent spectator who contemplated riding the rails above it, for however beautifully landscaped the pond might have been, one found it difficult to overlook the shrieks reverberating above it. The structure was a daunting sight. It was menacing, yet inviting for those brave enough to ride it.
Tugging my arm, my older brother taunted me, trying to get me to join him on the ride. The more he insisted, the more I retreated. Finally, my mother told him to leave me alone. I found a lemonade stand across from the ride and much preferred to quietly sip the perfect blend of tart sweetness while watching my brother wildly scream with exhilaration. Several times while leaning on the fence intently watching the drama play out, I saw people’s keys or coins fall into the pond, never to be returned. Suckers.
Two years later, I was a middle school student with books under my arm, slamming my locker and walking down crowded hallways to my next class. When asked by my two closest girlfriends if I would like to join them on a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm, I didn’t hesitate. Once there, they led the way and headed straight for the Corkscrew. I followed as we chatted about school and boys. I hardly glanced at the structure above me as we waited in line for our turn. I climbed in, pushed the restraint bar to my lap and gripped the black rubber padding. As we were pulled upward, the climb began. The view was great, but it quickly disappeared as we were jerked around and turned upside down, our bodies thrown from side to side. I remained silent as my riding companion screamed her head off.
As we departed the Corkscrew, my friend told the others that I was as cool as a cucumber through the whole ride. I was the object of unjustified admiration. What had—two years earlier—been an inner struggle of eagerness versus fear was now reduced to only a footnote in a day’s activities at Knott’s Berry Farm.
As it was with my Corkscrew ride, the starting point of adoption is all about readiness. What seems impossible at one point in time may be quite simple at another. The trick is to recognize the importance of readiness when approaching the platform of adoption.
Reluctant Spouse? You are not alone...
Joel, my husband, did not immediately jump on board the day I shared my calling to adopt with him. Patience is not my strong suit. While I knew it was critical to be united in our adoption plan, I had to repress my raw emotions to allow for civilized discussion on the topic. Joel is a faithful follower of the Lord, and I had confidence he would come around. Yet I felt a pressure to convince and continue to readdress the issue in order to gain his support.
During those conversations, Joel presented his objections. From his perspective, adoption meant spending a lot of money for the experience of bringing the unknown into his perfect family. He had two wonderful children and a wife he loved very much. An unexpected idea had now invaded this sanctity and was overshadowing every bit of reason he possessed. He was torn between his love for me and his sense of reason. After all, his job as a lawyer was vested in evidence and irrefutable logic. How could I expect him to turn over a new leaf and to accept something that at first seemed so illogical?
It wasn’t long before the Lord interceded in a way that extended his ability to contemplate for a period of five months. Joel, active duty Air Force lawyer, was deployed to the Middle East. When he left for his deployment, he was still resistant. This forced waiting period allowed time for the Lord to break down Joel’s many, valid concerns. Shortly after Joel returned from his deployment to the Middle East, we enjoyed a pizza lunch at the Base Exchange food court together—a romantic getaway from the chatter of our children. He shared that he had done a lot of thinking and praying while he was away, and he was willing to support me. He had many concerns about adopting: the impact on our other two children, how old he would be at our child’s high school graduation, the reality that we would have less freedom and the factor of finances. Nevertheless, he said, “We are a team. We have always been a team. If the Lord has called you in this way, then he has called me too.” Yes! We were past the turnstile and climbing aboard!
What initially appeared to be a Mount Everest-sized problem seemed to have evaporated without significant persuasion. As was true with the Corkscrew ride, it was simply a matter of readiness. I knew that my husband’s commitment was subject to further doubt, but we were united as we proceeded with a plan to adopt.
The Importance of Being United...
In the midst of our struggle to be united, the scripture Jeremiah 50:4 provided clarity: “In those days, at that time,” declares the LORD, “the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the LORD their God.” The focal point of this verse is that the Israelites and people of Judah, together, went to seek the Lord.
They shared their brokenness with the Lord in sorrow and also rejoiced in the mercy of God. They were about to set off on a journey to return to their own country after being in bondage and captivity for such a long time. As we prepared to set out on our adoption journey, it became important that we prayed together about this calling. If you are going through a season of life that includes infertility, this scripture points to sharing in your sorrow together also. Grief is complicated. It takes time. It is expressed very differently from person to person. But together seek the Lord in that grief. Then, move forward!
Another passage that punctuated the need for unification in our approach was Ephesians 4:3: “The Holy Spirit makes you one in every way. So try your best to remain as one. Let peace keep you together.” This was one of my hardest struggles, being confident enough that the Lord would work in Joel’s heart that I could feel peace and not pressure to change his mind. No amount of debate or discussion was going to be effective. There were many times I felt myself swallow my words and pray for the Lord to take over. It needed to be the work of the Holy Spirit in Joel’s heart that nudged him to get on board. Arguments, dissension and friction in our relationship is not what the Lord intended to create with this calling, that I knew.
Trusting in the Lord requires patience in His ways. Seek to be united in your approach, and have patience in His ways as the Lord readies you and your family for adoption.
If you are feeling like your quest for adoption is one-sided, what do you feel your role is in helping your spouse/partner get “on board?” Start pedaling in the right direction by writing a prayer, preferably together, sharing your brokenness with the Lord and rejoicing in His mercy.
-Excerpts from United: Readiness, Chapter 2 in Tandem: A Devotional for Adopting with God in the Lead
Scripture for the Road
“In those days, at that time,” declares the LORD, “the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the LORD their God.”
The Holy Spirit makes you one in every way. So try your best to remain as one. Let peace keep you together.
-Alison England, LMSW Author of Best-Selling Book in Adoption-Tandem: A Devotional for Adopting with God in the Lead
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