Simple

Lately I’ve been hyper-aware of controversy swirling around me in many ways.  In this interconnected world of many causes, quick opinions and ready comments, someone states a convincing argument and I am swayed, made to think.  And then another chimes in with a logical argument on the opposite side.  I find my beliefs stirred, challenged, brought to be examined again under hard light.

Yes, I want to believe what is right, avoid what is wrong.  And yes, most certainly there are times that right still shines sun-bright, even in this mixed up, complicated world.  I seek it out.  I try not to base belief on fickle feeling.  I want to be a Berean, searching the scripture for true answers.

But I also see realms of grey, places where I can’t clearly discern right from wrong, issues about which the Bible doesn’t seem to directly speak.

Is a book edifying or blasphemy?  Is hearing from God limited to words written in the Bible, or am I wrong to believe God might at times speak directly into people’s hearts? Is shunning or friendship the right approach when someone’s beliefs outright conflict with my own?  Is adoption the be-all, end-all solution as I believed a decade ago, or should we in the Western world funnel wealth toward family preservation in the third world?  And (core to me as a mother) am I really parenting my children ‘in the way that they should go’, or might my frail effort in some cases result in a child comely on the outside and all hollow inside?

I don’t know.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.

My head hurts sometimes seeking right.  Wanting wisdom, but finding it elusive.  My mind is not up for the task.  Or maybe it is the very options and possibilities that baffle me?  And me with a brain  hyper-programmed to problem-solve, to always be scanning, searching for the best, most kind, least harmful, most effective.   In a way I envy those whose world is sharp-delineated, who so clearly see right and wrong, and are able to align themselves confidently on a chosen side.

As for me, in many cases when I think for a moment that I see clearly, I am reminded of the grey, the ones in the shadow.

The person we maybe could win if we reached out in love instead of snubbing.

The people who need an extra word from God, and who the all-knowing God just might choose to encourage in extraordinary and unusual ways.

The heart of the writer of the book, who I count a friend, who lives each day much as I do, serving her family to the best of her frail ability, pouring heart onto page in the evenings hoping to serve others.  The heart I trust and feel I know.

The parent in poverty who might have been able to keep a child if they had an extra $20 a month.  And yes, I also know that the child we adopted instead with our wealth, spending thousands upon thousands more than that, might never have gone to school or might have died in childbirth at age 21 herself had we not stepped forward.

In not clearly seeing what’s right in some situations, or in embracing the less conservative belief, am I simple-minded?  Deluded by new-age philosophy?  Lacking in reasoning skills?  Or maybe just a coward fearing offense? I don’t really know.

But when my head gets hurting too much, when my soul is dismayed at my lack of knowledge and my inability to discern the perfect path, I have to go back to the simple.  The most basic of beliefs. The song that every one of my little children has loved.

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

And: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. I myself will see him with my own eyes —I, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!”  Job 19:25-27

And that commandment given to the disciples by Jesus just before His death on the Cross to wash away my every sin:  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

There.  There is simple truth.  It doesn’t make every decision easy.  But it has a way of illuminating the crooked paths of my mind, easing the concerns of my heart, allowing me and my feeble efforts to rest in peace.  In Him, the Knower of everything, the Lover of my soul.  My Redeemer who lives.

——

Added March 18th: 

After reading comments I think I wasn’t clear enough about some things I DO know and believe:

First and most important–I believe there is one God who saves us by grace through faith and not by our own merit or goodness.  

Second– I do believe John and I were clearly led to adopt our own children.  My questions regarding adoption center around my desire to see justice done for those in need, justice that in some cases may not be best served by removing children from their first families.

Thanks to everyone for commenting.

{ 32 Comments }

  1. Love this, Mary. So, so good.

  2. I try to understand what you write about, but of course can not completely. I just know when I feel overwhelmed, as I was this morning – wanting God (in part) to just come and take us away (Maranatha!!)…but know in HIS time is the only right time. I just felt SO lost, lonely, scared and uncertain — I said the rosary…which NEVER ever fails me.

    God bless you, may you find peace — and look to God alone for the answers -whether they be in the bible, on your heart or through a wise (tested) person in your life.

    Hugs!
    elizabeth

  3. As an adoptive parent, I’ve struggled with the same thing. Keep in mind, it’s not just physical poverty we’ve adopted our children out of. Twenty dollars a month may be enough to feed their stomachs, but what about their souls. Our son that would have grown up in a Muslim country gets fed the Word of God on a daily basis. Only God’s Word has the power to save. In our situation, he was abandoned and we didn’t have the opportunity to meet any of his family, but I’ve wondered… what if? What if we could have made a difference for all of them? Maybe we have. Maybe God has through our adoption. One thing I know is that our son was meant to be our son. Before we knew he was ours, God had planned it. It’s very humbling and reassuring to rest in the sovereignty of God.

    Love your blog, your heart, and your deep thoughts.

    Celee

    • Celee, Good points and thoughts, thanks. I also believe God planned our kids to be ours, even as I know in some cases their families probably just needed better support. My thoughts recently, however, were triggered by the govt slow-down of adoptions in Ethiopia, and the polarity between people saying that’s a terrible idea, and the ones saying we need to face the possible corruption in some cases there, and do a better job supporting birth families. So complicated….

      Mary

      • I have been burdened to do the only thing I can do for my daughter’s birth family…pray for them. And I am convinced it is the most powerful and influential thing. My daughter, born in China, was abandoned by an anonymous family…but they are not anonymous to Jesus Christ. So we pray for their salvation through Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We pray that one day she and we will meet them in heaven.

        Satan wants us to doubt (by dwelling on the past and doubting God’s leading in our lives); to fear (by looking around us or to the future over which we have no control); to become discouraged or disheartened(by looking at ourselves).

        BUT GOD says in Philippians 3:12-14,”Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

        I think He wants us to “look unto Jesus”(Heb 12:1-2) and when we do we will find grace, peace and often the answer to our own flavor of life. I do think it may look different than that of others (those grey areas), but I think He uses the grey and the questions to drive us to Him. If it were all black and white we’d have a playbook instead of a love letter from our Father, Savior, and King. It keeps us in relationship with Him.

        • Thanks, Mandy! You managed to quote two of my absolute favorite verses in the whole Bible (along with the glorious ‘by faith’ refrain in Hebrews 11)!

  4. You are so wonderful.

  5. Be still and know that I am God….

  6. Thanks for sharing your heart. At times when I wonder about it all, I get a lot of peace remembering, Romans 8:28- “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

  7. I too have wished to be one of the clear, black and white thinkers. How much easier it must be to always know your own mind. But I’m told it is much harder for them when confronted with facts that contradict their beliefs. The doubt we feel is healthier in the long run. Cold comfort when you’re deep in a muddle, listening to all the contradicting noise, but there it is.

    The songs I go to for the basics are the Amen song and Dona Nobis Pachem (grant us peace). Somehow those songs clear out a lot of the noise for me.

    Your post reminded me of this quote from “A Room With A View” by E.M. Forster. That book is one of my most favorites.
    “We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won’t do harm – yes, choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.”

    And as my daughter’s preschool teacher closed every parent letter: “We’re all just doing the best that we can.”

  8. “…who so clearly see right and wrong, and are able to align themselves confidently on a chosen side.”
    I doubt there is anyone like that. The choice between right and wrong is never easy and distinguishing between right and wrong is in itself very difficult.

    I am a Hindu and I’ve lost many a Christian friend because they did not acknowledge my faith as real and pestered me to try their path to God and stopped being friends when I politely refused. I do not understand this obsession with one’s religion being supreme. All religions are paths to the same God. There are religions older than and equally sacred as Christianity. As a Christian one need not accept them, but please at least leave us to our faith as we leave you to yours. When I have children I’d like to teach them religious harmony, not just religious tolerance. I’d want them to accept everyone’s faith as equal and precious. I don’t know if I’m even making sense, but I wanted to get that off my chest.

    As to books, Hinduism also discourages books that do not foster Dharmic living(Dharma = right conduct). So I try to choose those that help me better myself and stay away from those, while good, have nothing to offer in terms of self-improvement.

    I believe adoption is one solution. It is wonderful to give someone a loving family and a world of opportunities. Again, I do not understand adopting to raise them in Christian faith. Their souls will be fine whether they’re Hindu or Muslim or Christian; it’s their bodies and hearts that need to be taken care of. How one does it(by adoption or sponsoring), doesn’t matter. But like you said, God puts families together.

    • Thank you, Sandy, for your comments… you so eloquently captured my thoughts as well. I believe there are many paths to God, and adoption, while complicated in many ways, is about building a family and providing love and care to another human being, not about converting someone to a specific religion (although that may happen as well).

    • Sandy,
      thank you for your open mind and heart. It is refreshing to see you are seeking peace rather than religious conversion. I am grateful for that.

  9. We all struggle – I don’t have children and couldn’t – great joy in seeing children adopted into functioning families, educated and nurtured as individuals. Worrying about making mistakes? HA! Over and over again – God chose the most fallible and broken of people as vessels and instruments of His work. You are earning stars in your crown by making the hard choices – some days the hardest choice is to get up and start a new day ! Bless y’all and pray, laugh and love – can’t go wrong with that combo.

  10. Mary, you are so wonderful and thoughtful. I think with every decision, we need to ask God what He wants us to do. Each case is individual, especially in the case of adoption, I would think. And then trust that decision later on (harder to do than to say!)

    • Jenni, I have been thankful so many times that our most challenging kids are the ones God most clearly led us to. There’s no doubt we’re on the right path, and that is a huge comfort on tough days. I’ve heard similar stories from other adoptive families, like God knew ahead of time that we’d need that reassurance. So He provided it even before we knew we needed it.

  11. I think we should rejoice in the ‘grey zones’ of life. They are there to make us think, to use the intellect and the spirituality that God gave us. We shouldn’t be afraid of those grey zones, only use them to gain greater understanding and deeper wisdom to bring us closer to God. We also have adopted kids and have often heard all the controversy surrounding our kids, particulalry those who are adopted internationally. Many times I have heard of how internationally adopted children would be better off with their families and in their own culture. Of course! It would be ideal for them to be back in their home country with their own family. BUT, that is not how it is for these children. They wouldn’t have been adoptable if “all had been well”. Our own children are adopted from China and I have only to watch movies such as ‘The Last Train’ to be reminded of how advantaged our kids are through adoption. I wish it weren’t so…I wish all kids could live happy and healthy, in what they were born into. But, for our children, it was not meant to be. Adoption does not change the world but it does change the world for one child.

  12. Wow- Did you sneak into my head??? I can so relate to your thought process, and my husband and I have had many such discussions in the wee hours. I think you are right that we have to go back to the basics- faith, hope and love. And without them, we wouldn’t have our darling little girl, either. Knowing that God wanted to BLESS me enough to interrupt my easy American life to redeem her for him (and to give her life) means that God does want to be involved in a very personal, individual way. Keep on trusting!

  13. In so many ways, kindred spirits. Minds that never shut down, in desperate, never-ending pursuit of the “right way.” I am comforted when I remember what a speck I am and the great “I AM” is the blessed controller of all things. Not nearly so much rests on my shoulders as I sometimes believe. His will will be done. As long as your heart is yearning, as it is, for the way in which to go, He will be leading you. He cannot not be faithful. Love you!

  14. Excellent post, Mary, and I struggle with these same feelings and questions. One thing that came to mind as I was reading your post is the variety we see among God’s people in the Bible. Daniel and Joseph appear to be virtually faultless, and Job did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Abraham was deceitful, repeatedly, but he believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. David fell–or jumped–into sin over and over, but “was a man after God’s own heart.” Peter was rash and tended to act without thinking. Jacob wrestled with God. All of them had such different personalities and faults, but they all served a purpose.

    I think it’s important to wrestle with these questions and issues, because it grows our faith. But it’s comforting to know that in God’s sovereignty, he will bring about his will either as a result of what we do or in spite of it.

  15. Mary this is beautiful.
    In the whirlwind of life, as it gathers speed, the black and the white merge into grey, and then the only certainty is love, just as Jesus taught us. Love. Not judgement. This is the only absolute.
    Do we love enough? Did I? The real abiding love? Does love govern our choices and decisions, our words?

    • I LOVE this! What you said so resonates with me today. That is a very good yardstick to measure by – do I love enough? How can I love better? I’m writing this in my quote book, along with the one from “A Room With A View” from a bit earlier, lol!

  16. When I was pregnant with #3, I was concerned about #2… a quiet, happy to play alone little boy. I asked several how to keep him from getting the “middle child syndrom”. My oldest was glued to my hip. The baby would be getting attention because he would demand it. But the 2nd… I was afraid he would go day after day almost unnoticed because he just doesn’t demand attention. All that to say, a wise friend responded to my concern with, “If you’re concerned about it, that’s all that’s necessary to prevent it from happening.” And its true. Being searchful and inquisitive of our parenting is the 1st step to being good parents! And as for adopting vs. funneling money… Either are good. Too many people refuse to do ANYTHING good because they don’t know what is BEST. In this world, doing anything good, be it adopting a child or sponsoring a family for $20 a month, makes a difference. Its not like all the children will get snatched up by Americans and there will no longer be families in need of a little extra help. Or vice-versa. The poor will be with us always. God led you to adopt and He’s leading others to sponsor. He’s calling countless others to action and He’s being ignored.

    So, yes, simplicity is beautiful. As I use to tell me students, “KISS it.” Keep It Simple, Silly! 🙂

    • What a good word that is, re: adoption versus support. Thank you. I tend to get stuck in the “perfect decision” syndrome, but I guess the words of Jesus make it pretty clear, no?

  17. I don’t know much about much of anything, that’s for sure. I do believe strongly in the rhema word of God, that He speaks to us in crazy, wonderful, sometimes silly ways. For me it’s a green Saab convertible. Yep, for two years now, every major change in my life has been preceded by seeing this bile-colored car, just saw it Sunday.

    At first I railed against the idea, “The people who need an extra word from God, and who the all-knowing God just might choose to encourage in extraordinary and unusual ways.” I didn’t want to be someone who “needed” an extra word from God.

    But you know what? I believe that God is well pleased to give me what I need to confirm his Logos. Recognizing the depth of this need helps me to stay on my knees, powerless without Jesus. May I always recognize how desperately I need His touch, however it may come!

  18. Thank you for your honesty, Mary. It helps us all grow to be in the same boat facing some of the same questions, and then to talk about it.

  19. Jennifer G. says:

    I love this post, and I love your willingness to say, “I don’t know.” When I’m feeling like this, that I don’t know the right answers to general but heart breaking problems, I try to remember that Jesus didn’t have one answer for everyone He helped either. Every family, every person, every situation, needs a different solution, but all right solutions come from one place, a love of and desire to follow, Christ. It seems that you have that part down.

  20. One of the most challenging parts of parenting (and life) is that there are no easy answers and no guarantees. I remember thinking, when my first child was a newborn, that I wouldn’t know if I was doing it right for at least 20 years. And we can raise two children with the same guidance and they can turn out totally different. That is the case, so far, with my two. The difference in their religious paths is very interesting to me, but I love them both and respect their decisions and beliefs.

    As for adoption (foreign vs domestic) vs giving money/time to help families stay intact vs giving money to worthy causes, well–they are all good. We just need to do the best we can with the information we have the guidance of our beliefs and values.

    I would like to add that having this kind of discussion if very meaningful. And listening to my children defend the causes that are important to them swells my heart. It means they are thinking and doing something about the making the world a better place. Pirkei Avot (the Jewish text Ethics of the Fathers) says: You are not obligated to complete/repair the world, but neither are you free to desist from it.

  21. Oh, I get it and feel this same way, too.

    Steph

  22. This is an amazing post. Thank you. I live in the gray confusion, so much of the time and it can make me totally crazy! No black and white here, just lots of wondering. I have to trust that the Father knows my heart for Him and for all of His children and will work it all out for good, somehow. I found your blog through your cookbook, which I found from a review on Amazon. Love them both, you are amazing!

  23. Thank you for sharing! I think God directed me to your blog at this particular time. I have been feeling overwhelmed with much on my mind. We are in the process of adopting two sisters from Ethiopia. We have three biological kids under the age of five. So right now, including my two daughters in ET, we have a 5,4,3,2,and 1 year old : ). I am overwhelmed sometimes just thinking about how we are going to do it all. But you put it so perfectly for me. It really is simple! I need to trust and lean on Christ. Thank you! This has been a huge help!

  24. Jeannine says:

    One of my favorite sayings is an ancient Portuguese proverb – God writes straight with crooked lines.