Not too far from us, there is a decent sized theme park. Their biggest and fastest roller coaster is named Aftershock. It is the kind that harnesses you from above so that your legs dangle. Just before the ride really begins the floor drops out from under you. It then takes you straight up at a 90 degree angle to the earth so that you are looking straight down. Then the machine lets go and you plunge straight towards the earth. You then fly past the crowd waiting for their turn and up for several loops and twists until it then takes you up in another 90 degree angle to the earth, this time you are looking straight up. It pulls you up further and then the machine lets go and you fly through the whole thing again, this time backwards.
Now I am terrified of heights. We are talking hysterical screaming, a complete loss of sanity, kind of terror. If suddenly faced with a view of a long, or even a short, drop off, I will freeze dead in my tracks. The other alternative is that I will go flailing in the other direction without regard for what is in that opposite direction. It has nothing to do with logic. Although I can give you a long list of reasons why a person should be adverse to heights!
Going back to our local theme park, I have been on Aftershock multiple times. I like the idea of the thrill of the ride. I hate the idea that at the age of 31, I am too old for that kind of stuff. I don't like thinking that I am a chicken. Every time I have gone on this ride it has gone like this:
We stand in line and at first all is well. As we get up to the front of the line the adrenaline starts to kick in... to the point that I feel a little nauseous. But I see a 9 year old kid standing ahead of me who is so excited to get on the ride and so I think to myself "if he can do this I can do this." As the gate opens I go over to my little butt landing pad. Its not exactly a full seat, more of just a place for your butt to rest while your legs dangle over the edge. The very moment that I buckle myself in I think "oh my! what have done!" I start to consider unbuckling and bailing out of this ill thought plan. But then I just envision myself getting half way unbuckled when the ride takes off and getting drug along with the ride until I finally come completely loose and fly through the air before slamming into the ground. At this point a kid comes by to make sure that my belt is on properly. In the 1.3 seconds that it takes him to tug on my belt I find myself thinking "are you old enough to drive?! you are the one they are trusting with my safety?! what are you checking for?! do you even know what to check for?!" Then the floor drops out and the ride slowly begins to move. At that point I am excited, glad that I didn't chicken out, and looking forward to the wild ride. I'm thinking "I can do this, I can do this, I think I can, I think I can." The giant machine begins to pull the contraption up that 90 degree incline. Slowly slowly slowly it inches upward. And then it locks into place. "Oh what have I done?! this was a bad idea?! why did I do this again?!" And then it comes, the moment everyone has been waiting for, the ride begins. With a sudden rush of movement, we are catapulting towards the earth, past the crowd, up into the air, up in a loop, twist in a twisty loop. The whole thing feels completely out of control. And yet I am firmly in place, following the path designed by the maker of this wild ride.
I have been told that adoption is a lot like a roller coaster. I always envisioned that this meant one of those old school roller coasters. The ones that take you up an incline and then down a steep slope over and over, with no loops no feet dangling no falling backwards towards the earth at a pace equivalent of falling to your death. I'm not an expert in all things adoption. I can only tell you about our experiences. No, our adoption is not that kind of roller coaster. It's a lot more like Aftershock.
For 12 years we have planned to adopt. We stood in that line waiting until everything was ready. When the time came, we looked at different agencies and different countries. We were about to board this ride and it started to feel a little scary. What if we picked the wrong agency or the wrong country? We moved forward and committed to our first agency and our first country (Ethiopia). We had buckled in. We changed to our second agency and our second country (Ghana). The ride began to move, slowly. With every decision came a thousand questions. Are we doing the right thing? Are we looking in the right place? How many kids? What ages? What medical conditions are we open to? Are we ready for all this?
Now we are at a point where we are making decisions and the ride is about to really start. I'm not ready to share the details of these decisions just yet. But yes, it is exciting. I can tell you that it feels a little like the start of the roller coaster, during that first free fall. It is a wonderful feeling. But it is also a very scary feeling.
So what is so scary? Is it the fear of bringing children home? No, that's not it. Don't get me wrong, we know we are jumping into the deep end of the pool. We have been to the classes, read the books, and talked to those who have lived it. We have heard plenty of the worst case scenario stories. And we know that knowing all of that is still not the same as really being there.
So what is so scary? It is the fear of getting our hearts broken. What if I fall in love with these little faces and then it doesn't work out? What if it falls through? This isn't just a little scary. It's a lot scary. We are talking about putting it all out there and risking excruciating pain. There are no guarantees in this process. But there is a whole set of questions on the other side of this. Are we not willing to experience God's great plan for us because we are too scared to walk down His path? Is God not the great Healer of all things, including our hearts? So we move forward and trust God to catch us if we fall.