Saturday, October 3, 2015

Adoption is My Marathon, Not My 100 Yard Dash.

My 9 year old son Josiah has discovered he has a natural ability to run long distances.  He amazes me with his endurance and speed without tiring!  Since I ran track and cross country in high school, I thought I'd teach him a thing or two about stretching, breathing, pacing, strategies going uphill and downhill, how to pick off competitors in a race, etc.  I had an amazing coach in high school and still remember what he taught me.  Having 3 babies, getting a bad back at an early age, and not being able to get away from young children has held me back from running again, but Josiah's eagerness to run in 5K races has motivated me to be his coach and companion when he runs up and down the country roads by our home.
Today we ran our second 5K together.  The first 5K was a spur of the moment decision brought on by the coaxing of a good friend who wanted us to support her St. Jude fundraiser.  I was terribly out of shape but still gave it my all and finished with my pride intact.  Josiah got first for his age category without blinking.  After finishing I got a migraine headache and was out for the count for the remainder of the day.

Today's 5K was different.  We have spent 3 weeks running every weekday, keeping track of our pace, increasing distance every day to develop endurance, and we arrived at the race prepared.  However, I was more anxious.  I remembered what it was like to fight for my breath, to wince through the pain in my chest and to feel like I was passing out as I crossed the finish line.  While I knew we'd do better (he shaved 4 minutes off his time and I shaved 3 off mine) and I would have an easier time recovering, I still knew the reality of what it was going to be like.

I honestly don't enjoy running.  I'd rather be hiking a trail with a backpack, doing aerobics in my living room, or taking a swim in the pool for my exercise.  Running a set distance doesn't leave space for slowing down intensity (unless you want people to pass you), taking a break, grabbing a drink of water (unless you have stations along the way or run with your bottle) so it is harder on my body and requires more dedication and toughing it out.
As I've run I've had time to think about how this is a mirror image of our adoption journey.  We can see our race to the "finish" of taking home the daughter (or daughters) God is preparing for us as a sprint like some people have experienced.  Many parents I know have "fallen into" adoption.  They may not even have a home study ready yet, and a baby is offered to them.  They may have just put in their paperwork and get a call that a child is waiting for them.  I am so happy for those families.  They don't have to wait months or years to finally have their hopes and dreams come true.  They get to rush to a hospital or quickly make arrangements, grab supplies at Walmart, and come home with their child just as fast as they have found out about him/her.  It is a whirlwind of emotion and an adrenaline-pumping adventure.

For some reason God hasn't given our family a 100 yard dash adoption journey.  It took 11 1/2 months from start to finish to bring Anna Faith home.  While we were on a set time line and expected our journey to take that long, it still was an agonizing process and the months went by slowly as we waited through paperwork and approvals.  With this adoption, it is even more agonizing.  It has been 7 months now. We don't have to wait on paperwork, we don't wait on approvals, and there is no time line.  There is silence.  Complete and utter silence.  When we explored adopting "L" after hosting her, thinking this may be God's answer to the silence while waiting to adopt domestically, that was also a dead end, at least for several months.  Again, more silence.  She doesn't even communicate with us despite all our attempts to get her to do so.  Now that she is coming back for Christmas, we know decisions will be made after she leaves in January.  This may be followed by more silence or, if she is favorable to it, we can finally begin pursuing her adoption which would begin another long, agonizing international process.

Here's where I apply running to adoption:

-When I run, I must be in shape and know my limitations.  If I run longer than my body can take (like my first 5K in 20 years done from a spontaneous decision) it will damage my body.
Adoption: I must realize I am human. I am a sinner in need of grace.  Coming into the adoption process blindfolded, out of shape spiritually, and unprepared for the difficulties ahead is unwise.  It damages the heart and everyone involved.  We have had our hearts broken.  We have experienced rejection.  Now that we have learned how difficult this journey can be, we are stronger and more prepared to take on the challenges ahead.  Will we get injured again?  Most likely, yes.  But we will be prepared and prayed up more the next time it happens.

-When I run, I don't look back.  Looking back messes up my focus and slows me down.
 Adoption: Don't regret past decisions made.  Don't keep your eyes off the end.  God will complete what He has begun, and turning your eyes off it will only lead to discouragement and anxiety.

-When I run, I don't slow down.  I run a steady rhythm, only speeding up at the end so I can finish well.  This is what my coach taught me to do, as many runners slow down near the end and I can pick them off and finish even better.
Adoption:  Keep pushing, realizing it is a long journey.  Be patient, and know that the end will come when the timing is right.

-When I run, I focus on my breathing.  Getting the much needed oxygen to my muscles to keep me going is key to not wearing out.
Adoption:  My oxygen is my relationship with God.  Getting in His Word, claiming His promises, bringing my requests to Him daily, and asking for His grace to get through the discouraging and dark times are vital to continuing the adoption process.  Without His strength to go on, my "muscles" will give out and I'll stop running.  I'll want to give up and quit.

Maybe your race isn't an adoption journey.  Maybe it's cancer, a chronic illness, getting through school, a difficult relationship, preparing for ministry and not knowing when there will be a breakthrough and open door to walk into.
Not all of us are given 100 yard dashes.  We don't understand God's reasons, and even when we get to the finish line, we still may not understand why the race had to be so long and hard.
But God knows, and He can be trusted.
With His strength, we will endure.  We will finish.  We will complete the race.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us