It was also during college, though, that I discovered how adorable babies are from other countries. Especially babies from Africa. I know that sounds really shallow, and there's no denying it was to begin with, but I just really loved to look at and hold these babies. I thought they were more beautiful than any babies I'd ever seen. Someday, I thought, I'm going to adopt some babies from Africa. At the time, I can't say I felt that desire because of some grand calling or altruistic motive or knowledge of the situation of many orphans in Africa. I was merely responding to the only inclination I'd felt up to that point to be a mom. As time went by, however, I began to learn more about AIDS in Africa and how it left millions of children without parents. And then I saw a presentation at my university from a guy who worked for International Justice Mission and heard about the director of IJM's experience in Rwanda after the genocide years before. I felt the tears well up in my eyes as my heart began to break and I approached the presenter afterward with a sort of urgency, wondering what I could do to help these children around the world - the ones who are being sold as sex slaves, the ones who are orphaned because of genocide or poverty or AIDS. I don't remember what the presenter suggested - probably law school, which I didn't do - but I do remember being a little different from that point on.
Long story short, over the past ten years, my desire to adopt kids from destitute, desperate, hopeless situations has only increased. My desire to be a mom has increased, too, but mostly only in relation to adoption. I can see myself as a mom now, something I couldn't really envision before. I think it would be pretty incredible to carry my own child and give birth. But I've got to be honest, when I think about being a mom, what moves me most is the thought of taking in kids who wouldn't be otherwise loved and cared for. That gets my blood pumping and my heart engaged more than thinking of having my own children. And it no longer matters whether they're from Africa. I'll take them from anywhere. When the earthquake hit in Haiti, all I could think about for weeks were all the orphans before the earthquake, and now, all the newly orphaned children. It tore me up inside, this feeling of helplessness. I just wanted to love and protect these kids, and I knew I couldn't right now.
For the record, these are things I don't usually tell people. I don't know why now, but I just wanted to get it out. Something happened last night when I was driving home from church. I'd been pleasantly surprised when one of my close friends who is Buddhist invited herself to church with me. In fact, surprised is way too tame a word. So she came with me and said she really enjoyed it, especially the music, and remarked that she thinks what we believe is the same message as Buddhism and all the other religions. We had a nice, honest discussion about our beliefs, but I didn't push it. I love my friend, and I figure the only One who will be able to convince her of His love and desire for relationship with her is Jesus.
Interestingly, the message my pastor talked about that night was adoption. The story of the gospel really culminates in this beautiful, unbelievable act of adoption, of God reaching out to orphaned humanity and saying, I choose you. Come home with Me. I've got a place for you, a place where you can always belong and be forgiven and loved. And you can call me Daddy. I'll treat you the same way I treat my only Son, Jesus, and you'll even share in His inheritance. We'll be one beautifully redeemed family. I'm not an expert on world religions by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know this message is unique to the gospel of Jesus. It was a beautiful message, and the whole time I'm sitting there wondering what my dear friend is thinking as she's hearing this. It must have sounded absurd. And let's be honest, in rational terms, it is. Grace is absurd.
So getting back to my drive home, I was thinking about my friend and felt the same kind of urgent longing in my heart for her to be adopted, the way I'd felt it for the kids in Haiti. And I began to cry, which I know isn't that unusual, as I've become a bit of a blubberer the past year and a half. But these tears felt different. I didn't connect the dots right away, but then it was as if a light turned on in my heart and my Papa God whispered, Here are more orphans to love, the ones who don't yet know Me. The ones who, apart from Me, would not experience true life and true love. I realize this all sounds extremely sentimental, and I'm not trying to be overly such; it's just that, when Jesus captures your heart, your emotions are not untouched. And for me, that often translates into tears. So there I was, sitting in my car with tears streaming down my face, wiping my nose and talking with God about how badly I want to not only bring orphaned children home someday - the kids who don't stand much of a chance in life without someone taking them in - but I also want to bring into my home the orphaned people who need to know the inexhaustible love and grace and adoption of their Father God. If I can love both these kinds of orphans, I told God, I will not need children of my own. To love these would be enough, unless of course, God has other plans.
One last thing. There are few times in life, sadly, when I truly feel satisfied with Jesus alone - nothing else, no one else. I'm just being honest. Those times are perhaps becoming more frequent as my love for Him deepens, but I don't live in a perpetual state of contentment and bliss in knowing He loves me. But I'll tell you, one of those moments crept up behind me last night and took me by surprise. As I was falling asleep, I was thinking about how much Jesus means to me and how much I mean to Him, and I'll just say it, I couldn't hold back the tears again. I think for the first time in my life, in that priceless moment, I was convinced in my heart that no earthly love could ever come close to the love of Jesus. That even were I never to marry, He would be enough for me. Instead of that being a disturbing thought or arousing fear, like, Oh my gosh, does that mean I'll never get married?! - it was so sweet and satisfying, and I fell asleep peacefully for the first time in several weeks, thinking of the One who loves me eternally. It was blissful.