We stepped off of the plane into a land that was new to me, but already held my heart. I was overwhelmed by smells of Ethiopian spices, incense, and fresh mountain air. I tried to memorize every detail – the sounds of the Amharic language, the warmth of the beautiful people, their dress, and their way. My husband, Nathan, and I shuffled through the crowds together, exhausted but excited. I could not believe this was finally happening. After a period of waiting and the whirlwind that followed, we were finally in the homeland of our infant son.
Emotion came over me as I realized the impact of this moment and how close we were to our Elijah Yegremachew. He was only 7 months old, and being near him just intensified the longing I had to hold him in my arms and see him with my own eyes for the very first time. It was one of those moments you know you will never forget…one of those moments that changes your life forever. I realized it and yet couldn’t wrap my brain around it all at the same time.
We moved through the crowds, obtaining our visas, and exchanging our American dollars for Ethiopian birr. We waited for luggage, were aggressively pursued by those hoping to carry our bags for a tip, and finally found our adoption agency guide in the sea of people.
As we drove through the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa, I could hardly speak. I didn’t want to forget a thing. I hoped the images would be ingrained in my heart and mind forever. We saw children playing the streets, donkeys meandering through traffic, the incredible beauty & strength of the Ethiopian people, and poverty like we’d never witnessed before. It was a captivating picture of incredible beauty and brokenness existing side by side. A piece of my heart will always belong to Ethiopia.
I remember standing on the stairs of the transition home where Elijah was staying in anticipation of seeing him for the first time. My heart was pounding, and I was anxiously excited while I waited to catch a glimpse. When they brought him out, my heart caught in my throat. He was even more perfect than I had imagined. He was alert and looking around, and by some miracle did not cry when they handed him over. Not at first. Fairy tale meetings don’t usually happen in adoption, but this one was pretty close. He wore a little blue sleeper we had sent over in a care package earlier, and I held him up to take all of him in. He was beautiful, and I was in love.
Meeting our son for the first time ranks as one of the most meaningful days in my life. Not only was I head over heels in love with this little one, but I felt a new sense of purpose, and God’s faithfulness in the completion of this giant step of faith. God had done what seemed impossible only a year earlier, and He had provided for every step of the way. My heart was full.
What led us here? The short answer is God’s goodness. The longer answer is the journey to learning how to trust God and live out a more radical faith, even when there is every reason not to.
God led us to giving Him our yes to a calling He designed, and we would have missed it if we’d given a no instead. He had led us down the path to this first adoption, and all that was to follow. I cringe to think what might have been…or not been…if we’d not been willing to respond to His promptings.
You see, we had every reason to give a no. When we felt God calling us to adoption, it seemed crazy. He put it first on my heart, and after much prayer, on my husband’s. We made a list of all of the reasons adoption didn’t make sense for our little family of five, and the list was long.
What keeps us from giving God our yes?
Are we afraid of failing? Afraid of being uncomfortable? Giving up our freedoms, our reputation, our life as we know it? Why do we resist surrender to God’s calling and trade it instead for a life of safety and predictability?
I have lots of theories on this, most of them from personal experience. You see, I’d spent most of my life living the safe version of Christianity. You know the kind – going to church on Sunday, maybe volunteering occasionally, taking a meal when someone has a baby or dies, and putting a buck or two in the Salvation Army tin at Christmas.
But mostly, I kept my life comfortable and safe…you know, for the sake of doing the responsible thing. I didn’t want to do anything too risky or outside of the box. I chose safety and comfort under the guise of responsibility and wisdom. I mean, surely God would want me to live in a rational, measured way that guarantees success and good outcome, right?
Well, maybe not.
I had never entertained the idea that I lived the safe version of a Christian life, really. I tried to live out my faith in ways I thought were responsible and calculated. I tried to read my Bible and do what it said (failing a lot of the time), serve at church, and went to Bible study. I knew I wasn’t earning my salvation by “doing good”, but I hoped it would be enough.
And then God stepped in. He rocked my world and opened my eyes and challenged me to live a different kind of faith. One that reflected that I actually believed Him. Not that I believed in Him, but that I believed His promises. That I believed He would be faithful in all He called me to do. Yes indeed, this was a different kind of living.
My focus began to shift and I could feel God doing a work in me and opening my eyes. In His goodness, he began to break my heart for what breaks his and gently brought me along in seeing what it should be to live out a true faith. To love unconditionally, to get into the trenches with those who are hurting and need to feel the love of Jesus wrapped around them in the flesh.
And thank goodness He did. It came with the best blessings around.