Last week, four of us gathered as elders’ wives to pray for our growing church-plant and our husbands. My friend, Susan, had news. She had officially registered to adopt! I felt my stomach flip. An unfamiliar mixture of joy and bitterness clouded my congratulations. I tried to shake it off, but I realized I felt (perhaps) how a woman who has been unsuccessfully trying to conceive feels when her friend announces a pregnancy. I wanted to be happy— I am happy— but a gnawing jealousy arose.
My family and I are planting a church in a “security-sensitive” country. This past year, two of our team families were deported and our own visa was put on hold (and still is). The anti-foreigner (especially “anti-foreign religion”) government has been sniffing out suspicious activity and deporting at will. It is not a stretch to say we could be asked to leave tomorrow.
At the beginning of 2018, before all the unhappy deportations started, my husband and I decided we were going to pursue adoption. A new law made it possible for foreigners to adopt, as long as the child was disabled in some way. We waited for the allotted two weeks to get our visa approved so we could start the adoption process. Two weeks turned into months, a year, and now 14 months. We continue to wait for the government to give us official permission to stay here.
I put adoption to the back of my mind for 2018. With the coming of the new year, my friend’s announcement blindsided me and I cried my version of “it’s not fair!” to anyone who would listen. My husband said, “Maybe we need to get to a place where we can really make adoption a reality for us.” Wait, was he saying we should leave the mission field so that we could adopt a child? A few weeks later, he said the opposite, “What do you think about trying to stay here longer than we had planned and figure out how to adopt here?” My husband, unintentionally I believe, articulated the exact tension I was feeling. I wanted to stay here as long as the government overlooked us, to be in this work, committed to this church plant even in the growing uncertainty. I also very much wanted another child, a sibling that looked very different from my three blue-eyed girls, a child from the people-group we had come to love. In short, I felt called to be here. I felt called to adopt. Yet these two callings were at odds; in fact, because of the uncertainty with our visa, we can pursue neither fully. These two callings were not a result of a fleece-laying or casting of lots. We felt convinced (and might I say, it took us quite a while!) by the Word of God, prayer, and godly counsel.
Would God really call us into tension?
Isaiah 43 comes to mind. Not so much for the comfort and presence in the flood and fire (although, that is really good!) but for the calling. This is the first verse:
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
His. Redeemed. We are called to many things, many good things; but one calling is eternal. One calling signals our identity while simultaneously proclaims our King. We are His, here in this tension and forever in Heaven where there are no orphans, no mission fields, no church plants needed. I can rest in this calling. Here I find comfort. The Heidelberg Catechism says it this way:
Q: What is your only comfort in life and death?
A: That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins.
If I was writing the 2019 agenda for my family, we should have an adopted child and a valid visa by now, happily going along with God’s plans for us. I have neither, nor do I have a clear path forward. We feel at the mercy of the government, yet of course, we are at the mercy of the Lord. We are waiting on the One who knows us, calls us, loves us and always works what is best for us. The tension is held by His strong (wounded) hands that comfort us in our calling.
Whatever God’s call is, we can know for certain it will take place. And so we walk this tension, trusting in our good and faithful God.
About the Author:
Mandy is part of a MTW church-planting team in a security-sensitive country. She reads good books, bakes comfort food, and home-schools three little girls. Her husband and daughters live in a sprawling, dirty, colorful city of over 10 million people.