It has been almost a week since our last full day in Russia and I'm still trying to organize my thoughts. Words and phrases keep tumbling around in my mind begging to be released, but then they skip and dance into the corners when I sit down at the computer. We went through the entire spectrum of emotions on that Friday in Murmansk and I'm not convinced I'm going to be able to capture it all with words, but I will try.
We woke up after a fitful night of sleep on Friday-the day after court-and my first thought was, "That was all a bad dream. There certainly is not a delay that will be this costly." But I knew, as I slipped into the conscious world, that yes, it was true. We, once again were in uncharted territory. "Nothing like this has happened to one of our families before."
For those of you who weren't aware, there was a single woman in Tennesse who, almost two years ago, put her 7 year old Russian adopted son on a flight by himself with a note pinned to the inside of his coat that said she no longer wished to parent this child. She arranged for someone to pick him up at the airport and escort him to the Ministry of Education. When this happened, there was an initiative that came through all the courts in Russia to be particularly careful granting international adoptions and especially strict on Americans adopting. Our hearts were absolutely broken by yet another delay to bring our son home, but I cannot blame the prosecuter or the judge. Their job is to protect the orphans of their homeland. Yes, it is terribly inconvenient and very costly to make yet another trip to Russia, but I want to believe in my heart of hearts that the motive behind the decision was to protect another child from going through what that 7 year old boy went through. Those two ladies don't know us at all. They cannot know the tears we've cried and the grief we've endured while we've waited to hold that little boy we love again. Theirs was just a job to be done.
At 10 AM, Tatiana came bustling into our apartment with borscht (a delicious Russian beet soup-no, it's not an oxymoron!) our driver had made for us, cakes her mom had made for us and a rice and meat dish from her. She also had books that other American families had left with her. It was so precious the way these people were reaching out to minister to us. She had spent quite a bit of time Thursday afternoon when she left us gathering information about how to get us back to Kandalaksha since we had originally thought we would stay in Russia. She had pages of bus and train information and hotel accomadations. We were quickly realizing the implications of the judge's decision were much larger than what we originally anticipated. Then, she said something that rattled me to the core and, for the life of me, I cannot remember the conversation preceding or following this comment. The comment stood completely independent and utterly destructive to the shred of emotional well-being I was holding on to at that time.
"The judge said one of you answered the question, 'How do you know that Roman is the child you want to adopt' by saying that you have fallen in love with him. In Russia it takes months to fall in love with someone and you have only spent 18 hours with this child. How can they know they already love this child when they've hardly even know him?"
That was my answer.
This is my fault.
I caused this judge not to trust us.
Every time I tried to type what I was feeling that day...tried to capture the emotions, I would crumble. I managed one message to one friend who had no answers before gut-wrenching, uncontrollable sobbing overtook me again. I couldn't catch my breath, my stomach turned loose. This was my fault. Brock many times grabbed my face with both of his hands and begged me to stop. I know it was killing him to watch me grieve and not be able to do anything pull me back. And I wanted so desperately to be able to ease his mind and let him know that I would be okay, but I just couldn't at that moment.
Now, with a much more peace-filled mind, I know that my answer was not wrong. True, to fall in love takes time. When I fell in love with Brock, it grew over years of learning to trust and appreciate him. I fell in love with him, in part because I enjoyed spending time with him. Because he made me laugh and made me feel safe. I knew he would always do the best he could to protect me and provide for me. I fell in love with him, in part, for what he could add to my life. But a mother's love is something entirely different. From the first moment most women know they are pregnant, they love their unborn child. From the first moment she feels the fluttering in her womb, she knows she would die to protect her child. A mother's love sacrifices and endures. There is nothing about her love that looks to receive anything from her child save the opportunity to pour her life into something bigger...and someone smaller. My body may not be capable of carrying my child in my womb, but my heart and soul, as a woman, are capable of loving a child with a mother's love. Getting pregnant is biology. Becoming a mother is supernatural. If I were to be offered 100 children from which to choose one to take home and raise now, I'd still stay in the fight for Roman. I did not perjure myself. I have fallen completely and hopelessly in love with our Roman and I would answer the same question the same way all over again.
When we had arrived in Murmansk, Tatiana gave me an outline for a speech that we were to prepare before we went to court. It would prepare us and also would give the translator a head start on translating for us. It included things like how Brock and I met, how we decided to adopt, what kind of therapies we would provide for Roman's special needs and the like. She told us that the court would ask us about religion and that we should be very careful how we answered these questions. The judge wants to make sure that we do not belong to a cult where we have to go to church every week, give money to the church and do things like drink (even symbolic) blood. She recommended that we tell the judge that we believe in a god or higher power that helps us make good decisions and that we go to a church on special occassions. So, that's what I wrote in our speech. God knows our heart and I will say whatever it takes to bring Roman home.
Friday, we woke up around 3 AM.
"How are you feeling?" It doesn't matter who said what.
"Tired, angry. How much longer are we supposed to keep doing this?"
"I don't know. I'm tired of people telling us they are praying when prayers don't seem like they are being answered."
"When did we get off track?"
Brock picked up his Bible and read Job 1.6-12
One the day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?"
Satan answered the LORD, "From got to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it. And the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil? Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curese you to your face. And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand. So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
I, like almost every other person raised in church, am familiar with this story. I know that Satan proceeds to destroy everything of Job's and Job will not curse God. I know that God allows Satan to strike Job with boils and Job will not curse God. I know that everyone in Job's life, even his wife advised him to repent of some imagined sin, or curse God and die and Job remains faithful. And, at the end of the story, God restores and gives back more than what was taken. But that's not the part that stuck out to me this time. Job was a "blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil". I know that our life is abundantly rich because of God's unmerited blessing. We have a home, a strong marriage, success in our businesses because of God. But, I've looked into the cespool of my heart and know my own depravity. I know that I have a long way to go before I could be described as "blameless and upright." Sometimes God has given me the ability to make the good decisions, but more often than I want to admit, I make bad ones. Praise God He's not done with me yet! And He owes me nothing, but He has given us so much already.
Brock and I took turns praying. I told God that, on one hand, it felt very real to our senses that He dropped us in the details. That He was giving us more than we could handle. It very much felt like He had abandoned us and neglected to finish what He started. But, on the other hand, I know that Scripture promises us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. That He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. That He knows the plans He has for us and they are plans to prosper and not to harm us and to give us a hope and a future. At that present moment, we were presented with two very different realities and we had to choose. "Whatever contradicts the truth of God's word, we are to regard as the Devil's lie, not because it may not in itself be a very real fact to our senses, but because God has stated a greater fact before which the other must eventually yield." (Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life) We chose, at that moment, for the 100th time and for the first time all over again, to believe that we were only getting a glimpse of a very incomplete picture. We put our faith not in what felt real, but what we believe has proven time and time again to BE real. This chapter of our story has not been finished yet.
"How great is our God" will never have the same meaning again.
Brock and I were sitting Indian style in the middle of our bed and he took my hands and told me that he was not comfortable downplaying our faith to appease the judge. We were not going to be scared anymore. We were going to approach with confidence that "If God be for us, who can be against us!" I don't mean Bible's blazing. I just mean in complete knowledge of who we are and Who He is. There is no way possible that we could have made it to this point without Him and we can't ask Him to sit outside the courtroom and wait for us to finish this up. I don't know what this will look like on that day, but I believe that we will have the right answers at the right time. We will not be ashamed of our God. We are praying ferverently for wisdom to say nothing more and nothing less than what we are supposed to say. Now, in doing this, we have the full realization of two things: #1. All of us in that courtroom are ulitmately under His authority. We are praying that the judge will find favor with us and see that anything good in us comes from a God who loves us completely. His will be done. #2. There is a chance that if we have to stand up for our faith boldly, she will give us a negative decision. All over the world people are persecuted for their faith and I pray that we will not have to go through that, but if so, so be it. My mind keeps drifting to the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22.1-12. I trust that all things work together for good for those who love the LORD and who are called according to His purpose. I trust that He knows the plans He has for all three of us. I love Roman enough even now that I would lay my life down for him. But I love my God enough that I would lay my entire family at his feet. We have no control. We don't even have the illusion of control anymore. We are simply trusting in a God who knows how to give good gifts to His children. And with that, comes a peace that passes understanding that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
The absolute very last thing I want to do is paint a picture of a God who wants to take everything from us. The story in Genesis 22.1-12 is hard for our brains to comprehend. God loves us with an indescribable and perfect love. He doesn't ask us to give these things over to Him so that He can destroy the competition for our affections. He asks us to give things to Him because we weren't meant to burdened with worry. He can take care of everything far better than we can anyway. We are just turning our control over to Him who is able to keep us from falling.
For the first time in 36 hours, we felt peace. Snow had started falling heavily outside and we decided that we would venture out to it. Nevermind it was 3:30 in the morning. Never mind we were leaving in less than four hours. We wanted to walk. We needed to move. We needed to leave the apartment and not be fear-filled.
By the time we bundled up, the snow had stopped, but thanks to the extremely cold temperatures, the water in the snow had frozen and it looked liked miles and miles of diamonds covering the ground. I was reminded of the joke about the rich man who wanted to take his gold with him to heaven and when St. Peter opened the man's suitcase at the pearly gates, he asked, "Why have you packed pavement?" The "diamonds" were just a reminder that this extra plane trip, visas, and who knows what else is coming to this "nothing like this has happened before" family was all just pocket change to Jesus. Prayers are not futile. Our God is real and able!
I am confident that at the end of this story, we will look back and say "to you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him." deut 4: 35