Let’s talk about spiritual warfare.
I have always believed in the reality of it, in the ever-present, constant struggle of it (anyone else ever read This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti, gotten overly paranoid for a time, and then slowly slid back to a place of peace yet with a better understanding of the world?).
I have always believed that the Enemy attacks what is good and righteous and advancing the Kingdom of God. This is a burden church leadership has to bear if they want to do the true, hard work of Christ.
I have become close with a woman in our church who became a mother through domestic infant adoption. When I happily informed her of Ryan and I’s decision to adopt, she immediately began imploring me to be diligent about praying against spiritual attacks and to enlist as many prayer warriors as I knew to do the same. What a downer, I thought. I know the adoption process won’t be easy, but why the haste to focus on the bad?
Because the Enemy does not doddle.
I was not unaware of the pride I felt in thinking Ryan and I were “mature enough” to adopt (I know – I can hear the collective laughter from here). A couple we are close with recently announced their intention to adopt and I looked at Ryan like, “Maybe they should fix themselves before they try to raise a human being…”
(I can still hear the chuckles, especially from those of you who are parents.)
Yes, of course, Ryan and I have issues. We are all sinners and will continue to be sanctified until we meet our Lord face-to-face. But we are both relatively mature in our faith, we seek to practice true repentance both to others and to God, we lead a small group, we get asked to counsel friends and church members. We may be screwed up, but we aren’t as screwed up as them.
The Enemy does not doddle.
We hadn’t even gone to our agency orientation yet, and a heavy weight started sinking down on top of us. I could feel myself being tempted by things that I hadn’t been in years and thought I was free from. My anxiety showed its face most vividly in the night and I had nightmares so terrible the sheets would be soaked through and I would wake with an aching jaw from grinding all night. I had trouble eating and began to lose weight in an unhealthy way. I sensed myself being hypercritical of others around me, especially our church leadership, and I became bitter and judgmental. A lack of motivation to work immobilized me and I slept 10-12 hours a night. We hadn’t even gone to our agency orientation yet.
A few weeks ago, I invited myself over to a friend’s house to talk to her about it all (S/O to all those with open-door policies with their people). She immediately asked if I was taking my struggles and sin to the Lord. I knew the question was coming because that’s typical Kelly, and I proudly, honestly answered in the affirmative. I pray for protection against spiritual warfare and confess that my heart has turned into a bitter, self-righteous blood-pumper. Kelly encouraged/convicted me to repent of each of my sins individually and spend time seeking relief for each area of suffering one-by-one. Lumping them all together was kind of cheating.
A few days later, I spouted off so rudely to Ryan that he asked if we could sit down and address it. There is so much grace in our marriage that I was honestly confused by why he was making such a big deal out of my behavior that day. Why can’t he just forgive me unconditionally like normal and let’s move on. Are you getting a picture of where my heart was at?
He wanted to talk about it. About it all. I told him about Kelly’s recommendation to address each sin and struggle separately, and then I immediately wished I could take those words back because Ryan’s response was, “Okay, let’s do it.” “Huh? No, she meant like I should pray about them individually.” “Have you?” “Well, I will.” “You can’t know what to pray for unless you identify them.” Ryan took out a pen and paper and forced me to start talking. In case you were wondering, having someone write down a list of your sin is NOT a fun way to spend an evening.
After several minutes, he had to cut me off. Once I had begun examining the state of my heart, apparently there was a lot of crap to find. He looked at the list and commented that many of the items could be boiled down to stress. Since I am usually one to handle stress management well, it surprised him that my stress was clearly calling the shots in our lives at the moment. After some digging, I was able to admit that somewhere in my mind I am constantly doubting whether adoption is the right decision, and that is boiling over into all areas of life. We could be ruining our lives.
My sweet husband was perplexed. After all the conversations we’ve had about the strong conviction we both feel to adopt, why am I doubting? And then, out of nowhere (or seemingly out of nowhere), the tears started.
Now, I am not “a crier.” But that night I was a crier. I didn’t have to work my way up to a level of high-intensity sobbing; I went from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds. Tears poured down my face, and through sobs and before I knew what I was saying, I got out the words, “I’m not going to be a good mother.”
I’m not going to be a good mother.
There it was. The lie that had crept into me and taken a hold of every ounce of my being and bittered my heart and caused me to lash out at others in an attempt to make myself feel worthy. The fear and self-doubt had moved in and made their bed without me even recognizing they were there. The pride that I could do it and we were ready had blinded me to the battle that was raging inside of me and that I was epically losing at the expense of all those around me.
And then in came Jesus. Compassion and love and grace entered in through the tender words of my husband as he knelt in front of me and told me that watching me become a mother would be one of the greatest joys of his life. I could feel the pressure that had built up inside my body slowly relaxing as he reminded me it wasn’t through our own skills or power or know-how that we would raise a child; it was solely by the grace of God. We may not know what the heck we’re doing, but if we began each day on bended knee crying out to the Lord for help, He would meet us there. Ryan reminded me of the stellar community we have that will rally around us and selflessly serve our family through the hard times. He held my hand and prayed out loud for over half an hour. He prayed for the woman who will carry our baby inside of her, that the Lord would be with her and comfort her. He prayed for the salvation of our child. He prayed for the man or woman who will one day partner with our child in marriage. He prayed for me, that I would be so captured by the love and grace and power of Jesus Christ that fear and hopelessness would have no hold.
I continued to cry the whole time Ryan spoke. But now they weren’t tears of desperation; they were tears of love for the man who dealt with me so gently when I was so harsh, who was my rock and support when I was so weak. Tears flowed for the grace of a God who promises to never leave or forsake me, who nailed my burdens to a cross and drowns out my fear with His hope.
Jesus entered in that moment and reminded me that I am not mature enough or ready enough to adopt an orphan. And the wreckage I leave in my wake when I think I am is destructive. I am not able, but He is.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.