Monday, May 7, 2012

The Home Study: Part 1

None of us want to be judged.  Perhaps in our overly self-critical minds when even the notion of someone judging us we have an entire Supreme Court of Simon Cowell-like judges on the bench.  Like magazines do with photos on their covers, I tend to want to airbrush all the imperfections of my life so that no one sees any of the flaws, failures, foibles, and frailties.  Like many, I know all too well that I’m an imperfect husband, Papa, son, brother, friend, and, especially follower of Christ.  Needless to say, when I heard that part of the adoption process included home studies, I found myself once again having to confront my fears and insecurities.  All I could think is: What if I don’t measure up?

Before our home study coordinator came to our house on Sunday night, we did some major “spring” cleaning.  And I could’ve sworn I heard Miss Hannigan from the musical Annie telling me, “I want this place to shine like the top of the Chrysler Building!” 
At one point, after we had taken down all of the hanging pictures dust the walls behind them, I asked my wife,“Is the home study lady really going to check behind them?”  Was she going to walk through our home with a white glove on, trailing her finger along furniture for dust?  As I was hanging one of the curtains we had washed, my wife told me, “Make sure you hang that so she doesn’t see the frayed part.”  Isn’t that how we are with our lives as well?  Wanting to keep so much hidden in the fear that others will harshly judge us?  That if someone really knew, there is no way they could accept us?  Still, I cleaned all the way up until shortly before the counselor got here.

All the while I am more concerned with how the home study coordinator was going to view us? 

Our son Benjamin is strong-willed and often likes to speak his mind.  The best image I can give you of him is Calvin from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.  For anyone who is unfamiliar with him, I put a sample of the comic strip below.  Both my wife and I were very nervous about how Benjamin would answer questions directed towards him, especially in regards to our parenting skills and about what he thinks and feels about punishment.  When Benjamin was little, we went to a social function at our church.  We had finished eating and Benjamin wanted ice cream. I took his hand and we went to get in the line for it.  As we are waiting, he notices that they are blowing up the inflatables for kids to play on.  Of course he wanted desperately to get over there to them, but I held his hand tightly and said, “Just wait, the inflatables aren’t even ready yet.  We’ll get ice cream first, OK?”  His response was a very loud denouncement of, “Let go of me you devil!”  Now I wasn’t expecting anything of that nature now, but what would he say about me?  Daily he calls me “mean” and once, when he was younger, told me I was “fired.”  To this little Donald Trump, I responded with, “Hey!  I wish I could quit!”  And there are times when we’re both right.  And other times, I find myself going to him and apologizing for when I was wrong.  Would he remember those times or merely the times he found me unfair?

And then there is all the baggage of my life that I was bringing to this home study.  How would it go over when I told the coordinator that back in 1995 when I had lost my job and could not find one I suffered from depression that I had to see a Christian counselor as well as had to have a doctor prescribe me antidepressants?  This isn’t the sort of thing that in my past, I wouldn’t have wanted to be open and honest to anybody about.  I would have preferred to give superficial answers or try to answer as I thought someone would want to hear. 

The term hypocrite originally referred to actors who wore masks on stage to portray different characters, but isn’t this exactly what I have been doing for so long in my own life?  Was I going to come to this home study with a whole repertoire of masks to project a self-confident, got-it-together, and George Clooney-coolness? 

And what about that financial sheet where we have to break down our monthly expenses?  Would they look at us and go, “Why are they even considering bringing another child into their home?  They can’t afford one.”

When Jesus spoke to the rich young ruler who had come to him, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have a give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; come and follow Me.”  Jesus cut right to the heart of the matter in that He understood that the rich young ruler, being human, could not be perfect.  Not in himself or through his works.  If there’s one thing I have gained from scripture is that it is full of imperfect men and women in relation to a perfect God.   

This adoption process is teaching me that I will constantly be asking myself, “Are my fears greater than my Father?  Which will I be faithful to?”

Before the counselor arrived, I stopped all the busyness we were doing and got my family together and prayed.  I took what was to come out of our imperfect hands and put it into the perfect hands of my Abba.  This is what we will have to do with each and every step of not only this process but our lives. 

When I opened the front door to let the home study coordinator in, one of the first things she said to us is, “I’m here to help you adopt.”  This immediately put us more at ease.  Throughout the hour and a half she was in our home, we answered with complete honesty about our background and, at times, with the brokenness we felt for the orphans in the country we’re adopting from.  (The statistics for them are bleak.  They only have a 20% chance of being adopted after the age of five.  When they turn sixteen, they have to “graduate” from the orphanages where they have to take care of themselves.  10% commit suicide.  60% of the girls end up in prostitution.  70% of the boys end up in a life of crime.)  But as we answered each question, we were not met with harshness or even judgment.  Instead, we got a small example of God’s grace and love.

That night, I had a dream of us being in the orphanage where our daughter is and of us simply hugging her.  I awakened in tears.  Somewhere in another country is a little girl that we don’t know and who doesn’t know us but God in His infinite love will be bringing all of us together to be a family.

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