Fighters
by Jen Hatmaker on July 6th, 2011

368.

That is how many people have submitted "Love Ben" pictures so far. Some of those pictures have 75+ people in them. There are thousands of smiling, encouraging, dear faces in those 368 pictures. Well, most are smiling.
This one seems to communicate: "Boy, you better get your &^%* home."

So I've written a few things in the last few years. Generally speaking, I write stuff down after I've learned it. I factor in plenty of time for research, first drafts, pilot groups, and perspective. Sometimes, this gives me the benefit of healing and distance, which slightly softens the raw edges. (Not always: Interrupted was like writing from the eye of a hurricane. It was borderline hysterical.) It's kind of like making a baby album on Shutterfly when your cherub is already dating; you gotta wade through several degrees of separation.

Not so with this little bloggy blog. I guess with a blog, you can write about something that happened four hours ago, hit "publish", and it immediately launches into the interwebbings. This has a downside for a loose cannon like me who clearly needs four editors between me and the general public [Note from my editor for 7: "Please just accept this edit. I'm saving you hundreds of emails"], but it also has an upside in that I can write without distance or perspective or resolution sanitizing the actual experience.

So I'd like to weigh in from the dead center of an excruciating adoption wait, long before homecomings and time erase the intensity of this season. In fact, just this morning we received our rejection letter for Ben's adoption, placing a huge question mark on the future, while our daughter has waited in the Transition Home three months longer than necessary. We are in the thick of disappointment, well past any date we thought we'd still be waiting, thrust into an unknown future for Ben with no precedence. We're in Crap Town...Population: us.

A month or two ago, after yet another disappointment in the battle to pass court for Ben, I posted something on Facebook from the deepest part of my broken heart; pretty raw, full of tears. A lady followed it up with:

"It's so good to know that even a woman like you can lose faith and fall short publicly."

Um.

In addition to that awesome statement, I've received the wagging finger from several Christians, essentially saying, "Stop whining. What sort of example are you setting with all these tears?" Ladies and gentlemen, grab a cup of coffee and settle in, because I have an opinion here and I'm about to broadcast it.

Faith has nothing to do with being stoic or "chipper" or falsely propped up. We have entered the suffering of the orphan, the mission of Jesus. It is hard and painful. It hurts and makes us cry. Suffering is like that. Spouting off Christian clichés or pretending to be strong isn’t helpful and it isn’t true. It cripples true community and confuses and isolates a watching world.

Adoption means we are willing to enter the devastation of fatherlessness and struggle mightily to free children from the bonds of orphanhood. It is OKAY to struggle and cry and grieve and mourn while we wait. That is exactly the kind of suffering we said “yes” to at the beginning of this journey. We are taking on the pain of our Ethiopian children, and guess what: Their pain is real. Who would dare look into their eyes full of loss and grief and say, "Buck up, kids. Someone might think you don't trust God."

And like my good friend Leslie reminded me, home with her adopted daughter for five years, adopting parents agree to suffer with their children long after the happy airport homecoming pictures are scrapbooked. It is only then we get a true picture of their trauma, fear, insecurity, and loss. Ask any Mama or Daddy who is parenting an adopted child about bringing their baby's suffering home.

Struggling isn’t a “lack of faith” like some have insinuated. It’s not that I doubt the calling or power of God at all; it’s that we've entered the pain of orphanhood and it hurts. Something about adoption seems to exempt waiting parents from permission to rage and wail. Would anyone observe an abused child, trapped in his own home, held captive because of senseless bureaucracy and say, "Well, it's God's timing"? Would we counsel a grieving mother whose child was wasting away with cancer to try not to "fall short publicly"? Of course not. But for some reason in adoption, waiting parents are expected to put on the brave face and whitewash the agony of it all.

So, fellow adoptive parents out there, I want to tell you something: I know your tears, and I know where they come from. I don't think you are doubting your God. Who can doubt the heart of a God who says, "Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; please the case of the widow" (Isaiah 1:17)? God is clearly on the side of the orphan and all those who harbor them.

I don't believe for a second that we are fighting against God who is withholding favor while we and our children wait. I'm totally with Paul on this one: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12). To the degree that God loves something, we can expect our enemy to hate it in equal proportions. With a mission to steal, kill, and destroy, redeeming abandoned lives out of the rubble of injustice is surely at the top of his Hate List.

So go ahead: Cry. Grieve. Wail. Scream at the top of your lungs, "THIS IS NOT FAIR!!" Mourn for the birth mamas who can't raise their own babies. Rage at a system that keeps the rich richer and the poor poorer. Rant against corrupt bureaucracy and power politics that perpetually victimize the most vulnerable ones under its authority. Grieve every single second you are kept apart from your babies, because let me tell you something: If that is wrong, I do not want to be right.

That's why we are not mad at God; we are mad with God. We are not fighting against God; we are fighting alongside Him. We are not crying because God is failing us; we are crying out because 170 million children will go to bed tonight with no parents, and we can not stand this injustice one second longer. These are the tears of the heavens that have been shed since the beginning of time for the least and last, the forgotten and forsaken.

What might appear to be a faith crisis is not. Don't mistake our tears for doubt. It is something like Jesus crying over Jerusalem: "How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings..." (Matthew 23:37). It is the same brand of grief God displayed when He wept over His people: "Let my eyes overflow with tears night and day without ceasing; for the Virgin Daughter, my people, has suffered a grievous wound, a crushing blow" (Jeremiah 14:17).

Christian community, let us not fear real emotion attached to struggle, confusing it for a lack of faith. Like I heard recently: It makes sense that the Holy Spirit is called a Comforter, because if you actually follow where he leads you, you're going to need one. It would be easier to lead a safe, comfortable life, void of sorrow, unattached to human suffering and bubble wrapped within the predictable western Church. But alas, I can't find that brand of discipleship in Scripture, and believe me, I've looked.

So YES, we are fighting, but not against our good God who redeemed our own lives and invited us into a great mission. We trust that the God who begged us to care for the orphan actually cares about them and is weaving this beautiful story together right in front of our eyes. Enjoy these LOVE BEN pictures, because they represent the fight God has planted in us, the determination of our son, and the victory we are watching for through our Jesus.

It.
Is.
ON.


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42 Comments

Bette - July 7th, 2011 at 5:52 PM
I read that and could here Martin Luther King's, "I have a Dream Speech"
Fight on!
Cindy - July 7th, 2011 at 5:53 PM
: )
Christa - July 7th, 2011 at 6:00 PM
Word to your MOM!!!!!!!!!
Nichole Seabrook - July 7th, 2011 at 6:18 PM
Here I am crying, shouting alongside yall...tears right into mt quinoa lasagna...
Ashley - July 7th, 2011 at 6:23 PM
I love what you have said here. Faith isn't denying the facts, it's trusting God with the facts in full view and fighting on. Many people frowning on your "meltdown" are the ones sitting on the sideline, where their faith remains safely untested. You rock!
Ann Terese Brandt - July 7th, 2011 at 6:24 PM
Reason #267 (I have a list) of why I love you and am thankful we are friends.
Bring. It. On.

JoLynn - July 7th, 2011 at 6:41 PM
Thank you so much! when I lost the twins and cody I spent days and days and days crying and screaming and feeling knowing that God would understand that I didn't understand that pain that I was feeling! I'm so glad you brought this to light :)
Rebekah - July 7th, 2011 at 6:47 PM
Holla!
Nicole White - July 7th, 2011 at 6:57 PM
This reminds me of Romans 8:22-25. It says we have hope AND it says we groan. The two are not mutually exclusive! Also, you are groaning and crying over the difficulty of getting your child here. So has every mother who has given birth! It is hard work that is well worth the journey because of the love it represents. Powerful post. Thank you.
kristin taylor - July 7th, 2011 at 7:07 PM
amen and amen. and i'm just starting this adoption process...love to you! and to Beniam. He's soo privileged to have you as his mama in his corner!
Donna Pineau - July 7th, 2011 at 8:05 PM
Jen, I love your books and I love them so much more for having discovered more of who you are on FB. I'm so in awe of and inspired by your faith. Though I'm much older than you, you are who I want to grow up to be. And the honesty that you write with and live every day makes me love you more. I appreciate that you don't give us Christian platitudes and Holier than Thou-isms. Fall short publicly? Whining? That's ridiculous. And it really chaps my butt that you had to read that in the midst of what you and your family - here and abroad - are going through.

Thank you for sharing this experience with us.
Rachel Schooler - July 7th, 2011 at 8:11 PM
Thank you thank you thank you. I needed to hear this. Totally completely true. People say the dumbest things sometimes. I am so sorry you have had to hear those unthoughtful arrogant words. If you have never had a struggle then you have no idea huh?!?
April - July 7th, 2011 at 8:47 PM
Thanks for writing this. It speaks volumes. I still cry for my daughter's birth mother who left her in a basket in front of an old office building. And I cry with my daughter when she says she misses her China Mommy. She is seven now, but her abandonment and separation from her nannies haunt her dreams often and some days she cries because she "has a thunderstorm in her head." The pain is real and any sense of loss and grief we carry for our orphaned children can never be measured or judged by others who do not fully understand. Many Christians can be so judgmental so quickly. Why would feelings of loss, pain and struggle mean that faith is lost? Your feelings are heard and shared and very valid. Tears of pain, grief, and loss does not mean doubt. It is thru this journey that your faith grows stronger. Jen, you are strong. I love your soul. It makes me feel stronger being connected to you. My prayers are with your family daily.
Peg - July 7th, 2011 at 9:09 PM
Oh my holy. Just today I thought: If one more person tells me to trust in the Lord's timing, I'm gonna slap him. Hard.

We're also waiting. Our son is in Ethiopia. We are here. And the whole thing is stupid.
holly - July 7th, 2011 at 10:05 PM
We adopted our first child two years ago. And, from a Mamma who has waited... And then waited some more... Cry. Wail. Get angry. Fight. Our God does the same thing for us. His love is best demonstrated in the fact that we are His adopted children through Jesus Christ. That fight - the despair, the pain - it is all part of a parent's great and unconditional love. That is the beauty of adoption. It truly shows a raw faith unlike anything else I have experienced. Keep pressing forward and know that there are many praying along side you.
Laura Pearson - July 7th, 2011 at 10:20 PM
As one of this adoptive parents I say AMEN SISTER!!!!
Jenna and James - July 7th, 2011 at 10:48 PM
Your words captivate, your strength inspires - We are so sorry for the hurt your family must be confronting at this time. You're gang just became an army and we are here to fight with you.
Susana - July 8th, 2011 at 12:10 AM
Powerful thoughts, my friend. If I wore a robe, I would tear it in half; if I had some ashes, I would put them on my face for you and Brandon and Matawi and Beniam. Life is freakin' hard. Messy. And God has given us permission to wail and grieve and roll on the floor in our enormous pool of tears. Love you so much. You're so the opposite of fake.
Wendy - July 8th, 2011 at 1:13 AM
Preach it, sista!
(And lose faith? Fall short? Seriously? Oy vey)!
Denise England - July 8th, 2011 at 8:44 AM
Preach it, girl! And as an adoptive mama with her kiddos home for 7 years, I can say that this amount of dogged determination is what it takes. And it can be hard. Bringing a child out of an institution doesn't bring the institution out of the child. And the needs are more than what you can heal. It takes time, tears, perserverence and a bravery to go into the darkest recesses of their shame and terror. Platitudes don't work. What works is clinging to Jesus and refusing to give up on your child, even if faced with rage, lying, manipulation, hoarding, stealing, refusal to accept comfort, irrational fears, shame, you name it. Because a child who was utterly traumatized can't just accept a Sunday School cliche. Your strength in battle now is not only eye opening to the many who will read your blog, your books or follow you on Facebook. It is forcing your roots to go deeper than you thought they could. "For he will be like a tree planted by the waters, pushing out its roots by the stream; he will have no fear when the heat comes, but his leaf will be green; in a dry year he will have no care, and will go on giving fruit." Jer. 17:8

Love you, sister!! Fighting with you to bring your Remy AND your Ben home.

Emilie Garcia - July 8th, 2011 at 8:45 AM
Wow, Jen. Wow. I guess I shouldn't be surprised about the range of responses you have received to this situation. I am, however, disappointed. I can't think of a more faithful reaction than outrage, tears, and grief. God knows our hearts. If we throw a fake smile on our faces and act like everything is a-ok, He's not gonna buy it (and really, His opinion is the only one that matters anyway). You and your family are doing something incredible and I will keep praying for you all. I know God is listening and I know he cares...even if we pray with tears in our eyes.
Trace Shelton - July 8th, 2011 at 11:49 AM
As I sit here scanning and signing forms to send back in to CPS, on the "eve" of our presentation staffing next Tuesday, more than a year and a half into the adoption process, I can only say "We are right there with you." It's not an easy process, practically, mentally or spiritually, and we don't even have our kids yet. Anyone who can be critical of a waiting parent's grief and struggling obviously has bitterness in their heart that they need to let go of.

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" -- David, then Jesus. A couple of public figures, I daresay.
Ty - July 8th, 2011 at 11:51 AM
Jen,

My wife consistently reads your writing and forwards on your thoughts. You're a breath of fresh, true air. In light of this topic, I thought you might find this article refreshing as well. It was shared with me a few years ago and I think echoes the heart of your message here.

Our prayers for your struggle,
-Ty
Julie Ryker - July 8th, 2011 at 11:52 AM
If I were a betting Momma I would bet the "wagging finger Christians" have never adopted or tried to adopt or been through an adoption process of any kind. Adoption is not for the faint of heart. Your fight for Beniam is inspiring and challenges me to do more for orphans! Love that you live your FAITH so beautifully out loud!
Ty - July 8th, 2011 at 11:52 AM
Oops, help if you attach the link.

The article is called The Glory of His Discontent by Don Hudson:

http://www.leaderu.com/marshill/mhr06/glory1.html
Tommy - July 8th, 2011 at 11:56 AM
AMEN, sister. May all of our brothers and sisters take up arms on behalf of the "least if these.". Know that like our mighty God, we are with you. So much so in prayer but also in other ways as you need....just shout out and those of us also waging war against the god of this earth are honored to help you. Like Moses and his battle with Amalek, let us all be Aaron and Hur, and hold up each other when we grow weary. Press on!
Jill - July 8th, 2011 at 1:04 PM
And yet another reason why we all Love you and fight with you! Consider it broughten!!

Aaron Keith Hocking - July 8th, 2011 at 2:28 PM
The average uploaded to fb blog usually bores the bejesus out of me, but this aint bad at all.
Ali - July 8th, 2011 at 8:28 PM
And the people say AMEN!
Christy Thomas - July 8th, 2011 at 9:30 PM
You simply "get" what being a follower of Jesus is truly about...thank you for the boldness to share, the humility to be real, and the passion to not give up, but to inspire others to "get it" too.
Jenni Langley - July 16th, 2011 at 12:31 PM
Jen, you better stop writing right now or I'm going to start praying about adoption for my own family!!! ;-) I begin to bawl almost every time I read your posts. I can feel your love and desperation for Beniam and your joy at going to get Remy. I love this post particularly, because you are right--what God loves, Satan hates with everything in him and he will stop at nothing to throw a wrench in what God is doing. Thank the Lord for powerful prayer warriors who stand with you faithfully to combat the attacks of the enemy. God WILL have the final victory. Praying Ben is home with you VERY soon!
Erin Moore - July 21st, 2011 at 9:15 AM
Fighting too.
meggan - July 21st, 2011 at 5:05 PM
a friend forwarded this post to me today. we are in the trenches too ---waiting for MOWA letters for two girls from Ethiopia who we have been trying to adopt for the last two years. my heart is still breaking but after reading this post I have gotten a glimpse of the light. thank you. and praying for you! keep fighting.
David Daniels - August 11th, 2011 at 12:45 PM
Jen, thanks so much for this rich post! I am ever-captivated by Paul's comment in Colossians 1:24, "Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church." With great faith, Paul embraced his own suffering as a means to communicate the sufferings to Christ to others. The only thing "lacking" in the sufferings of Christ is "the personal presentation of those sufferings to the world" [John Piper]. So, I wholeheartedly affirm that [y]our struggling isn't the absence of faith--but rather the expression of faith as we willingly walk as Jesus did. Be strong and courageous. [and tell Brandon hello!]
shely foster - September 12th, 2011 at 3:10 PM
I am a strong Christian woman! Adoption was an emotional LONG process --- worth every minute when you are standing at the FINISH race... BUT it is a very real and emotional battle! I thank you for being open and honest with your struggles -- you make others that are/ have going/gone through it feel a little better and not so alone in the battle! GOD BLESS!!!

Suzanne - November 9th, 2011 at 4:45 AM
I am smack dab in the middle of an adoption loss myself...thank you for your honest words! You can imagine how encouraging it is to know that other people are hurting and fighting the same battle. I know Satan would love nothing more than for us to give up, but we will continue to fight for these precious children!!
Steph - November 12th, 2011 at 10:17 AM
I am just now seeing this post, and although this comment is late in coming, I have to say AMEN!!! Last Nov, my family left for what was to be an approx 6 week trip to Ethiopia (between court and embassy) to bring home our daughter. After 1 month there, we finally were able to take our daughter into our arms. After 2.5 months there, my husband and two boys had to go home. After 5 months of wailing, anger, tears, rage, frustration, heartache, and the HARDEST FIGHT I've ever fought, I FINALLY got to leave the country with my daughter in my arms. Sadly, some of the comments I received from the Christian community were not supportive. Was my faith not strong enough? Was God really giving me more than I could handle? Some days, I believed their lies. I was even told by the orphanage that I needed to bring my daughter back so I could go home... WHAT?! Why? Because I would cry. I would cry in anger. I would cry at injustice. I would cry out of grief. But there was NO WAY I was going to give up the fight. Through the entire journey I learned what it means when the Bible says in Romans 8:31, "What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Satan tried really hard to make sure we never brought our daughter home, but God overcame. And, you know what, I would do it all again. Praise God!

And for those of you still in the fight... PRESS ON! You can do it! You have a stranger (me) praying every child home.
Tamie Butera - November 12th, 2011 at 1:39 PM
Fighting the good fight right beside you, got a son in the Transition house four months and counting
Tamie Butera
Cheryl - November 12th, 2011 at 3:00 PM
Amen, Sister! Be encouraged! After a 2 1/2 year process, after 2 of our children were allowed to come home to us leaving the 3rd youngest behind, and after our judge said he would NEVER allow our youngest daughter to come home... she is HOME. That is God! Blessings to you and prayers to get your children home!
peter - November 13th, 2011 at 11:20 PM
Waiting children. . .waiting. . . another year of school goes by. . . waiting . . . what's the matter with you people. . . come home girls, we're waiting.
SarahJ - September 5th, 2012 at 1:36 PM
I know this is your blog post from last summer... but I just read it for the first time today, and sister, PREACH it. We just passed the 4 year mark waiting for our children from India. I love how beautifully you put in words that we are not battling God, we're battling WITH Him for our children. My dad always described me as the most stubborn child... and now I'm using it for God's glory. I will stubbornly wait for my kiddos. I'm digging my heels in until they are home!
J - July 18th, 2014 at 5:12 PM
I needed this today...we are waiting.
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