Robert Whiting In search of awesome

How are you doing?


It’s been 7 weeks and 3 days since our two younger kids sat in a court room in Taiwan and told the judge that they want to come to America, be with their parents, and play with their older brothers. A month before that, we were packing our bags to pick them up.

People like to ask me how I’m doing, and it’s complex, ever changing, and emotional answer. Today, I started crying during a meeting at work, so I’m definitely overdue for writing out my thoughts.

A wise counselor of mine once told me that all strong negative emotions come from missed expectations. He didn’t say it to minimize or oversimplify rage or grief, he said it to help me understand my own wrestlings with them without shifting blame or cause. When you can’t move the reasons for rage or grief beyond, “I expected __ but instead ___, and that’s hard for me” I just have to sit in it. In this case, I had so many expectations that never matched up with reality. I expected to meet my younger kids face to face in early October. I expected joy and travel, precious moments and frustrating situations. I expected late nights cuddling and singing and reading books. Instead of that, we experienced fear and loss and the threat of greater loss. And the fear and loss stretched day by day into 3 months.

Thanksgiving was a hard day for me. My older kids picked up a fever from school, so we couldn’t host my whole family. Instead, we had a quiet meal with two empty seats at our table–a reminder that we should have been back for a month already. We were given the gift of continued skype calls once a month for 40 minutes to connect with them, and it’s been wonderful to continue that relationship we’ve been building since January. But the last call was different. My daughter sat in tears for 35 of those minutes, the social worker told us, “She’s very anxious because she doesn’t now when she’s coming to America.” We made the call to send Christmas presents, hoping we’d be there in person before they arrived, and now, we know we won’t be there for Christmas. In a week, I will be thinking of those two empty chairs.

I do my best to follow the teachings of Jesus. I know that Yahweh “watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow” (Ps 146:9). He cares about justice and the weak. I’ve written papers about God’s faithfulness to those who live rightly and experienced overwhelming and undeserved blessing.

But I also know that sometimes prayers are not answered. The same church that received Paul from prison (Acts 12:5) prayed for James’ release (12:2) and Herod executed him. We live in a world where God’s will is not always done. We live in a world where God is grieved by what is done here (Ge 6:6, Ps 78:40, Jn 11:35). And even though I go through hard emotions on a regular basis, I take refuge in Yahweh’s consistency, faithfulness, and purposes.

When we decided to adopt over two years ago, we had to make some early practical decisions. One of those decisions was when to tell our kids about our selection. There was a chance that the agency would select someone else, in which case, we’d be committed and emotionally shattered. We had heard stories warning against such emotional recklessness. We decided that even at the risk of extreme emotional pain, we would commit 100% to these kids, so that when we held them in our arms, we had held nothing back along the way.

The cost of that choice became a reality when that relationship was threatened. At church, I have many friends who genuinely want to know if there are any updates because they genuinely care about my family. So every week, I explain the lack of news, the emotional pain, and the fear that I might lose two of my children. At work, I have many colleagues who genuinely care and want to hear good news and progress. Today, someone said “good morning” as we passed in the hallway, and “have a great Christmas” after she had rounded a corner–the genuine well-wishing hit me in the gut like a punch. I don’t know when (or if) I will see my children again. I certainly won’t see them before Christmas. I strangled a sob around the corner before picking up my voice to respond, “you too!”

Am I trying to be a downer in every conversation? No. Do I want people to walk on eggshells around me? No. Do people randomly tell me adoption horror stories to try and connect with my situation? Yes. Did I set myself up for emotional pain? Absolutely. Is this painful? Yes. Do I cry at work? Yes. Do I need a vacation? Maybe. Would it help? No.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The only thing worse then people constantly reminding me of the heartache of being separated from my children and my love for them would be if no one cared at all.

Thank you for joining me in this pain, for caring deeply through it, and for giving us hope. It’s what Jesus did, and I’d take it over being numb any day.