This post was written by my friend, Ted Kluck. Ted is the award-winning author of several books, including “Hello, I Love You: Adventures in Adoptive Fatherhood” (Moody Publishing) and “Household Gods: Freed From the Worship of Family to Delight in the Glory of God” (NavPress).
“The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.”
We packed our bags, emptied our bank accounts, went into what would later become crippling debt, and took off for Kiev, Ukraine, with the above piece of questionable theology rattling around in our young, idealistic heads. God was going to put out for us, because we were putting out for God. It sounded like a pretty good deal to me and is pretty much the functional centerpiece of many man-centered, Arminian, “prosperity” theological schools of thought. How could God hurt such great people who would willingly volunteer to adopt abroad before even trying to have biological kids? We were middle-class heroes!
With stacks of hundreds strapped around my waist, I disembarked on Ukrainian soil, where I would, as it turned out, disembark several more times before my adoption of our oldest son Tristan was a done deal. Our agency referred to it as “the toughest” adoption in the history of the Ukraine program…shortly before closing the Ukraine program.
I felt like Rocky getting off the plane in Siberia, just before his fight with Drago in “Rocky IV.” I felt the cold air, the cold stares, and the pervasive gray skies and lack of sunshine. People were decidedly unfriendly, about which I remember thinking, “Don’t they know what a great thing it is that we’re doing?” And also, “Why isn’t God making this easier?”
Before returning to American soil with Tristan we would, in no particular order:
- Be held at gunpoint by Ukrainian cops.
- Be told that our paperwork was wrong just before being told that we could alleviate this “problem” by purchasing a new printer for the office of a government official.
- Become violently ill the morning that the adoption was supposed to be finalized, resulting in me vomiting all over our facilitator’s new Mercedes (poetic justice for the printer scam above?) and then again all over the steps of the American embassy in Kiev.
- Buy medicine for his entire orphanage in an attempt to stave off the pneumonia that was sweeping through the facility.
- Dance to a Busta Rhymes song in a Ukrainian bar.
- Ride a bus for 18 straight hours sitting in front of a gigantic Ukrainian man with a walrus moustache snoring behind us the whole way.
- Not kill the aforementioned guy.
- Be so sick that I took a shot in the backside in a dark alley in Kiev – a shot which immediately made me feel better and that, to this day, I still don’t know the contents of. Right before the shot, our facilitator did the thing with the syringe where she expressed a little bit of the fluid out the top and then flicked it a couple of times with her finger. It was just like the movies.
- Be driven overnight to Poland by a guy who looked just like Patrick Swayzee in “Roadhouse.”
All of that to say, international adoption is not always like the Facebook pictures make it out to be, meaning that it’s not just you surrounded by a bunch of smiling little orphans – all of whom will be taken home by you, and all of whom will love you forever.
So what happened to the “center of God’s will being the safest place to be?” Truth be told, if we believe scripture to be true (and we do), it was probably (at least in the world’s economy) never a real safe place to be. See: Peter (hung upside-down on a cross) and James (beheaded). See: Stephen (stoned to death). See: Paul, who while writing half the New Testament also endured all manner of hardship and trial.
What we were beginning to learn in Ukraine, but wouldn’t fully learn until much later, was this: A life of humble and broken obedience to a loving, trustworthy, and sovereign Lord won’t be without trial and pain, but also won’t be random, arbitrary and meaningless.
Moses was in the “center of God’s will,” but his people needed to keep learning these lessons the hard way. I would much rather be in that position than in Pharoah’s, who was having his heart hardened by the trials that God sent his way (through Moses).
Much of what happened to us seemed random, arbitrary and meaningless. But it was for the twofold greater purpose of a.) getting Tristan home with us and b.) making us into the kind of people who could have a shot at not ruining Tristan in the long run. God (and our kids) needed us to be humble and broken before Him. He needed us to stop complaining and start trusting. He needed us to see beyond the pain of our immediate circumstances and see His faithfulness.