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. )