Every family considering special needs adoption comes to that point.
The point of decision.
The proverbial fork in the road.
The one that leads to two totally different lives.
If families take the right turn, life, although admittedly still full of typical trials and challenges, looks clean.
It’s punctuated by family vacations and college savings plans and the dreams couples dreamed at the altar about “healthy” children and the Rockwellian, picturesque life.
The kind of life that doesn’t invite extra burdens.
Doesn’t welcome extra complications.
Doesn’t deliberately embrace inconveniences that are going to rearrange schedules and homes and hearts and lives.
The “American dream” kind of life.
Most families who entertain the idea of adoption and come to the point of making this special needs adoption decision, they take this right turn.
They talk themselves out of adoption.
They pray themselves out of adoption.
They put off the idea of special needs adoption.
Waiting for a more convenient time.
Waiting for a better funded season.
Waiting for the circumstances in their life to align beautifully so that special needs adoption can become a perfectly fitting puzzle piece into their neat and tidy lives.
Waiting for a time when a child with special needs won’t feel quite so “needy.”
All while millions of orphans around the world pine for messy, imperfect lives in HOMES where they can experience LOVE.
And some of them, like Luna, die doing so.
So while children die, we endlessly stall and pray.
While 14-year-olds age out of international adoption systems and leave orphanages at ages 16 and 18 to find work and fend for themselves, we wait until our lives look stable enough to invite one of them in.
While God commands us to care for orphans and widows and gives us the beautiful opportunity to BE His hands and feet, we turn a blind eye. Choose to look the other way. Delete little faces. Choose to forget empty eyes.
And go on living our comfortable, convenient lives of luxury in a place where even our cars have a place to live.
This path to the right — it looks enticing. It looks fun. It looks like the life we always wanted to live.
“The good life.”
Until we take the hard left and learn the truth that adoptive families of special needs children have been discovering for years.
That there is no life BETTER than the one where you get the honor and PRIVILEGE of parenting one of the world’s best-kept secrets.
The children labeled “unwanted” by the world who have been redeemed and renamed and rehomed in their identities as LOVED children of God. Loved so much that God would send a FAMILY to call their own.
This path to the left — it’s hard to see from the fork why anyone would take it.
It requires sacrifice, service and a dying to self.
It’s peppered with doctor appointments and occupational therapy visits and surgery schedules and hospital stays.
It’s sprinkled with IEP meetings and visits to educational resource stores.
It often involves an entire season of long-and-hard days.
And it’s BATHED in more love, hugs and PURPOSE than any second of any day the path to the right could ever offer.
It’s a life far RICHER than any person facing that fork could ever imagine.
It’s why you see families who have adopted children with special needs going back and back again to bring more and more of these beautiful children home.
Because they’ve realized that these needs aren’t scary.
Because they’ve realized that these children are precious.
And because they’ve realized that those pieces of their old life that they clung to for so long … they often don’t even miss them. They’re rubbish when viewed through the lens of the meaningful and purpose-filled life they live now.
The life that says “yes” to the most deserving “least of these.”
The life that changes the orphan story.
Friends, the timing will never be right.
The money will never be enough.
The energy required will never look like something you have in your reserves.
But when you step out in faith to love one of the LEAST of these, it’s amazing how God just provides.
So that one day, when you host a 7-year-old orphan with Down syndrome in your home, you will host a reception for her and find yourself in a room FULL of adoptive families with special needs superheroes who you now just call “friends” — soulmates with children born around the world who play together and love together and stay in hospitals together and attend occupational therapy together. Who walk differently or not at all. Who have 46 chromosomes or have 47. Who speak English and Chinese and “play” and now, under the shelter of a family, “love.” And who understand God’s redeeming love better than most adults in this world.
And you will thank God for that hard left turn that led to your new normal.
The life where your bio kids grow up not with all the things they want — but with all the lessons they need.
In a community of families who value life and the preciousness of it all and the VALUE of children the world sees as disposable.
In a colorful and diverse community of special needs where the children in these families run not AWAY from children who look or act or behave differently from them … but run TO them.
If I could return to that girl facing the fork — looking down the path of special needs with anxiety and worry and comparing it to the simple, one-parent-per-kid life with the home and the car and the existence outside of hospital stays — I wouldn’t just tell that girl to turn left.
I would tell her to RUN left.
Into the arms of Jesus.
Into the embrace of the superhero who would change her life.
Into the most rewarding, most fulfilling, most adventurous life she could ever hope to lead.
The REAL “good life.”