2. Learning to Curb Expectations

Everyone needs a friend or sibling like my brother, Daniel. I’ve always considered Daniel’s spiritual gift to be his ability to call it as he sees it, with no qualms or hesitations in the slightest. He has no understanding of drama, and will immediately cut to the chase, whether it’s what I want to hear or not.

I was on the phone with him a few months ago, complaining about how the only conversations I was able to have with people anymore were spent answering the same questions over and over and over again: Any news on the baby? How old will he be when he gets here? When are you going to get him? Seriously? Why does it take so long?

My brother listened quietly and then responded.

“So would you rather they not ask you those questions at all?”

“Well, no, because then they wouldn’t bring up our adoption at all and that would frustrate me even more.”

“Amanda, isn’t that what you called me about last month? That people never bring up your adoption?”

“I guess I did, yeah.”

“So what do you want people to say?”

Pause. “I’m not really sure.”

My brother, in all his wisdom replied, “That sounds like a personal problem to me.”

The man had a point.

Perhaps the most common question posed on adoption forums is, “When should we announce to our friends and family our decision to adopt?” for this exact reason. In our case, since we’d need to raise the majority of funds, our decision was made for us. We announced our decision the same day we told our families to get the financial ball rolling. The warnings were valid however, because as soon as we announced our plans, the questions came flooding in, and even now, eleven months later, we still answer these questions almost daily.

Why international adoption? Are foster kids not good enough for you? Why Korea? Are you infertile? What gender will it be?  How long will you have to wait? Will the baby have disabilities? What was wrong with the birthmother? Have you not tried IVF?

And let’s be honest, several of these questions are just plain intrusive and don’t deserve a valid answer. However, most of the questions, which are usually answered with an “I don’t know,” slowly become more and more difficult to answer, not because of anything these well-meaning friends are asking, but because the reality that we really don’t know the answers slowly erodes our hearts and makes it raw to the touch.

Whether we realize it or not, we come into adoption with many expectations for ourselves, the process, and even for our friends and family. For ourselves, we expect that we are somehow superior to other adoptive couples in that we will complete the process in record time, be immune to the many heartbreaks along the way, and will be able to be as productive in every other area of our lives as we were before the adoption. In the process, we expect God to cut the expected timelines in half, the necessary funds to magically appear, and that there won’t be a single glitch along the way. The funny thing is that the longer the process goes, the more we realize the expectations we placed on ourselves and on the process were unrealistic from the beginning. However, no matter how long the process goes, our expectations of others does not seem to go down. In fact, in many ways, those expectations seem to get stricter.

And why is that, I wonder. Perhaps since we recognize our own motives and are so well versed in rationalizing our shortcomings and sinful nature, time enables us to recognize our expectations are too high. Proverbs 16:2 says that “All of the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes.” However, when we look for comfort, support, and understanding from friends and family, who realistically have had very little experience in the challenges of adoption before meeting us, we may have to realize that we are placing an unfair burden on those we love by expecting them to provide what only God is able to provide.

For example, how many nights have we laid in bed after a particularly rough day and agonized whether our decision to adopt was in fact God’s calling or if these hurdles are instead God’s way of saying, “This is not my plan for you right now.” Because we cannot often hear God audibly answer this question, and because our patience for waiting for His answer in these moments is so thin, we seek approval and affirmation from the people around us who are in no way capable of answering such a question. We could and should rely on them for support and Biblical insight, yes, but we should not expect them to speak for God.  In the same way, when we see those we love fawning over a pregnant belly and then tiptoe warily around the topic of our adoptions, we should not feel betrayed, rather we must realize that we are holding an expectation that our friends and family should inherently know how and what to celebrate in our adoption journeys.

My challenge to you this morning comes from Philippians 2:4 which reads, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” For adopting families, this means that instead of feeling hurt that our walk into parenthood is treated differently than other families’, try to initiate conversations with those who seem most quiet, concerned, or confused by your adoption. Chances are, there could be underlying fear or concern as this process is quite obviously complicated, expensive, and admittedly risky. For friends and family members of those who are adopting, perhaps a good starting place for you may be to ask your adopting loved one what they need, how they are feeling, or simply ask, what can I do to assure you I am on board with this? Rather than talking about the process, talk about the end result. Baby names, nursery themes, and childcare plans are all safe topics that every parent is excited to talk about.

So let’s go into our day wary of the expectations we have on our minds. Let’s ask ourselves and perhaps our spouses if there are any expectations we may not be aware of so that we can move forward in unity for the sake of the precious little ones who will eventually be welcomed into our families.

 

Verses to Consider:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. –PROVERBS 3:5-6

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. –ROMANS 8:28

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. –PROVERBS 16:9

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. –EPHESIANS 4:16

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! –PSALM 133:1

 

A Prayer for Your Day:

Lord, you are in all ways good (Psalm 119:68), and I know the plans you have chosen for me are for my good (Jer. 29:11). I’m sorry that I have questioned the path you have given me in weak moments. I know that adoption was created by you and that you have called us all to care for and love these precious orphans (James 1:27). I pray that you would remind me of this truth daily and that I would be able to remind those around me of this truth as well. You call your children to unity and I have allowed my feelings, my expectations, and my insecurities to divide me from those you have entrusted me with whom I love so dearly. When I am hurting, gently remind me to place that burden on you and not unfairly on the people I love. I ask that you put people in my life that will help me finish the race you have set before me (2 Tim. 4:7). God, I pray you would forgive my selfishness and that you would remind me that this adoption is not ultimately for me but for the well-being of [child’s name] and for your glory. Help me to honor [child’s name] and glorify you today.

In Jesus’s name,

Amen.

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