Parting words of her mother to 18-year-old Gonxha Bojaxjiu
(the future Mother Teresa)
In Come Be My Light, we follow Blessed Mother Teresa as she begins God’s work among the most impoverished and powerless in the slums of Calcutta. Despite her urgent, repeated requests, years pass before Mother Teresa receives the necessary permissions – first from her spiritual advisor, then from her bishop, then from Rome, then (finally) her own superior. Even after the permission was granted, delays and misunderstandings (even within the Loreto community) tried and tested her resolve. And yet, she did not lose heart. She writes:
Cheerfulness is a sign of a generous and mortified person who forgetting all things, even herself, tries to please her God in all she does for souls. Cheerfulness is often a cloak which hides a life of sacrifice, continual union with God, fervor and generosity. A person who has this gift of cheerfulness very often reaches a great height of perfection. For God loves a cheerful giver and He takes close to His heart the religious He loves (p.33).
Cheerfulness, unfortunately, is not an easy emotion to summon up for mothers without children. This is true whether a woman struggles with infertility, or who hopes to adopt but is prevented from welcoming the child of her heart into her arms.
One of the most difficult obstacles to adoption occurs when a married couple is divided on the issue (one wants to adopt, the other is ambivalent or outright resistant). The reasons vary from couple to couple: financial concerns, fears of the unknown, resistance to the challenges that might surface in the child, concerns about how well a child will “fit” in the family, unwillingness to be subjected to the intrusive questions that are part of the adoption process.
The story of Mother Teresa offers some useful insight as to how to resolve this impasse. Throughout the discernment process, she both trusted in God (faith) and sought information (perseverance), especially from those who could help her discern God’s will.
“When God closes a door, He opens a window.” Here’s the catch: unless you are actively moving in some direction, how can you tell whether a particular portal is open or shut? You can’t. And so, Blessed Teresa walked down a long, dimly lit corridor of uncertainty and delay, a path of hairpin turns and crotchety gatekeepers, with ample room for falls and sidetracks. Patiently, prayerfully, determinedly Blessed Teresa negotiated each turn, refusing to give up. She was convinced it is God’s way for her, and so she kept moving forward with a combination of Faith and Perseverance.
Adoption, too, requires a kind of unshakable faith – both faith in God, and faith in your spouse. Faith in God enables us to remain open to signs and open doors; faith in our husbands -- in particular, in their concerns and viewpoints -- is what keeps us from proceeding too quickly.
By holding these two things in balance, we are able to discern God's will in the matter. The reason for this is simple: God regards a married couple as one. Assuming both spouses are believers who honestly want God's will for their lives, God will never entrust a task to one partner without moving the other in a similar (or at least complementary) way.
So, what should you do if you want to adopt, but your spouse is unwilling or reluctant? First, do some gentle poking to uncover the source(s) of the hesitation. If your spouse is otherwise open to the idea, seek out resources that can give you the answers and/or reassurances the hesitating partner needs. Go to information meetings at a couple of different agencies.
But what if the spouse is really opposed to adoption? Your first obligation is to the family you have right now. Adoption is difficult enough without going into it half-heartedly. If after praying together and talking it through, your spouse says, “I just don’t think this is for us. Sorry.” (Here’s the hard part.) STOP and LISTEN. It may very well be that this is not the right time for you to consider adopting a child of your own.
Instead, consider alternatives: raising money and/or supplies for a pregnancy counseling center or children’s home near you, or support a children’s outreach such as Caritas. Befriend a foster or adoptive parent in your area who needs support.
Above all, pray. God is able to work in a resistant heart far more effectively than we can. Dedicate a holy hour each week to your “spiritual child,” who is out there and in need of a home. Pray for his or her protection, health, and family. Even if you are unable to bring a child into your home, you can carry him or her in your heart.
One final word of caution: As you are discerning adoption, remember that decisions made under duress or in haste can backfire, for both you and your family (including those you hope to adopt). Sometimes God sets “speed bumps” in our path in order to get us to slow down and consider whether God’s will – or our own self-centered desires – are compelling us to act. If you are feeling pressured or isolated, step back and get an objective, informed opinion (perhaps from another adoptive parent, or your pastor).
Waiting is never easy. But God uses these uncharted, uncertain moments to draw us closer to Him. In times like these, trust is the only sane option.