What are you waiting for?

David DuChemin, a photographer and writer whose work I admire, reflected yesterday on the brevity of life and choosing what’s important. This is a theme that’s been coming up frequently for me in the last several weeks. Francis Chan discusses it in his book Crazy Love (which I’ve mentioned recently) and it’s an idea that comes up repeatedly in the Bible:

As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more. (Psalm 103.15-16)

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4.13-14)

It’s a thought that arose while we were in Ethiopia last week as well. Much of the time I’m oblivious to the reality that my time here is short. Being uprooted from normal routines in a vastly different culture on the other side of the world, however, affords one some opportunities for reflection and focus.

To be honest, the past 15 months of the adoption process have been hard on me. Adding two children to our family—at once—brings with it some significant uncertainties. How will they fit in with our family? Will they bond with us? Do we have enough space for them? Can we afford the expenses of adoption, much less the food, clothes, vehicles, home maintenance, and the thousand other attendant things that go along with a household of seven? What will our family and friends think of us and our decision? Do I have what it takes to be a father to five children? What if…? I could fill a dump truck with the “what ifs” and doubts that have crossed my mind in the last year and a half.

All of these doubts have a common origin: fear and unbelief. I’m afraid that I don’t have what it takes to get things done and I don’t believe that God will come through. Why? Maybe because I live in a setting that requires so little faith. Jesus told his followers to ask God for daily bread; I have a kitchen full of food, an adequate salary with which to buy more, and a grocery store a few miles from my house. Jesus said that birds have nests and foxes have holes but he had no place to lie down for a nap; I have a very nice home. If I get sick, I have access to hospitals and doctors. If I die, a life insurance policy will provide for my family’s financial needs for years after I’m gone. I’m grateful for all of these things but where is there room for me to depend on God? Where has God had opportunity to work his strength in my weakness? Billions of people in the world live without these safety nets; I’m not one of them and neither are most of the people who live in America, Canada, or Europe.

While the adoption process has been hard, it has stretched me and helped me grow. It has taken me past what I know and forced me to do things I wouldn’t do. I like my life and family here in central Illinois just fine, thank you, but now I’m seeing beyond the corn and bean fields that surround us. I’m not a huge fan of travel but I had to fly over land and sea to attend court and meet our children in Ethiopia. Each day in Ethiopia put me on someone else’s agenda, not my own. This has been good and is helping me to learn trust and faith. These are lessons I’m not sure I’d have learned another way.

We don’t get many opportunities to do life-changing things for others. Or maybe we do but we don’t do them or fail to see them. Either way, if our time here is truly short then what we do or don’t do matters all the more.

I’ve dragged my feet through the past several months, to my own shame. Having been in-country, though, and having spent time with the children—and not just ours, but those of the other adoptive families as well as dozens upon dozens of children waiting for families of their own—God has opened my eyes and my heart. We are doing something that matters to these two children and to their mom who so wishes she could support and raise them but loves them enough to let them go. It is an incredible trust she is placing in us and I want to honor that trust.

So we, the Gowins, walk into the unfamiliar, into uncertainty, leaving behind a portion of the life we’ve known, a life that is comfortable and befits us. But we walk in faith in a way that we have not known, and with that has come an unusual peace as well. I’m looking forward to having our children, all of our children, here with us at home.

Fear and uncertainty have held me back but I’m moving forward. If we are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes, what’s holding you back? What are you waiting for?

(*note from Suzanne: Now, please also go back up and click on that David DuChemin link that you passed over.  It’s worth your time. )

4 Replies to “What are you waiting for?”

  1. Michael, I’m sitting in a small cafe by myself just waiting for some friends to pick me up & I must look like such a sad girl. I shed so many tears reading your beautiful post. Bob & I had so many of your same thoughts & fears when we adopted our two kiddos. You are adding to your happy comfortable family so I’m sure it’s even more fearful. But we all know God wouldn’t bring you to this & not bring you through it. He has big plans for us all & He wants us to give him our fears. I couldn’t be more happy for you & your family. You are giving two children an opportunity they may not have otherwise. They will bless your lives indeed. Even more than you could possibly imagine. Our two kiddos changed Bob & I and everything we once were into completely different people. It’s hard to describe. We are so grateful to our children, to their first parents who gave them up in hopes of giving them a better life than they could give. God is so good & He has perfectly selected you & Suzanne to be their parents. It’s no coinicidence. You are so blessed! xoxo ~ Dawn

  2. “I know that part of us wants God to take us to a three act play with a clearly defined plot that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But Jesus takes us to the Improv instead. We want the entire script up front, but that would undermine our dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Following Jesus and keeping in step with the Spirit require the art of improvisation. We’ve got to develop an affinity for uncertainty and learn to enjoy the journey.”

    Just a quote from Mark Batterson’s book I’ve been reading entitled “In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day.” Your post reminded me that I can’t take on everything by myself. You all have been an inspiration to me and I can’t wait to meet Eva and Aidan. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Hope to see you all soon!

  3. Thanks, Dawn, for sharing your thoughts. I think a lot of you and Bob, knowing that you’re so committed to your family. You two have been a blessing to me and I remember talking with Bob about your adoption experience over lunch at the workshop a year ago last May. Thanks for your encouragement!

    J: we appreciate you as well. Very proud of you for your achievements at such a young age and still keeping your heart tuned to God. Not sure when it will be, but hope to see you soon as well.

  4. WOW! GREAT post! I so get what you mean about how this adoption process teaches you things you could learn no other way. Jeff and I haven’t even received our referral (yet!) and we already feel so incredibly blessed by our numerous opportunities to learn more about faith and trust in our Heavenly Father! Can’t wait for you to be together with ALL of your children!

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