This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Thought we were special

Last month Jamie and I renewed our adoption home study.

The home study is the standard process through which a social worker evaluates our fitness to be adoptive parents. She teaches us about adoption. She checks on our psychological and physical health. She runs all the background checks.

We talk about family history and family systems and parenting styles.

We meet with her together. We meet with her separately. She comes to our house and meets our cat.

She looks at all of our income and collects reference letters from our bosses.

She writes a long, official report.

It is a bit nosy, now that I think of it, but unlike biological parents, adoptive parents have to be carefully vetted.

Last spring and early summer we went through this process for the first time. Lucky for us we had a flexible, funny, cat-loving social worker. We sailed through. We checked all the boxes and settled in to wait.

The agency we were working with says the average wait for an adoptive family is one to two years. Now while we believed them, we also realized that in most things, Jamie and I are above average. Surely next year at the family reunion we’ll have a baby. Surely when our nephew turns one year old in March we’ll be expecting. Maybe if we’re lucky we’ll even have to change our Christmas travel plans.

Christmas passed; then March; then the family reunion. Now it’s August, and we’ve been waiting more than a year. We’re quickly headed for longer than the average.

A couple of weeks ago we sat down with our social worker again. The home study update isn’t nearly as intense as the initial intake: just a one-hour meeting, a doctor’s note and updated fingerprints.

Our update was really just a check in, and as we sat together last month, we processed the year of waiting. Jamie expressed the sentiment we’d thought all along. We didn’t think we’d be waiting so long. We thought we were special.

Our social worker didn’t miss a beat: “You are special.” For a split second I thought she’d validate our self-centered impulses. She’s at least helping us feel a little better. But then came the punch line. “And so is everyone else.”

You are special, and so is everyone else.

It was a direct and true message, cutting through our self-protective exceptionalism and laying bare the waiting.

Jamie and I had built up the wait, filling it with expectations and desires beyond our control. We tried to manage our hopes and disappointments with narratives that made things seem sensible and manageable. But the adoption process isn’t really something you can manage or control. In that way it’s a lot like grace.

Those attempts to figure out the correct path are exposed for what they are: false attempts to manage what is beyond our reach. Those struggles for control are relativized in light of something much larger than us. That persistent need to prove ourselves worthy is released, because it truly does not matter. Indeed in some times and some places, the Gospel message might be just as simple as the adoption journey:

You are special, and so is everyone else.

Sarah Klaassen is part of both Mennonite and Disciples of Christ faith communities in Columbia, Mo. She and her partner, Rev. Jamie Haskins are one year into the open adoption process and are hoping to become parents sooner rather than later. This post is provided thanks to a partnership with Practicing Families.

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