I received the following message (sent in the intent of love) last week and I am sure there are others thinking/wondering this same thing about our adoption, but perhaps just don’t have the boldness to ask. So I felt this message was the Lord giving me my “cue” that it’s time to address this…here is the question:
“Hello Janel! My heart had something on his mind and it is only through the love that I say this but here it goes! Are you sure you want to bring this young man into your home with HIV with your six children! It could take one bicycle accident or a car accident or a terrible thing like molestation to affect the health of all of your other children! I love the Lord with all of my heart and I know these children need help and I try to help others daily but I am just expressing my concern for your other children! I pray for this young man and his health and for your children and for my children and for my grandchildren! This note is not meant maliciously just out of concern and love! I know you and Jake are doing the Lord’s work and I am so proud of you! Please forgive me if I have spoken out of turn! I love you and I know at any point in life our health can change and our lives can change and the only thing we have to look forward to is our eternal life! Love in Christ”
Interestingly, these sorts of fears (concerns) being brought up in this message do not just pop up when you are bringing a child into your family with a disease such as HIV. The underlying fear being expressed to me through this message is: what if this child we are adopting hurts (physically) our other children that we already have in some way? This was actually my biggest fear when we were set to adopt Justice back in 2008-2010. Justice was significantly years older than JJ and Jayla at the time. And my biggest fear was that bringing him into our home would negatively affect our other children. I was very aware of the possibility that he could physically hurt them, and it would only take one single “what if” thought for my mind to go into a bunch of escalating thoughts culminating in a worse-case scenario of this all going horribly wrong.
My answer to those fears that popped up during Justice’s adoption is the same answer that I have to this message that was sent me now today: faith. I have to trust that God loves my children even more than I do. And He will do a much better job of protecting them than I ever will. With Justice’s adoption, we trusted that the Lord had hand-picked our adopted child out for our family...and that He was looking out for us in whoever He picked. And that meant all the way down to the details of the child’s personality – that the Lord would pick out a child for us from all the way across the world that would not detrimentally affect our other two children. And much to our surprise, the Lord chose to put His hand-selection on display – giving us an African child with the exact shade of orange hair that matched the orange hair of our two biological children. If that doesn’t show you that the Lord picked out your child for you – then I don’t know what does.
And it didn’t stop at hair color.
When we adopted Justice he became the eldest child in our family. And this messed up the birth order of our children. Our eldest child, JJ, was no longer the eldest, and that is actually not a recommended thing to do in the adoption world. But this ended up being the best thing in the world for JJ. Because our son JJ was extremely shy and introverted to the point of awkwardness, and it actually had become a detraction to his personality. But then when God brought Justice into our family, Justice became the tool God used to draw JJ out of his shell of seclusion, and was a huge part of helping JJ grow in confidence especially socially. Justice was the one who taught JJ how to ride his bike without training wheels, Justice was the one who helped JJ get on the right bus on his first day of kindergarten, Justice became a human form of JJ’s protector and helper. And today they are best friends and behave just like brothers. Justice never hurt our son JJ (or any of our other children) – all he ever did was help him. The reason I’m bringing up Justice’s adoption, is because when the new fears over Julius start rolling in, all I need to do is take a look back over my shoulder and rehearse how God was faithful before in this area of me wanting to protect my children. That gives us the courage to move forward into this next step of faith with Julius. When you’ve experienced God being faithful before, it gives you assurance that He’ll be faithful again.
Additionally, I just wanted to share a few things I’ve learned about fear, such as the fears being brought up in this message that was sent to me. Namely: God is not the source of fear. We know this from 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” And spiritually speaking, if the scriptures are telling us that God is not the source of fear, then spiritually there is only one other option of where it is coming from. And that would be our enemy, Satan. The enemy knows that there is one surefire thing that can cause us to not take action, to not move forward into whatever the Lord is asking us to do. And that is if he can get us to be afraid to do it. Fear can become a paralyzer that leads to inaction. Fear can cause us to not obey the Lord. And that is what the enemy is after. Because when God’s will is done on earth (through His followers) as it is done in heaven - God’s glory goes out. And Satan hates that. Every single time, the enemy is out to make sure that God’s glory is not displayed in the world. And when we, God’s followers, move forward in faith, that glorifies God. So, the enemy’s strategy is to do all that he can to make sure that our step into faith doesn’t happen.
I’ve learned that you can't stop the enemy's voice from coming to you. But you can refute it when it comes. In scripture we have many examples of the enemy's voice coming to people. Two of the big ones are: Eve in the garden (Genesis 3). And Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4). Eve gave in to the enemy's voice. Jesus refuted it by standing on God's word - what God had said that countered what the enemy was saying. So this is how I am doing that with the fears listed in this message:
Are you sure you want to bring this young man into your home with HIV with your six children!
“Anyone who loves their son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37-38)
It could take one bicycle accident or a car accident or a terrible thing like molestation to affect the health of all of your other children!
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
If I were to make decisions based off fear then I would never step foot on an airplane, or in a swimming pool, or even in a car for that matter. I would never leave my child with a babysitter. I would never let my child go to the basketball courts to play. Potentially dangerous, life threatening situations are everywhere. But so is God.
In scripture, God doesn’t tell us to be safe in potentially dangerous situations. He tells us to be brave. Brave doesn’t mean that you don’t have any fear. In fact, all throughout the Bible when God asks His followers to do something in faith, so many times He attaches these words along with it: “Don’t be afraid.” He said this to Abraham to Joshua and all the way down the line to His disciples. He had to tell them to not be afraid because as soon as His instruction went out, that fear rose up in them. But this is what I’ve learned it comes down to in order to not let fear win. When I am faced with the choice to move forward in faith or shrink back in fear, this is what I need to decide: Is what God is asking me to do more important than the fear that I have about it? More plainly, the question is: How important is obedience to God to me? Is it more important than my fear?
Julius’ physical life and his spiritual salvation is more important to me than the fears I have about adopting him. Obeying God is more important to me than my own desires to stay safe and comfortable.
Faith over fear. It’s not that the fear isn’t there. It’s just that we are choosing to let our faith in God make our decisions – not our fear.