When God Changes His Mind

a reflection on the year
we (almost) adopted

The word adoption seemed to be everywhere—every book, every sermon. “Everyone” at church was doing it. I did my best to avert my gaze, kind of like when you catch a stranger staring. You know the game: You realize someone’s eyes are locked on you, so you quickly look away. But still, you feel the gaze. You sneak another peak just to make sure. Yep, she’s still looking. You busy yourself hoping she’ll just go away. And yes, you have to know: “Is she still there?” You look over your shoulder one last time, and sure enough, your eyes lock. You have no choice but to smile and acknowledge her or run out of the room altogether.

That’s how adoption came to me—like an awkward stranger who couldn’t take a hint.

When I finally looked up, I couldn’t look away. My heart experienced a stir. The pull toward adoption was scary. Unknown. Even though my husband Ben and I already had kids and had weathered the road of child loss, adoption seemed like a completely new category of risk.

Thankfully, the decision wasn’t mine alone. Ben was my safety. I told God (which always goes so well), “Okay, so here’s the deal: If you really want us to do this, you’re going to have to be the one to tell Ben.” And in my most inward parts I thought, This is never going to happen.

One month later, Ben and I were driving home alone (a rarity) through the foothills of Middle Tennessee. While the drive had become familiar, the Indiana girl in me still loved to stare out the window. Every crevice. Every rock face. The way the golden sun danced on the green hills, making small farms and hay bails look postcard perfect. I get to live here! I marveled.

Ben interrupted my sightseeing: “You know, I’ve been thinking lately about adoption.”

My head snapped in his direction, my mouth hanging open in a perfect circle. I balked, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

His face a mask of confusion, I went on to tell him how I’d also been having the adoption conversation with God over the last few months. Eyes forward on the road, we both fell silent—our seemingly commonplace ride home hijacked by our mutual confessions. We turned to look at each other, and we just knew: God wanted us to adopt.

We began the process that same week. The home study. The piles of forms. Regular training at our adoption agency. We read articles and books and watched videos—all to understand the adoption experience from all sides.

And then there was the fundraising. At that time, domestic adoption cost around $30,000, and we certainly didn’t have that kind of bank hiding in couch cushions. We asked for help, sold T-shirts and coffee, and filled out multiple grant applications. The money began to come in.

Then came the day our adoption agency informed us that a young mom had seen our profile and wanted to meet. Never had I been so sweaty. As we waited to meet her, I prayed God would help us to be ourselves, both for our sake and for the birth mom who had big decisions in front of her. Once we settled in our chairs, Ben and I on one side of the table and the young woman and her mom facing us, conversation came easily. We heard each other’s stories, asked our questions, and looked into each others’ eyes. Despite my nerves, that moment was sacred. We left feeling content.

But she didn’t choose us.

A couple months later, we found out we were pregnant. Our agency recommended that our youngest child be at least one year old before we adopt, so we pressed pause on the process. Our son Jamison was born in December 2015, and we reset our calendar for when we might be “back on the adoption market.” Seven months later, almost to the day, we discovered we were pregnant—again.

Just like that, our adoption plans seemed to fizzle. Both Ben and I felt settled, like our family was complete. And more importantly, God fell silent on the topic. No clear yes or no. Just quiet.

I began to question:

Why? Why, God, would You so clearly press adoption on our hearts and take us so far in that process? Did You change your mind? Did we get it wrong? Why would You ask us to follow and then not follow through?

One by one we broke the news to friends and family—to those who had generously helped cover home-study costs— that we were no longer pursuing adoption. These conversations were complicated, humbling, and not fully understood. Some people felt like we didn’t “make good” on our promise. But all we could do was thank them (again), apologize (again), and try to explain (again)—even though we did not fully understand ourselves.

Five years later, I still don’t have a neat-and-tidy answer. Every time adoption is mentioned, my heart feels that pinch. And it’s not that we aren’t open to adopting (although with four boys under age ten at home, God might have to do a little extra convincing. . .).  We simply no longer feel pressed to pursue it.

Here’s where I’ve had to land: I may never know why God led us toward adoption. Maybe He needed to do something in our hearts. Maybe He wanted a friend or family member who hadn’t previously considered adoption to stop and think, “Well, if Ben and Sarah can do it…” Perhaps He simply wanted to know we would follow.

Did God change His mind? Honestly, I don’t know.

But I’m becoming content in the not-knowing. Because either way, He is good. Because even when we struggle to understand, He lets us question. He invites we who are confused, disappointed, and full of doubts to draw near. And while His response may be nothing more than holding us close in the struggle, it is enough. His presence fills in the gaps. And over time, the restlessness over not knowing fades because we know Him—and His presence becomes the only answer we need.

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feature photo cred: @lili_popper of Unsplash