After having two boys biologically, my husband and I sensed God’s call to pursue adoption. We first researched foster-to-adopt, but my husband’s job as a small-town pediatrician often involved foster cases and presented a conflict of interest. Instead, we decided to adopt through a local agency. We chose this particular agency because of their commitment to provide housing, counseling, and medical services to any birth mother, whether she decides to place her baby with a family or parent her child after she’s given birth.
In late March of 2012, our agency’s number flashed on my cell phone screen. I answered, holding my breath in anticipation. We had been chosen, they said, to adopt a baby coming in a few short weeks. Our birth mother’s name was Shannon, and she was due in mid-April with a baby girl. I softly cried into a tissue in anticipation of adding a girl to our family.
Our social worker had warned us about half of adoptions fail, meaning the birth mother decides to keep her baby. We knew there were risks, but we began to dream of our life with a daughter. We named her Adeline, despite warnings to not get too attached to the baby in case we didn’t get to bring her home.
On April 4, Adeline entered the world in a window-lit, bright hospital room in Abilene, Texas, where Shannon had previously invited me. That day, the birthing room wasn’t filled with joy and laughter, hushed awe and delight, as it had been with both of our boys. Instead, the first sounds that sweet, innocent baby girl heard were sounds of her mother weeping. We later learned that Shannon had a criminal record which prevented her from being able to secure a job. Shannon didn’t feel she could provide for her daughter and thought her only realistic option was to place Adeline for adoption.
My husband and I were allowed to sleep in a room in the mother’s ward and visited Adeline every chance we could, day or night. Three hours before Shannon would sign the papers to make Adeline officially ours, she let us know that she couldn’t “give Adeline up” because it was just too hard.
While I understood Shannon’s decision, I felt broken as we gathered our belongings and exited the hospital, our hearts as empty as our infant carrier. I had bonded with Adeline and didn’t know how I would begin to heal.
In all the excitement and sorrow, I had forgotten that I was scheduled to lead worship the following Sunday, just four days after Adeline’s birthday. By the time I remembered, it was too late to find a replacement. I was still puffy-eyed and red from crying. How could I get through leading worship? Especially, how could I lead my local church in extolling the goodness of God?
Somewhere in my Christian life, I had equated God’s goodness with an “American dream” life free of major hardships. What I saw growing up reinforced this image: Smiling husbands lovingly escorted their perfectly coiffed families into our church, saying things like, “God blessed my socks off!” I didn’t know that many churchgoers struggled behind closed doors; I knew only what I saw. All those faithful churchgoers rose weekly and echoed when prompted by our pastor that “God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good.”
Yet, here I was in the middle of one of the most painful events of my life, wondering if God really was good. I had begged God for Adeline and he was silent.
I knew God loved me deeply and was still in control. However, my fragile heart had to decide if the truth of God’s character or my feelings of grief and pain would win the battle raging in my heart. It was that day I understood praising God in the midst of a storm really does feel like a sacrifice – a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). I chose to give up my version of God’s goodness and offer him my praises that Sunday morning in 2012.
God is worthy of praise no matter my circumstances. God’s goodness created a haven of retreat and rest for my soul. Instead of questioning God’s goodness, I now retreat into centering prayers with him, asking him to show me his goodness in the midst of every situation. I trust in the good nature of God, not in the outcome of my current crisis. God’s nature didn’t change; he changed my belief, and the belief has stayed me. Through my sacrifice of praise, I found my first step of healing.