A few years ago, an agency working in Ethiopia as the country’s adoption program was slowing, and rumors were flying that a closing was on the horizon told me that they had an “in” in the orphanages, they worked directly with the priests locating the children and had access to kids that other agencies didn’t. The process would move fast, they assured us. Of course the children are really orphans, they also assured us. The hiccup was the significant amount of money would be due faster than we’d expected, so I did what I do: I prayed and I also worked. Hard.
This turn of events coinciding with lent felt magical. A most blessed gift at the most holy time of the year. I worked 18 hours a day, sewing well past midnight and beginning again at 5 am. I set my goal at $100 per day, and at the end of 40 days we had even managed to surpass that crazy number by a smidge.
And I prayed. And I trusted. And nothing happened.
“Lord, if it is not meant to be, let it slip through my fingers….”
We don’t know what we don’t know. I was so blinded by my love of mothering, and my desire to be the person I needed as a child, that I missed the glaring red flags. The agency was soon shut down, the country closed due to human trafficking. I felt both defeated and also a deeper sense of peace than ever before that God had a purpose. I also felt that after seeing what we saw, how vultures could prey on the hearts of people like they had, that the type of adoption we pursued would need to look very different. Despite being always being a full steam ahead kind of woman, I paused and I asked for a sign. And I would ask for a very long time. “If it is meant to be, Lord, show us clearly.”
I didnt’ know what that would mean until my friend sent me a picture of a child in Eastern Europe with beautiful, upturned almond shaped eyes and folded over, low set ears, a protruding tongue and an adorable cock of the head that showed he was interested in what the photographer was saying. In that instant, our lives changed. A four year wait dissolved into a whirlwind, record fast adoption process. Large monies were due fast and we had them because we had never believed God had forsaken His plans, we just believed He had not shown them yet. Those dollars we had held onto tight for years were tangible proof that His plans are on His timing. Every Lent since I have remembered with a renewed sense of wonder, how God showed Himself to me so patiently, with such gentle love, in those 40 days.
When I first began our lenten campaign in 2015 I questioned whether it was a worthy enough cause to walk alongside Jesus’s road to the cross. That was when I still thought adoption was about me. That was when I still thought that the end result was a gift for me. That was before He used the opportunity of having my full attention to remind me that adoption is about the child and when I think of His life here on Earth, when I see how He spoke love, value, worth into every human and flipped tables for justice, I understand that not only is it worthy to work hard and invite others into the miracle, but it’s commanded by a Lord who adores, who diligently and meticulously created each one of us. Before it killed Him, He reminded us to love. Before it killed Him, he came as a vulnerable baby. Before it killed Him, He ordered us to give. Ourselves, our money, our time. Our service. Our trust. Our voice. Our faith in Him. Before it killed Him, miracles happened. And after it did, ransom.
Maybe the ransom of child is the very best use of Lent, after all.