After my last post, Andy asked, "Did you ever read my annual report?"
Nina and the Ukraine
Before we went to the Ukraine, I said many times that I couldn’t believe how much I already loved Nina. I felt like my love was similar to the love that God had for me even before I knew him. But once we met her, I realized that I was more in love with an idea of Nina than with who Nina actually is. At our first meeting, she seemed emotionally distant from us, very shy, and developmentally very far behind. We left that visit with deflated dreams. I was in love with an idea that had Nina wanting us as parents and fitting perfectly in our family. I was in love with the idea of adoption because we were saving this girl’s life. I had a picture of who this girl was and how the process would go, and I loved that, but I didn’t know her and realized that I didn’t love her like I thought I did.
Meeting her and realizing that she was not the same as my dream robbed me of any feelings of love. The process did not go like I had imagined it and she was not clinging to us as her parents. As you can imagine, I was discouraged that my feelings of love were not there. Pictures made it look like we were deeply connected, but in my heart I knew that was not true.
But, we continued to meet with her, and play with her, and enjoy her, and slowly but surely, I began falling in love with this beautiful three year old girl. Even though our first impressions of her were mainly false, it was necessary that we moved from a dream world into a reality of more accurate expectations. And what we have found is that living in the reality of the situation is so much better than our dream world could ever be.
I have also said many times that this adoption process has made God’s adoption of us more meaningful to me. This journey of falling in love with Nina is also true of our relationship with Jesus. Often times we have a picture of who this God is and we fall in love with our idea of God. As life happens, though, we find our picture of God distorted and we find ourselves disoriented. This brings us to a choice of letting go of our inaccurate concept of God or of being frustrated that he is different than we thought. In many ways, we need to be deflated from our false ideas of God so that we can fall in love with the true God as he really is. This is not a fun or easy process but can be confusing and painful. As we continue to spend time with him and allow who he is shape our understanding of him, then we can fall in love with the true God. I pray that this year you are able to fall deeper in love with God as he really is because I’m convinced that the reality is better than any false ideas we have about God. I would love to be able to help you in any way that I can.
This journey of adopting Nina was the most difficult thing that Ellen and I have gone through. It was tumultuous to say the least. I have a new respect for single parents trying to raise kids, work full time, balance the pressures and pain of life, and still find time to serve in the church or community. I have realized that most people’s lives are filled with pain that everyone else is unaware of. The reality is life is often really hard and full of pain. We are thankful, though, that similar to labor, our journey ends positively with much joy.