By Krystal Woods
This story is long overdue and I’ve written it a couple of times but just couldn’t get it right. I would try to share my heart while self-protecting; that is just not possible. Sharing your heart, your real heart, takes transparency and therefore opens one up to judgment. I didn’t want to go there. To lay all bare and know that there would be many that wouldn’t understand. How do you write about the destruction of your life, while encouraging the reader to let their life be destroyed as well? The Gospel… well, it ruined my life.
Life was good. We were very settled. We had a steady, solid marriage, 3 perfect children and we felt comfortable and confident with how well our family was loving our “neighbor” and each other. Don’t get me wrong, we had our struggles, really big ones, some that lasted years, but through the Lord’s faithfulness we were more than conquerors and we were at peace with our life. We were very involved in ministry and had a heart for Jesus. We knew Jesus, we were believers and we had dedicated our life to HIM. We knew the gospel, we LOVED the gospel and then the Gospel destroyed our life. Demolished our life by way of a child.
It’s not coincidence that the gospel comes to us by way of a child. It’s on purpose. A beautiful, fleshy baby born of a virgin, into an anything but virgin world. This child would grow magnificently: fully God, fully man and show us how to live and how to love. This man, my Jesus, would shake the world to its core through his miracles, his ministry, through the very manifestation of the Father’s love for us. You see the gospel creator, the gospel maker, the gospel writer shows us that the gospel will ruin your life. Jesus didn’t have His own life, he wasn’t about His own gain or comfort. He didn’t come to settle in and get cozy. He didn’t even have a place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20). He came to lose His life; He came to die as the ransom for many. He came to sacrifice and suffer. He came as a perfect example of living a life of surrender to the Father’s will. Even to the point of abandonment and torture, even to the point of death. A death that He asked to be saved from (Matthew 26:39). This is the gospel; the magnificently gorgeous and bloody gospel. The one that ruined my life.
You see, maybe the gospel to me had become watered down a little. Perhaps, it was more about Starbucks coffee dates, a nice house, my bills getting paid and cozy bible studies than carrying my cross. You see those are Jesus’ words, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) Don’t get me wrong, I love Starbucks! I’m a gold status member at Starbucks, I just can’t get there as easily as I used to. My life, the one that revolved around my comfort and rest, got hijacked and nailed to a cross, never to be found again.
This is an adoption story that you may never have heard before, it’s not pretty, it’s not glossy and photo ready. It’s all about death. My death, the death of the marriage I knew, the death of the family I loved so much. Death, death, death. Each day to chose the death of my own comfort and my own will to LIVE a life birthed straight out of the Father’s heart.
Every adoption story is a result of loss for that child, ours is no different. Our little boy suffered a lot of loss before coming to us. In the “adoption training world” this is called: trauma. He was abandoned around the age of one month: trauma. He was placed in orphanage for 17 months: trauma. He was adopted for the 1st time at age 18 months and taken from everything he knew and dropped into a new country, culture, language and family: trauma. He was adopted for the 2nd time, by us, at 2 and a half years old: another trauma. All these traumas add up to a mountain of pain, distrust, anger, rebelliousness and violence. A child who has been broken like this requires more from you than you can even fathom when you say “Yes” to the adoption agency. It’s better this way, if you knew what it would cost, you wouldn’t say “Yes.” You would run away and keep your beautiful life just like it is. The problem with that is there are 18 million orphans in the world who need homes, who need families, who need love, who need you to run to them and give your beautiful life away.
When I scan my mind to recall the memories from the first months after Zion came home to us, I am overwhelmed by the darkness that hovers over every scene. Those days were so dark; for him and for us. He was terrified of us. He didn’t know us. He didn’t know where his other family had gone. And he had no language to receive or share any understanding of what was going on. He didn’t want to be held, or hugged or loved in anyway. He hated his new siblings… I mean loathed them! He wanted them out of the house; they were his enemies, the competition at meal times and play time. His one goal was to dominate and make sure that he was in control and had all the food and toys he wanted. Meal prep was absolute torture to him, once he began to smell the food he would go into a full on meltdown with scratching and screaming to get at the food. He was completely obsessed with food. I didn’t dare enter a grocery store with him for 4 months.
He would scream and scream for hours and hours, day or night, in the car or in the house. As much comfort as we offered to him, he would have none of it. He didn’t know how to receive love. He wanted to put himself to sleep by digging into his scalp with his nails till he bled. I couldn’t let that happen so I would pick him up and rub his head gently with my finger nails to simulate the motion that soothed him to sleep without the blood and cuts. I would sing to him for hours and hours each night:
Jesus loves Zion this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little one to HIM you belong, WE are weak but HE is strong. Yes, Jesus loves Zion. Yes, Jesus loves Zion. Yes, Jesus loves Zion. The Bible tells me so.
I didn’t sleep through the night for months and months, those dark night hours were filled with his resisting being held or comforted. He would try to choke me and push me away. This was very hard for me, I wanted to love him and he didn’t want my love. It was so sad to see. We cried for him and what made him this way and we cried for ourselves because we knew what it was going to cost us to walk him through this life. I remember one time, I think it was day 4, Zion was so unhappy and miserable. He just hated us and I was feeling completely overwhelmed by what was happening to our family. I sat on the couch and through tears I told my kids, “Zion doesn’t want Mommy to love him. He is angry with me and that makes me very sad so I’m going to need extra hugs from you sometimes to help me get through.” They agreed to give me extra hugs and we all hugged and cried for a long time that night. They knew that I needed their love so that I could continue to mother a child who never had a mother and didn’t know he needed one. We made the decision in the first few days and weeks that no matter what, Zion’s needs would come first. He would never be considered anything different then our son and their brother. So letting him go wasn’t an option. We were in it to the end, whatever he brought to us or against us we would have to learn to cope with. Our biological children had us and our attention completely devoted to them for years and now we would all need to pull together, push down our own needs, wants and desires to redeem a child. What does it look like to sacrifice your children so another can become your child? Well, it looks like the gospel: He who did not spare he own Son, but gave him up for us all… (Romans 8:32a). It looks like the amazingly loving, sacrificial gospel that ruined my life.
Another staggering issue for Zion and the care that he requires, is that he is a child with special needs. So not only has he suffered tremendous traumas, he is also significantly delayed. At first, it was the assumption that maybe he was autistic, then it was thought that perhaps he was just typically delayed like other children who spend their first formative months and years in an orphanage without the stimulation and care that comes from being part of a family. As of now, we just don’t know. He remains about 2 years delayed in the areas of speech and cognition. No one can figure out why yet. This is hard for me. I had very little experience with special needs before Zion; this is a lonely and depressing road for a parent to walk at times. We really had to hide for a long time. We couldn’t go out in public or get a babysitter for months. We couldn’t have people over to visit in fear of what Zion would do to them or their children. Very dark time. We were held hostage by his needs and behaviors. I responded to his special needs negatively at times and also compulsively, often out of fear of Zion “not catching up” or improving at a good rate. I worked with him till he and I were exhausted and drained and really not all that happy with each other. I would do this everyday. It became my life’s mission to help my little boy overcome all the things holding him back. How silly of me to try to do God’s job.
At the time it didn’t seem silly though. It seemed to me like the best way to love him well. I’ve learned a lot over these last 19 months about “just loving people” and to not try to “fix” them. I’m still on that journey, and honestly, will always struggle in that tension of how to love well by just letting Zion grow at his own rate, to be whatever God has created him to be. It’s just hard. I want so much for him. And as his mother I want to help him be a conqueror in every area of his life, but what the Lord has shown me the most in this time of being Zion’s mother is: Not my will, but your will, Lord.
Oh, there is so much in that little phrase: Not my will, but your will, Lord.
There is sanctification in that phrase. There is death in that phrase, but there is also life, and life in abundance. How could doing the Father’s will not bring us life to the full? Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life and have it abundantly.”(John 10:10) Jesus can give us this promise because he lived it: a life in full submission and obedience. The obedience of: Not my will, but your will, Lord, will bring you an abundant life. It’s a promise! One that we have had to cling to on the darkest and most discouraging days. The promise that we will have trouble, and we will have trials in this world, but we are to take heart because Jesus has overcome this world! (John 16:33) For me, I think I got stuck in the mindset of: if something is hard or doesn’t fall into place easily, than God must not be in it. Where does this lie come from? I am convinced it comes from HELL. Yes! I said that. It comes from HELL.
Abraham is obedient to the Lord’s will and is required to leave everything he knows and move to a new land. How many of us are going to feel like that is easy? And then after his promised son Isaac is given to him, God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. I wonder if he said to himself, “God, you’re asking too much!” We know that even if Abraham thought that, he didn’t let that thought stop him from being obedient to the Lord. In the end God spared Isaac, but I can only imagine how painful that road was for both of them. Moses, who doesn’t possess the gift of public speaking, has to face the most powerful leader in the world and demand that Pharaoh obey his command to release the Hebrew slaves. That seems like it would be pretty uncomfortable and down right scary, doesn’t it? And then there is Esther who has to decide that her life, her physical life, must be put in the hands of the King, who is also her husband, to follow the Lord’s prompting that someone needs to save the Jewish people from total annihilation! Umm… dare I say, that seems like craziness? Yet, that is exactly what she was supposed to do. And the list of obedient servants goes on and on, including our Lord, his disciples, the apostles and now, you and me.
My husband and I would say that following the Lord hasn’t been the easy road, the painless road or the comfortable road, but definitely the better road. It’s the road we would also choose to walk again. We, as in our bio kids, too. Their little hearts beat for orphans in the most passionate and “common sense” way. Let me explain, to them it just makes perfect sense to give a child home who needs a home. There is no great struggle within them to try and figure out the “pros and cons.” To them, kids needing homes equals giving them our home. Ahhh, the refreshing faith and willingness of a child. May we all learn to walk this way.
That’s where we are today. Still in the struggle, but closer to the Father then ever before. We understand the gospel and our God’s love for us so much more then we ever could have without adopting. Our own brokenness was weeded out and exposed in ways that could not have happened without Zion in our family. And every time my anger or disappointment would flare up or I would lose my cool and wallow in self-pity, my Heavenly Father would still choose to adopt me. He didn’t say to me, “You’re just too broken, you’re just too messed up to come into my family.” The love of the Father is so extravagant and scandalous that in those moments of sin and resentfulness of what my life had become, he would say things like this to me, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:10) And he would say this, “…and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted. Then your light will rise in the darkness and your gloom will become like the midday.” (Isaiah 58:10) God used Zion to strengthen our faith and firmly cement our reliance of the Holy Spirit to get us through each day. When it’s all closing in around you, you understand more of what David is saying when he called the Lord our refuge, strength and ever-present help in time of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
If the Lord desires us to continue serving orphans though adoption we will follow HIM, fully knowing that He will be with us and for us each step of the way. We will trust him again to fill in the gaps with our biological children, as their sacrifices must be made, as well as our own. As difficult and painful as it has been, my heart beats for orphans stronger than ever. There is something so down right miraculous about growing to love a child you did not birth, a child who ignores you, doesn’t want you, and doesn’t know he needs you. The miraculous occurs because the gospel isn’t just about death, it’s about resurrection. It’s about the power of the resurrection that redeems us all! It’s about a little boy named Zion, who now calls me, “Mama.” A child who now comes to me for hugs and kisses and comfort. A child who adores his siblings and finds the greatest joy in playing with them. A child I could never imagine not being in my family, not being one of my own. It’s the miracle of the gospel and it’s contagious.
So you see, this story is about the gospel ruining my life, the death of the life I thought I wanted but once I lost it, I never wanted to find it again. (Matthew 10:13) This is the story of the resurrection of a new life, one full of obedience and of sacrifice and of joy and fulfillment in abundance! This is the story of my adoption, the one that cost my God His life, but gave me the family and home I needed in His kingdom. How can I not pour my own life out for a child who has lost everything? Out of my Savior’s love for me I live, move and have my being (Acts 17:28).