February 29, 2016 was one of the worst nights of my life. I couldn’t breath. I threw up. I was abrasive to my wife and kids. My whole world felt like it had come crashing down. I was an absolute mess.
Now to help this all make sense, I need to back up a few weeks. My wife and I made the decision earlier this year to adopt a beautiful little girl from the Ukraine. This was originally a stretch for me, because I was COMPLETELY CONTENT with our current family dynamic. We have 3 beautiful biological children, all 2 years apart, and they all get along great. I was happy with our family just the way it was and didn’t have a need or desire to add to it.
But throughout the month of January, God began dealing with my heart over it. He helped me to realize that in our case, we weren’t adopting for us. We were adopting for her. We weren’t adopting as so many do to complete our family. We were leveraging our family for the sake of a little girl who desperately needed one.
See, she is close to aging out of adoption eligibility, and where she is from, is highly susceptible to ending up in forced prostitution once leaving the orphanage. So we aren’t doing this necessarily for us. We’re doing this to rescue her and provide the loving family she may not otherwise have.
So finally, towards the end of January, God had helped me realize that no mater how I felt about our current family dynamic, this was a mission He was calling us to as a family on HIS behalf, to be HIS hands and feet in this little girl’s life. So I got on board, and am now beyond excited about this journey God is calling us to. (To read more about this journey, click here!)
Fast forward a few weeks, to the evening of February 29. We are in the middle of making dinner and playing with the kids, and even talking about what paperwork needed to be completed that week for the adoption process. My wife disappears for a few minutes, so I proceed to keep working on dinner. About 10 minutes later I hear her scream “ROBBIE!!! COME HERE!!!” I rush down the hall, thinking she is hurt, and burst open the bathroom door.
Upon opening the door, she holds up a positive pregnancy test towards me and says “LOOK!”
It took me a second. My world was spinning. I said “what is that?” I knew what it was but I couldn’t think of anything else to say. She was crying. She said “what do you think it is!?”
I slammed the door, walked in the kitchen, buried my face in my hands and began trying to catch my breath.
See we were done…like DONE DONE. For the grammar nazi’s, this means we were FINISHED having children. We had already gotten rid of ALL of our baby stuff. ALL OF IT. We were 4 years removed from the diaper phase, and had NO desire to return.
Our family was complete. This couldn’t be happening. We didn’t want another child. I had JUST finished coming to terms with adding a fourth child, and that wasn’t even for us, it was for her. But now this!?
How could this have even happened!? She was on BIRTH CONTROL!!! This stuff was supposed to be like 99 % effective!!! All I could think of was Jim Carrey’s character from Dumb & Dumber saying, “so you’re telling me there’s a chance!?”
But in all seriousness, the worst part in my mind was the fact that we have several close friends who can’t get pregnant, and are DESPERATE to have another child, and God didn’t seem to be answering their prayers. But here we were, not even wanting another one, and now expecting again.
All I could think was “God, what in the world are you doing!?” (Honestly it was probably a bit more colorful than that.)
Now, before you comment or send me an email about children being a blessing from the Lord, let me stop you right there. I get it, I TOTALLY get it. I’ve even preached it. But it didn’t change how I felt in that moment.
The next few days were tortuous for me. I had some of the most direct and honest conversations with God I have EVER had. I even cancelled some of my appointments because I didn’t feel like I was on good enough terms with the Lord to fairly represent Him as a pastor.
I had to talk to somebody. I HAD to. This was killing me. So I got together with another pastor friend of mine and began telling him my sob story. It sounded SO stupid coming out of my mouth. With all the real problems facing our world, here I was whining about having another kid.
But I just couldn’t shake it. I knew it was a blessing, and I knew it wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it cast a weight of anxiety over me that I could hardly begin to explain.
After I finished my story, my pastor friend asked me a very simple, yet direct question: “What do you think God’s doing here?” To which I responded “I don’t flippin’ know! If I knew, I wouldn’t be so frustrated!” He said, “no, no, no. What do you think God is trying to do…IN YOU?”
I paused. The question caught me so off guard. But strangely, I knew the answer the moment he finished the question. It was in that moment that I realized that what God was doing.
See, this was about me. It was about what God was uprooting in me. It was about something that I wouldn’t have EVER realized, OR let go of without God allowing this child to be conceived. Adoption wouldn’t do it, church changes wouldn’t do it. It had to be this.
In that moment, I realized that my family dynamic, the perfect little caucasian family with 3 kids, 2 boys, 1 girl, all two years apart, all almost old enough for the rides at Disney, all old enough to tie their own shoes and wipe their own butt, living in the suburbs with everything going exactly to MY plan…THAT dynamic…had become an IDOL.
I was committing idolatry with something so precious, and so good, MY OWN FAMILY. And the proof was in my reaction. As long as my family dynamic went according to my plan, I was good, but the moment God stepped in with HIS plan, I was angry, frustrated, worried, & fearful. Why? Because I had placed MY plan for my family, over GOD’s plan for my family. And anytime you place something ahead of God in your life, it’s called idolatry. And this was the only way God could shine a light on it and uproot it in me.
In that moment, it was almost like I could hear God saying, “to be the leader I am calling you to be, I need you to be ok with WHATEVER I send your way, not just the stuff you’re already ok with.”
I realized I had allowed something good (my family plan) to supersede GOD, and His plan for my family. And God said, “let’s change that.”
So over the past few weeks I’ve been quiet about all of this. Primarily because I’ve been seeking the Lord, and asking Him to move in my heart, and get me to where HE wants me to be.
I can honestly now say, I’m excited. Like, I’m legit excited. Am I still freaked out? OF COURSE. But knowing that we are about to embark on TWO new journeys, both of which were by HIS design, and not mine, is an exciting place to be.
This time next year, I’ll be a dad of a 14 year old, a 9 year old, a 7 year old, a 5 year old, and a 6 month old. God sure has a funny sense of humor, huh?
But I’m learning that when I become completely submitted and surrendered to HIS plans for my life, NOTHING that comes my way will shake me. Because my joy isn’t found in my circumstances…but in the one who holds them in the palm of His hands.
McLaughlin family, party of 7, coming soon!