Today I am thrilled to have a guest post by author, Robb Ryerse. Robb and I grew up together in the same small church and Christian school. I am fascinated by his bravery in the journey God is leading he and his family on. His brand new book recounting some of this journey, Fundamorphosis: How I Left Fundamentalism But Didn’t Lose My Faith, can be purchased now on Amazon. Robb is a deep thinker and a passionate story teller. I was excited that he agreed to share his adoption story here with us as we focus in on adoption/orphan care this month. Thank you, Robb.
I started dreaming about adopting when I was a teenager.
I grew up in fundamental Baptist churches where political issues were painted with the same broad and often simplistic brush as everything else. The only political issue that really mattered was abortion. I was taught that all true Christians were pro-life, and all pro-lifers should do everything possible to end abortion. And so I wore my “God is pro-life” t-shirt. I attended rallies and marches in Washington DC. I read books by Randall Terry. And I dreamed of one day adopting a baby who could have been a victim of abortion.
Fifteen years later, my dream came true. And along the way, I learned that the simplistic understanding of just about everything that I had inherited growing up was woefully inadequate for the real world.
For instance, I grew up with a more than healthy suspicion of the government and government programs. I was taught to believe that - at once - the government wanted both as many as abortions to take place as possible while also restricting as many Christians from adopting as possible. This simplistic view of things began to crumble when I met Donna. One evening, Donna brought her kids to an event we were doing at our church. As we chatted, she told me that she was a foster care recruiter. This intrigued me. Out of my ingrained, simplistic suspicion, I began to pepper Donna with questions:
* I’ve always heard that the foster care system won’t place a minority child with white parents. Is that true?
* I’ve always heard that the foster care system will discriminate against me because I’m a conservative Republican. Is that true?
* I’ve always heard that the foster care system won’t place a child with devout Christians. Is that true?
* I’ve always heard that the foster care system is full of bureaucratic red-tape, making it nearly impossible to actually get a child place with you. Is that true?
* I’ve always heard that the foster care system makes it really expensive and difficult to get a child. Is that true?
* I’ve always heard that the foster care system is the worst route to go for a family that wants to ultimately adopt. Is that true?
Donna patiently listened and answered my questions. Over and over again she replied, “No.” As it turned out, I wouldn’t be discriminated against or moved to the back of the line because of my faith or spend years of my life and thousands of dollars fighting a bloated bureaucracy. Everything I had always been led to believe wasn’t true. The bottom line truth was that there were a lot of kids in the system who just needed to be loved.
We could do that.
And so, we jumped into the system, got trained, got licensed, and waited for the phone to ring. It did on a Wednesday morning. I was at the office when my wife Vanessa called. She said, “So ... do you want to have a baby?” I wasn’t quite sure about what she was asking me. I think I attempted a joke, “I can be home in ten minutes?” I’m sure she rolled her eyes and then told me that there was a three and a half month baby girl who was ready to be placed with us. We needed to decide within an hour.
We picked her up that afternoon and promptly drove to the store to get everything from diapers and formula to clothes and a car seat.
And we determined on that day that we would love her for as long as we had her.
Charleigh’s now been a part of our family for more than eight years. She has brought more happiness, laughter, and joy to our lives than I could have ever imagined. She is a force of nature. And we love her so.
Over the years, more of my simplistic misunderstandings about adoption have been shattered. I used to think that adopted kids, especially babies who were adopted, would just be so happy to have a home that they would be content. Our experience with Charleigh has taught me a much different reality. Our daughter has an ache, a hole, that Vanessa and I will never be able to fill, no matter how much we love her and she loves us. At a very young and vulnerable age, she absorbed a loss that to this day shapes her personality, her fears, and her dreams. We can’t pretend that this doesn’t exist. We can just love her for as long as we have her and by so doing reinforce to her that she has no reason to fear that she is not valuable, wanted, and worthy of love.
My experience as Charleigh’s dad has changed how I think of all other at risk birth mothers and babies. I no longer think that Christians adopting kids is the quick and easy fix to a societal ill. I don’t see well-meaning pro-life Christians, like myself, as saviors on white horses. Instead, I see a very complex problem with no ideal solutions. And I don’t think that I am helping at all when I protest with a clever sign or spout bumper sticker slogans or pontificate about people I don’t know. The world doesn’t need my simplistic misunderstandings. The world needs my love.
And right now, my world is Charleigh. And her mom and brother and sister. And that’s a dream come true.
Fundamorphosis: How I Left Fundamentalism But Didn’t Lose My Faith. He pastors Vintage Fellowship in Fayetteville AR. Robb blogs at www.thegrenzian.com.