I’ll be fine once…
I’ll be happy when…
I can make it through this if…
The “if-then” list goes on and on.
The first time I was guilty of spouting off one of these phrases was when I stood outside the courthouse with my husband, Matt, after taking a half-day off work to have our fingerprints taken only to find out that the clerk stopped accepting appointments five minutes prior to our arrival. This, of course, was not posted on the website and had not been shared in the phone call we’d made just hours before. Stomping down the courthouse steps, grumbling under my breath, I turned to Matt, threw my arms up in the air, and declared, “If people would just do their jobs, I could get this paperwork finished and we can get this adoption started already!”
Usually Matt is the voice of reason, but even he nodded his head, flustered that he’d pulled so many strings to take the afternoon off for a failed errand which he’d have to do all over again the next day. Our goal was very simple–get the fingerprints finished, notarize the packet, and drop it in the mail because once we sent the packet in, we would be assigned a social worker. And once we had a social worker, we would be set.
Two short months later, our social worker had been assigned, our interviews completed, and we were waiting anxiously for the phone call which would announce our final home inspection. Our friends, Jon and Aubrey, came to the house to help us get everything in order and complete the many home projects which had been taunting us with the looming inspection call. It was obvious to them we were stressed about the situation and I confided in Aubrey that once we got this house in order for the inspection, we would be fine. Life would be much easier and we could settle into the next phase, finally content.
Four months later, long after the inspection was completed and the house returned to its normal state of chaos, we learned it would be between three days and six months until we received our referral. We were told to prepare financially for three days in order to accept the referral without delay, but our hearts should really be prepared for the longer timeline as it was expected to take some time. After the first month, I melted into my couch, realizing the shorter timeline had passed and that we might be waiting the full six months before receiving our referral. I cried for hours, chanting the same thoughts over and over again.
If I could just see his face…
If I could just know his name…
If I could just know who it is I’m waiting for…
I could be happy.
I could survive the rest of this adoption.
I could finally celebrate being a mom.
Nine days after this meltdown, we got the call. We finally knew his name, saw his face, and learned everything there was to know about the child we’d prayed for the past ten months. And we were happy–happier than either of us could describe. Life did get better. We were finally recognized as parents. Friends and family had the face of a child to celebrate. The world finally met the invisible baby we’d loved from the beginning. The world met Desi.
But then a month passed with no word. No update. The entire seventh month of his life went by without any record. The “if only” thoughts started sneaking back into our minds at night. The thought I had just last night was, “If only I could see a picture, just one picture, to know that he’s healthy and happy, I would be okay. I would be happy again.”
The truth is, friends, that we will never be happy, truly happy, if our contentment and our emotional stability is contingent on our circumstances. I know that the day I get to hold Desi in my arms, my next thought will be, “As soon as he recognizes me as his mommy and not a stranger, my life will be perfect.” And even further down the road, my thought will be, “Once his language and social development is on track, I’ll be home free.” Then, “If he can just reach the age of maturity so that he can process the pain of his adoption more effectively, I can survive parenthood.”
The Bible has a lot to say about the fleeting nature of contentment. One man in particular, Solomon, the wisest and wealthiest man who ever existed, wrote an entire book dedicated to this particular topic called Ecclesiastes. If you read this book for very long, you soon become depressed from the realization that no matter how successful you become, no matter how smoothly your life goes, no matter how healthy you are, no matter how much wealth you acquire, and no matter how many friends and loved ones adore you, “it is all vanity,” as he calls it. Chasing these things, Solomon writes, is like “chasing the wind.” Coming from the man who had more wealth, power, and wisdom than anyone who walked this earth, we can agree this advice comes from a pretty valid source. We may catch up with contentment for a moment, but it will ultimately move on, unharnessed, and unpredictable. If our happiness and contentment is dependent on any of these things, we are setting ourselves up for heartbreak, anxiety, and disappointment.
As you move into your day, think to yourself, “What ‘if-then’ statements have been sneaking into my mind lately?” Chances are they are related to the next step on the adoption timeline. Rather than binding your heart and your attitude to whether this task or goal is achieved, bind it instead on the one constant that never wavers—the God who wrote this book and knew the end from the very beginning. Loosen the vice grip you have on the task at hand and allow God’s hand to work alongside yours. Ask him to help you believe and remember that lasting joy and contentment come only from Him, not from anything we can experience on this earth. Celebrate that we have something with God that can never be taken away, and if that is all that we have in the end, that’s all we need.
Verses to Consider:
I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless–like chasing the wind. –ECCLESIASTES 1:14
Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind. –ECCLESIASTES 6:9
I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. –PHILIPPIANS 4:12-13
“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” –HEBREWS 13:5
Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. -1 TIMOTHY 6:6-7
A Prayer for Your Day
Lord, you are all I need. I know this in my mind, but my heart wanders from this truth every day. Help me guard my heart from thoughts that things in this world, however precious and good they may be, can replace or supplement the joy you promise me as your [son/daughter]. The things I ask you for—family, acceptance, health, and provision—are good things, but I need help to realize they are blessings to enjoy, not gods to idolize and fixate on.
You know the desires of my heart. You bless me with the promise that I can always make my requests known to you so that I don’t have to live in anxiety and fear (Phil. 4:6). You call me to relationship with you. Help me to realize that when I deeply desire or “need” something, what I am really seeking is you (Psalm 63:1).
In Jesus’ name,