It's a Wonderful Life is one of my all-time favorite movies, Christmas or otherwise, and has been since I was little. I'm sure it played a huge part in my liking of large, run-down houses. As an adult I have felt even more of an affinity for the movie, particularly when one of my children plays the same Christmas carol over and over on the piano to accompany the general chaos and every so often someone will knock-off the top of the stairway newel post.
Which has gotten me to thinking about what our life would have been like if we had made different decisions, particularly our initial decision to adopt. Not only did that one decision have a profound effect upon a child's life, but it also radically altered ours. I suppose that is not surprising; adding a child always changes a family's life. But I believe that by adopting TM, we changed our lives in ways far greater and far reaching ways than we could have imagined at the time.
What might be different? For TM, it is obvious. He would be living with a different family. He would have a different name. He would be a different child. He would not still be in foster care, he would have been matched with a family, it just wouldn't have been ours. And I wonder. I wonder how that family would have weathered his rage and grief. I don't kid myself that we were the only family who could see him through it. But I have also heard of many cases where the child's rage and the family's ability to weather it don't match up. What would a disruption have done to his already fragile sense of stability? I don't often go there in my thoughts; there is no point, after all. But when I do I find myself getting upset for my child in this hypothetical situation. I think I have an overactive imagination.
For us, there is the strong possibility that we would still have just five children. Having more children opens you up to the possibility of more, after all. What would it be like to not have TM, K., G. or L.? I get a little panicky just thinking about it. That is a major difference to be sure, but it seems to me that the spiritual aspect of deciding to adopt has made the biggest change. I am afraid that without our decision to adopt, we would have remained in our comfortable middle-class bubble, thinking that we were good Christians and leaving it at that. We would not have been unhappy, but I think that our lives would have been a bit duller, more one-dimensional, less purposeful, and less convicted about the greatness of our God, the depth of our sin, and the wonder of his grace.
You see, by taking this different path we have put ourselves in situations where we had no control, only God could make it work. When you come to the end of yourself you find God waiting there, and with adoption, at least our experience with it, you come to then end of yourself fairly quickly. The whole process is a lesson in letting go of control; from the logistical side such as where you will come up with the money, the extensive paperwork, dealing with not one government bureaucracy buy many and in more than one country, to the emotional side such as accepting a referral, deciding what special needs you are open to, and learning to love a child who you don't even know. And that's if everything goes smoothly. The pitfalls that can occur along the way are many and there is no guarantee with any of it. The whole process is difficult.
This is quite the endorsement of adoption, isn't it? But that's only half the story. By allowing ourselves to travel this road, we gave God permission to work in our lives in ways we couldn't imagine. Money and approvals were taken care of, though on God's schedule, not ours. He gave us strength to help our son grieve and in the process showed us far more about ourselves and our relationship with Him more than anything else. And in watching our sons heal and grow and develop and love He gave us joy. Joy in greater abundance that we would have experienced if life was safe and easy.
And that is really my message. Safety is just that, safe. Safe does not provide challenges which lead to growth. Safe does not allow sadness or despair, but consequently does not allow for great joy, either. There is no room for God in safe. And while God promises to keep us safe, He wants us to know that it is in Him where our true safety lies. Think about it. It wasn't safe for Mary to say yes to bearing Jesus. It wasn't safe for Joseph to agree to marry Mary when he discovered she was pregnant. It wasn't safe for the shepherds to leave their flocks. There is nothing safe about the Christmas story at all. The only truly safe path in this life is choosing Jesus... and in doing so your lives will be filled with great adventure and great love. It is what makes a truly Wonderful Life.
I wish you all a blessed Christmas. I will have one more post later today to announce the winner of my giveaway and then I'm off until next week at which time I'm sure I will have dozens of pictures to share.