When I STILL Don’t Desire Sex

You requested it…….When I Still Don’t Desire Sex  

It was the summer of 2004 and I was in the best shape of my life.   I was running 6 miles a day, going to the gym, and eating tons of green leafy things – all in preparation for the Miss Kentucky pageant.  Motivation comes easily when you have to be in a bathing suitin front of hundreds of people . . . so I ate a LOT of broccoli.   My confidence grew as my waistline shrank.  But then it would happen,every single time. Just when I thought I was looking my best, I would always bump into no shortage of girls that were skinnier, prettier, more talented, and ummm . . . smarter.

Then I would look in the mirror, and it would reveal even more horrors that somehow I must have overlooked the last time.

Insert: more running, more broccoli, more discipline.

I was like a hamster in a ball, working really hard and getting no where.  Why?  Because my identity was wrapped up in external beauty and the world’s standard for beauty is always changing (becoming skinner and skinner) – I couldn’t keep up!  If you are chasing the culture’s standard for beauty you might as well hop on in the hamster wheel and prepare for utter failure and disappointment.

My sister, Kelly Beth, a former Miss Illinois USA  (you can read her blog here) and I were always amazed at some of the most outwardly beautiful women we knew.  They seem so confident on the outside, but so often on the inside there was unrest, turmoil, and insecurity.  It is for this reason that some of the silent, pervasive issues that are ripping through so many women are eating disorders, addictions to diet pills, and the like.  No one wants to talk about it, but it’s happening to a woman (or teenage girl) that you know (even though she’s not telling you).

Listen, it doesn’t matter if you made the “hot list” or the “not list.” It doesn’t matter if you were voted most likely to succeed or not even known.  It doesn’t matter if you eat green smoothies every meal or McDonalds is your second home.  It doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 68 (lipo or no lipo), most all women at some point in there life will struggle with not feeling beautiful.

Take a look at what the Shulamite woman says to her husband in Song of Solomon 1:6, “Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the sun has looked upon me.”  She was embarrassed and wanted to hide because her skin was nice and dark.  What??!!! Apparently back in the day pasty-white was in. If I would have lived in those days, I would have been awesome with my pasty-white Twilightesque skin coloring.

Just like the Shulamite woman, we know every little hair that is out of place, every roll that shouldn’t be there, every blemish, and every crooked tooth.  Because we don’t like what we see (and it certainly doesn’t match up to the Victoria’s Secret girls), we try to hide – where is my fig leaf!?

Before marriage, I was insecure about my hairy arms and tiny spider veins.  Not much has changed, but everything has changed.  An “I do,” 8 ½ years, and 3 children later, my tendency is still to hide, but this time I’ve got much bigger problems than my arms and tiny veins.  Giving birth to three babies (not to mention by C-section each time) takes a toll on a woman’s body – one that is well worth it.   Our last bundle of joy left a bundle of weight on my body – a whopping 60 pounds that is.  Everyone would say, “Oh, you don’t look like you have gained that much.”  Being 5’11, it is a little easier to hide junk in the trunk, but honey nothing hides naked!  I decided to go extreme and we purchased a crazy workout called Insanity, and let me tell you; it gets its title honest.  Most of the weight did come off, all except this last 10 pounds I have been working on for 2 1/2 years now!

During this time in my life, I felt so fat and ugly that I just didn’t want to be touched. I mean, “Who wants to hop into bed with this muffin top!”  So much of our sexual desire is wrapped up in whether or not we feel desirable.  I did not feel desirable. I did not feel worthy of my husband’s affections.  I certainly did not feel sexy.  However, one thing I have recently learned is that you don’t have to feel desired in order to be desired.  So often our husbands don’t necessarily want what we think they want; they just want us.

I still struggle with insecurities.

I will be eating right, exercising, taking showers (more often) and start feeling good about myself.  Then it happens. I look in the mirror and I’m like, “AHHHH, who stole my body!!”

Maybe you can relate:  You are growing older and your body is starting to become more and more like something you would see on the Discovery Channel.  Maybe you are thinking, “Umm, did I sign up for tribal?  Can we please fast-forward?” I know my husband signed up for better or worse but I don’t think he realized he’d be getting this (at least there is proof gravity exists!)

Then you get off the Discovery Channel and start flipping through the channels and everyone seems to be in better shape, with perkier everything.  None of them seem to have cellulite or wrinkles, and of course they are having very, very hot sex (or so it seems).

You don’t want sex because you feel too ugly, too fat, too skinny, too old, too frumpy, too uhhhhh!!  If our sex life is a game of hide and seek, our husband is doing the seeking, and we are doing the hiding (under the covers, with the lights off).

As you’re contemplating how good you don’t look anymore, you pull out your cell phone and start text bombing your husband all of these attributes you hate about yourself, as if you are filling him in on something he has not heard a hundred times before.  Really, what we want from him is affirmation – that yes, he knows our flaws, but yes, he loves and desires us.  This is the greatest longing of every woman, to be fully known, and yet still fully loved.

I can assure you ladies that the whole complaining about your BIG ugly to your husband is not increasing his sex drive or yours.

So what is a girl to do when she has lost her groove, and sexy walked out the door last year taking your sex drive and confidence with her?

Lipo?  Treadmill?  Spanx? Eat more kale? Buy new clothes? Makeup? Hot Yoga?  Running or other forms of torture???

Don’t get me wrong; exercising is crucial for your health mentally, physically, and sexually.  There’s just something about those endorphins, which are equivalent to taking happy pills.  I am much happier when I burn some calories and my family needs me to do this (another blog, another day.) We need to take care of our bodies.  Also, this is for free, but think about investing in a new bra. It certainly might perk things up, but again it’s pointless to focus on the outward if inside we are still the same.  We don’t just need bust-line change; we need heart change.

Looking into the mirror will always leave us with a lacking sex drive, because let’s face it: there will always be someone prettier and skinnier, and we could always lose a few more pounds.

True beauty is discovered through the lens of God’s Word to us (Check out this post).  What does God say is beautiful?

The Bible teaches that we are all fat with sin (Romans 6:23) and no amount of running around doing “good deeds” could work this load off.  We were spiritually ugly from conception (Psalm 51:5), and no amount of self-righteous makeup could hide this blemish.  If it were not for Christ, we would have all stayed in this estate: hiding, ugly, disgraced, and slaves.  However, God, out of his great love for us, sent His beautiful Son to rescue us and release us from the heavy load we have been carrying.  Jesus never sinned; He was a sacrifice without blemish.  He was sacrificed on the altar of a cross for all our Ugly.  The Beautiful One became our ugly so we could become beautiful to God.   If you are a Christian, when God looks at you, He sees Christ. You are hidden, but you are not hiding under a fig leaf.  You are hidden in the righteousness of Christ.  Christ is beautiful, and when God look at you, He sees beauty.

Get this . . . God did not choose us because we were beautiful; there was nothing noteworthy or admirable about us that would draw God to us.  Instead, Christ was drawn to us because of our ugliness.  Our sin drew Him to our rescue.  It’s our ugly that attracted Him to us, because He gets glory in our makeover!  Jesus didn’t save us because we were beautiful; He saved us to make us beautiful.

Remember, every woman’s greatest desire is to be fully known (including all her flaws), and yet fully loved.  This is exactly what it’s like to be loved by God.  He fully knows us, and yet He fully loves us.

It is living out of this acceptance that changes your attitude about your body.  As a result, living out of God’s acceptance changes how we approach the bedroom.  We do not come as insecure women but as confident women because we are well-loved by a GREAT God.   A woman who understands how much God loves her will be like a magnet pulling others towards her, including her husband.  Living out of acceptance makes a truly beautiful woman.  Now THAT is sexy!

Please hear me say that your identity is not in that you are a sex kitten, supermodel, great housewife, mom, or wife.  Your identity is found in Christ.

A word to the husbands.

Your standard of beauty should not be the women you see in the media (they have cellulite too, by the way. It’s just photo-shopped out).  Your standard of beauty has to be your bride.  Let her know the things you love about her.   I would encourage you not to make comments like, “Should you really be eating that?”  “Are you going to make it to the gym today?”  “Honey, have you thought about having that nose taken down a few inches?”  Not real helpful.

I would encourage you to pray for her and push her towards a Gospel-centered definition of beauty that looks like this: husbands, God loved you in all of your mess, so you can love her in all of her blemishes (both inside and out).  In doing so, you can encourage her to seek out healthy living without making her feel like your love is dependent upon her waist-size or performance.   What your woman needs to hear from you is that you love her no matter what.  The hottest sex is when your wife is having sex because she knows she is accepted, not because she’s seeking to gain your acceptance.

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When I Don’t Desire Sex

Sex is an incredible gift from God to enjoy in the context of marriage. But what am I supposed to do when I don’t desire sex?

(post inspired by the marriage “Sextacular” retreat with wwww.pleasantvalley.cc/)

Jamus and Annie sitting in a tree K. I. S. S. I. N. G.
Jamus, (my husband) and I started dating in college and I thought about him all the time. There was texting, phone calls where we would talk for hours, and just making up random excuses to be near one another. One night I called him because it was “unsafe” to run by myself and I needed an escort. Let’s just say I didn’t have to twist his arm.

As we spent more and more time together, I became increasingly infatuated with this Aston Kutcher look-alike with a country accent that loved Jesus with all of his heart. We got engaged after a few months of dating and were married within 3 ½ months. A significant part of the reason for this rabbit-like pace towards marriage was due to the fact that we wanted to “know” each other better (as the Bible puts it.) While dating, we couldn’t keep our hands off of each other! We were like magnets drawn together by a force stronger than ourselves. I remember one night we hung out in the Big Lots parking lot because that was one of the few places we thought it would be hard to fall into sin. As we approached the big day, I envisioned that every sexual encounter would resemble scenes from the Notebook, and I couldn’t wait to get the party started.

First, comes love, then comes marriage.

Married in the smothering month of July, we had a sizzling honeymoon (aside from the big fight we had on the 2nd night in the produce aisle of the Winn-Dixie) but then the weeks turned into months. Then the veil was lifted, and we quickly realized that had not necessarily married “Mr. or Mrs. Right,” but that we had married another sinner. We came to see that we had married REAL sinners who were selfish, hateful, rude, arrogant, annoying, stubborn, and jealous. Sinners who throw high-heels shoes at their husband’s foreheads. Sinners who slam their wife’s just-delivered, favorite pizza on the floor and say, “Eat that!!” Sinners who fought in such a way that the poor neighbors on the other side of those thin little walls at the seminary married housing must have thought, “My goodness, I feel sorry for whoever goes to their church!”

In spite of all of the drama, we were still having sex. Yet by this time, it was less of a strong, passionate pull, and more of a duty or obligation. My thoughts were, “I know, I should have sex with my husband. I know he has a ‘need’ and I would not be a good Christian wife if I withheld . . . after all, 1 Corinthians 7:5 commands me ‘Don’t deprive’ him . . . ”

However, I found it very hard to give myself physically to someone who would not give himself to me emotionally. He found it hard to open up to someone emotionally who did not respect him. It’s not that we weren’t thinking about one another, trust me, we thought about each other a TON – just not in the positive since of the word.

Then comes a baby in a baby carriage.

While we could barely keep our hands off one another in dating, it was a struggle to get us to put our hands on one another when married. There was one baby, two babies, and then three babies later. My pre-baby abs were gone, and my sex drive wasn’t far behind. I was up to my knees in diapers, spit-up, toys, laundry, cooking, cleaning, and not to mention it was as though my hormones had been sipping on a can of CRAZY! Breaking up big brother and little sister fights, disciplining, trying to teach them the ABCs . . . I was thinking about our children all day. How am I going to potty train? What I am going to cook that is remotely healthy? How can I teach them the Gospel? Or, let’s simply things: how can I just keep everyone ALIVE?

Sex was the last thing on my mind – besides the fact that I felt condemned that it wasn’t happening nearly enough. When your life is moving so quickly, you tend to only think of what is directly in front of you. And for me, it was my children. It was easy to keep our hands off one other, because our hands were so busy with other things. Many nights we hit the bed too dead-tired to even think about sex, much less have it. Sure, there were other nights when we would come together simply because it had been too long – these nights I never regret.

But I’ve learned something over the past 8 ½ years of marriage; it’s not just our husbands that need sex, girls, WE need sex! God gave us this gift to bond us together not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. God tells us, “The two shall become one flesh . . .” – “one,” in the fullest and purest sense of the word. Studies have shown that human orgasm affects the same parts of the brain as heroine and cocaine. Because oxytocin and vasopressin are released slowly during sexual activity, these chemicals so heighten pleasure for a man that it essentially binds him to whatever caused it. Some call this the “biochemical love potion,” and God wired us this way to glue a husband and wife together forever. Thus, through the continual sexual act, a couple literally becomes “addicted” to one another. Consequently, sex is one of God’s most profound and effective ways of ensuring that a husband and wife remain together until death does them part.

So then, how can we awaken sexual desire in the midst of the mess and exhaustion of life? I’m thoroughly convinced that God wants us to have a desire for sex – a sexual desire for our husbands – a frequent “coming together” driven by desire, not merely duty.

How can we increase our desire?

If we would think about our husbands throughout the day, our desire for sex may be awakened.

I confess I have not thought about Jamus like I should. Yet the Bible teaches us that where our treasure is, our hearts will follow. One of our greatest treasures are the countless thoughts that we have every day, and so wherever our thoughts are, there our hearts (and BODIES) will follow.
Once we “make it to the bedroom” for that moment of intimacy, it’s great. But getting there can be a challenge. There are nights when we might say, “Do you want to?” . . . as we try to read the other persons non-verbals. This kind of half-hearted (secretly hoping they’re too tired) approach almost always leads to frustration, disappointment, and possibly even bitterness. Rejection from your helpmate never feels good.

In other cases, maybe he gives you that look across the room and you know what he is thinking, “It’s business time!” and you roll your eyes like “Are you kidding me?”

“Okay, fine, let’s get this thing over with,” or, “Alright, we can do it, but let’s make it quick.”

And then maybe you don’t say anything at all, and you are just watching the ceiling thinking about the long list of things that you have to do tomorrow.

But ladies, believe it or not, your husband does not simply want you physically; he wants you emotionally. He wants you to be excited about sex! He wants to know that you’re enjoying it.

After all, how would you feel if you were the one approaching him and he was like, “Alright, fine . . . I know I should, so let’s get er done.”

We can also reject our husband just by the way that we look (or don’t look). Things like not showering for three days (not that I know about this). Wearing that stained t-shirt you have had since college (hypothetically speaking), wearing those pants or shorts he hates (which pair??) Ladies, remember that our men are primarily driven and aroused by what they SEE; they are visually-stimulated. Let’s give them something to look at!

From our head to the bed.

When Jamus and I were dating, I thought about all of his amazing qualities. Then we got married, and I started to focus on all of his flaws. This mind-set is like taking a wrecking ball to our sex drive. We need to practice giving thanks to God for our husbands. What we think in our head affects what happens in bed.

Listen to the woman in Song of Solomon think on her man:

Song Of Solomon 2:3 says, “As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men.”

NOT. . . “Looks like my beloved didn’t take out the trash again!” or “Of course my beloved is going to be late from work – again!”

Song of Solomon 2:8, “The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping over the mountain bounding over the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or young stag.”

This woman is thinking about her husband so much that it literally makes her want to seize him; what man wouldn’t desire this?

Song of Solomon 3:2, “I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves.” The assumption is that the man should always be the initiator, and certainly as women, we have an innate desire and need to be pursued. But this ole gal in Song of Solomon understands that at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with the woman going after her man.

Ultimately, it is the Gospel that changes the way we approach our husband. The world says “scratch my back, and I will scratch yours.” The Gospel says, “You cannot do anything for me, and yet I will do everything for you.” We are not worthy of anything that the Lord gives to us. I often want Jamus to perform well (be worthy) before I show him love; this is anti-Gospel. The Gospel says even if you don’t take out the trash and you have been rude today, I will still pour out my love for you – even as Christ poured out His love for me on the cross when I was at my worst.

In conclusion, here is the 30-day “Head to Bed” Challenge:

1.) Pick an activity you do everyday: laundry, dishes, cooking, driving.

Most days I try to cook a meal for my family, ehhh “most” ☺

2.) Dedicate this time to thank the Lord for your husband. Think on his gifts, qualities you admire, and then pray for his weaknesses. You can go totally Ann Voscamp and write it down in a journal if you so desire.

3.) Pray for the Lord to increase your sexual desire for your husband, and ask Him to give you creative ways you can bless your man.

4.) Share this post with your friends and encourage them to jump in bed or wherever they prefer!!!

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Related Post

Bitter Sweet

Finally!! The 10-pound bag of Halloween candy that was wreaking havoc on our home has been “donated” to a good cause (aka, destroying the sanity of another unsuspecting family in our church). To be honest, I was eating more candy than my kids, so it had to go. It was a bad-day-binge-session waiting to happen.

However, before I parted ways with the bag of refined sugar, I needed one more high (yes, I’ll be drinking a green smoothie after to make up for it). I tore into a bag of Skittles and was expecting to taste a bit of “rainbow” in my mouth but this wasn’t just any Skittle – it was a sour Skittle. SICK!!! I was repulsed. My jaw locked, eyes started to water and just as I was about to spit out the bitterness, I started to taste something . . . sweet. What a nice little surprise for my taste buds; hidden within the bitterness was a chewy sweetness. The rainbow tastes good! The entire bag was devoured. I was amazed at how sweet the Skittle tasted compared to the sour punch in the beginning.

Our sin is something like my snack of sour-Skittles.

As a Christian I will still sin, but why am I so surprised when I do? It always gives me an unexpected sucker punch to the gut.

In these cases, typically my shock is quickly turned to anger, because I am once again reminded of the painful and bitter reality that I am STILL a sinner. “God, if you are all-powerful, then why I am I still so messed up?” My poor kids are going to be so scarred because of me. If only they could have a good mother, I think to myself. My “imaginary goodness,” as Charles Spurgeon calls it, was merely setting me up for failure. I was definitely not “okay” with “not being okay.” So often I wear a mask pretending to have it all together, and at times even convincing myself that I really do have it all together, only to be abruptly reminded that I’d deceived myself once more.

I wanted to spit out this foul taste of bitterness in my mouth – that is, the admission that I’m still a sinner – so I did.

This day ended with me lying in the fetal position on the bed. Yet all I needed to do was to accept the bitter-sweet. Because I was refusing to accept the bitter, “yes, I am still a sinner,” I was not allowing my soul to taste the sweetness of His grace.

What good comes out of sin? How can God takes something bitter (my sin) and make it sweet?

1.) Sin reminds us that we are still . . . “not good.”
We don’t have it together; we are unfaithful; we love ourselves more than God and others. Sin is a big reminder that we can’t do it. We cannot be good enough, love enough, smile enough, serve enough – our very best will never be enough.

Although we may be in shock to find out that we are not “good,” Jesus is not remotely surprised. In fact, He died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). He died for our past, present and future sin. However, we must remind ourselves that as bitter as this sin may be, we do not have to drink the bitter cup of God’s wrath. Jesus drank that cup for us, and not one little drop of God’s wrath remains for His children. Sweet!

2.) When compared to the bitterness of my sin, GRACE is amazingly sweet.

When I think I am sweet in and of myself, I don’t get grace. But when I accept that I am a sinner, all of the sudden GRACE becomes incredibly SWEET! Grace becomes an unexpected and undeserved surprise. Much like the crazy flavor to follow extreme bitterness of the Skittles, it catches us off guard. Grace can uniquely catch us unaware, and yet there is no surprise in the world that can compare.

Truth be told, yesterday, I was feeling guilty because the Lord was opening up speaking opportunities at churches. I was thinking, “God, I know you don’t make many mistakes, but this seems fairly close.” I do not feel qualified to teach other women when I am so sinful! I do not feel worthy of this honor. God was pouring out His grace upon me and I was struggling to accept it. I like to know that if I do “A,” then I get “B” in return. However, grace gives regardless of how I perform (or don’t perform). When I deserve it least, it still comes. Don’t resist the sweetness; let it flow!

3.) My children get to see a mom who is totally messed up, and this is SWEET. Why? Because while on one hand they see their mother’s sin, at the same time they get to hear that God still loves their mommy. They are seeing the Gospel living out right in front of their eyes. Yes, they see their mommy sin, but they also get to hear their mom repent and ask for their forgiveness.

More Sweetness!!!

4.) Through the bitterness of sin we are experiencing the sweetness of grace. As the Puritan Thomas Watson said, “The glass is emptied first before you pour in the wine. God first empties a man of himself, before he pours in the precious wine of his grace.” Until we see how messed up we are (bitter), we will not taste His sweetness! Until we realize how messed up we are, we’ll never see how glorious Jesus Christ is. Until we see our own poverty, we’ll never see His riches. We’ll never put on a robe of Christ’s righteousness unless we realize that we are spiritually naked. Jesus Christ will never be beautiful to us until we realize how ugly we are without Him.

Grace is shocking, isn’t it? Unexpected sweetness

Maybe Adoption is NOT the Best Option for You Right Now

Maybe Adoption is NOT the Best Option for You Right Now

**Disclaimer: This is a post about adoption & orphan care. Did you know that many “popular” or “professional” bloggers who write about orphan care & adoption report that they experience a drastic DECREASE in page views and linking when they write about orphan care & adoption? Don’t stop reading. Don’t assume that this blog post is not applicable to you because adoption just isn’t for you, or because orphan care just doesn’t interest you. Any time I talk or write about orphan care, I try to clearly state that everyone is NOT called to adopt. Orphan care is not solely about adoption or foster care. Please consider what role God is calling you to have in orphan care. Please consider simply praying for orphans or for a family you may know who is going through the adoption process. If you don’t know anyone in the adoption process, pray in general, or email me & I’ll give you a list of names! Please continue reading, even if you think orphan care & adoption are only for social justice advocates, extreme Jesus Freaks, and really “nice & “good” people. **

I really like talking about orphan care. My heart for the fatherless did not hail from a great theological awareness and understanding of God’s sovereign plan for humanity by salvation through His perfect son Jesus Christ ~ our adoption as heirs with Jesus. My story starts in a junior high Social Studies class in the mid 90s. I don’t even remember what I was supposed to be researching or studying, but I know I became somewhat obsessed with adoption during this 7th grade Social Studies class. I read something somewhere about the female infanticide that was taking place in China due to the Chinese Government’s one-child policy and the Chinese historical and cultural preference of sons. I think this was the first time my eyes were opened to the disparity of the world. I was horrified, I was really confused, and it was settled. I was going to adopt two Chinese girls. This fact was well known among my childhood and college friends, and it became a the standard litmus test with any potential suitor. Is he open to adopt? (Spoiler alert: YES ~ seriously cute & athletic guy during grad school was 100% on board & also wanted to adopt ~ we’ve been married 8 years now.)

I continued my hunt for knowledge about Chinese orphans and adoption and foster care in general. I researched and wrote papers in graduate school related to attachment and acculturation of internationally adopted children. I focused my graduate training and studies on working with children from hard places and underserved populations. I volunteered at CASA and completed the majority of my clinical rotations in settings related to or providing care for children in foster care and family reunification programs. Looking back, it is phenomenally amazing to see how God was working in my heart even at such a young age to prepare me not only to be an adoptive mom but also to work and be involved in ministry related to orphan care. God didn’t have two Chinese girls waiting for me to be their momma, but He did have a 7-year-old Ethiopian boy and a 7-year-old Ethiopian girl waiting. All of that to say, I’ve read lots, listened to lots, and learned quite a bit about adoption and orphan care. I’m not at all suggesting that I am an expert, but I do really like talking about orphan care and sharing what I’ve learned.

When Annie asked me to write a post for her blog, I was really excited and honored. It took me a few weeks to decide on a topic, because I think I could write 100 posts related to orphan care, and I know I could write 100 posts about the things we’ve learned from 4 years of parenting older, internationally adopted children. But, I finally decided to write about a not so popular and very sensitive topic related to adoption ~ Infertility.

Please know that the following dialogue is written with an extreme awareness of the difficulty, sorrow, and pain that is associated with infertility. Please know that this post is in NO way a rebuke or judgment on any husband or wife who has walked the difficult road of infertility. I write the following from an incredibly humble stance, as an encouragement to future adoptive parents to diligently and honestly grieve any child-related loss before embarking upon the difficult process and journey of adoption.

Adoption is biblical. Adoption is beautiful. Adoption is a blessing more glorious than I’ve ever imagined. But, adoption is hard. Adoption is painful and filled with many moments of falling-on-your-face-crying-out-to-God sadness. At times, adoption is WAR. Adoption exists and is derived from loss ~ ALWAYS. It reminds us of the broken, sinful world in which we exist. Adoption is not sunshine, cherries, or constant smiles. Adoption is hard work, and it’s ongoing. It does not end simply when our children finally arrive home and are sleeping in their well prepared, comfy bed. To be honest, and in most cases, adoption starts when our kids arrive home. I humbly and graciously propose that if both parents are not prepared for the task at hand, if both parents are not on the same page related to the intention of adoption, if both parents are not committed to raising this child as their own, and if applicable, if both parents have not grieved the loss of a previous child or the idea of children by birth, then likely difficulty will arise.

Here are a few crucial questions I strongly recommend every couple considering adoption take into account. None of these questions may apply to you, some of them may apply, or all of them may apply. Each question carries a heavy burden of grief, loss, and often times confusion and anger.

1. Have you grieved the loss of infertility?
2. Have you grieved the loss of miscarriage?
3. Have you grieved the loss of stillbirth?
4. Have you grieved the loss of abortion?
5. Have you grieved this loss & healed this injury?

Grieving the loss of a child is a task that no one wants to experience. When a couple experiences a miscarriage or a stillbirth, the experience is often somewhat public and noticeable especially to close friends and family. The loss, pain, sadness, and often isolation associated with abortion is too great, too vast & incredibly controversial to attempt to cover in this dialogue. But, abortion is relevant and not simply to women outside of the church. Grief and loss related to abortion is so incredibly profound and so incredibly relevant to many women and men in the church. Please consider how you have grieved and healed the loss of abortion if this is applicable to you in any way.

The loss associated with infertility is often a silent, personal, and very isolating experience. Many couples who are struggling with the depths of emotions associated with fertility problems rarely share their difficulties. Their disappointment, sadness, anger, and multitude of other emotions are often withheld and reserved for their spouse and often leads to marital strain or discord. Fertility problems are difficult and highly emotional. Treatments for fertility problems can be overwhelming, expensive, and even potentially Biblically confusing. Infertility is, unfortunately, not a rare situation. Recent studies suggest that approximately ten to 15% of couples in the U.S. are infertile. Couples who are considering adoption due to fertility problems should consider the questions listed above, pray over the applicable questions, and work through potential areas of grief and loss prior to starting the adoption process.

I think one of the most powerful statements I have ever heard related to considering the adoption process was from random woman at a small adoption conference we attended in Eastern Kentucky. I wish I could remember her name so that I could give her credit for this important and true-to-life Kentuckian statement. She told me, “make sure you and your husband have dealt with all your junk before you start this wild ride.” At the time, I don’t think I knew exactly what she was talking about, but now I certainly do. So, make sure you deal with your junk. Make sure you and your spouse are ready to welcome a little (or big) child into your home because:

Adoption is NOT a replacement.
I have not experienced infertility personally. I have worked with several women and couples in my clinical work, I have prayed with & listened to women in ministry settings, and I have several dear friends who have bravely shared the depths of pain that infertility can bring. Infertility is an unimaginably painful situation. Infertility almost always includes loss ~ either through miscarriage or the acceptance that a couple will not be able to have children by birth. Infertility often causes identity confusion or disruption. Women often question their femininity if they are unable to have children by birth, and likewise, men often question their manhood if they are unable to produce a child of “their own.” As mentioned, fertility problems almost always causes marital strain, if not discord. Infertility can cause depression, anxiety, excessive stress, anger, resentment, and multitude of other difficult emotions. Adoption will not make these emotions cease. Adoption will not heal your marital strain related to infertility. Adoption will not replace a child by birth. Adoption will not heal your deep sorrow, pain, or confusion related to infertility. Adoption is not a replacement.

Adoption is NOT a second best option.
Throughout our adoption journey many people deduced that since my husband, John Mark, and I did not have any children by birth prior to our adoption that we had fertility issues. As mentioned, we did not have fertility issues; we have not experienced infertility firsthand. Nonetheless, I was still shocked and quite bothered by the very personal and specific questions that many people asked related to our ability to conceive a biological child. If you know someone in the process of adopting, please do not ask them personal and intimate questions about their ability to conceive a child by birth. And, certainly please, please do not ask whose “fault” it is. These questions are personal, they are intimate, and often times they are really quite painful. Adoption is not a free pass into a couple’s fertility history. While infertility is a common precipitating factor for couples who choose to adopt, infertility is not the only reason people adopt. Adoption is not a family planning option that exists solely because couples are unable to have children by birth. And, most importantly, a biblical view of adoption is not a second best option.

Adoption is NOT a consolation prize.
My husband & I made a decision three years into our marriage that we were going to try to adopt prior to attempting to have children by birth. I think some of the most hurtful and emotionally draining conversations about our adoption journey were linked to the grim looks of pity we received when someone would ask really intimate and personal questions and erroneously conclude that in our situation, due to infertility, we had to settle for adoption. These sad faces of disappointment were often quickly transformed to expressions of confusion as we explained that our decision to adopt prior to having children by birth was not our Plan B. Adoption is not the silver medal. It is not the “oh well I guess we’ll have to do this.” When a parent or prospective parent views or harbors a distinction between a child by birth and an “adoptive child,” the situation will likely result in serious difficulty related to attachment and bonding. And, most importantly this difficulty will be causal to the parent’s unresolved issues of grief and loss due to not having a child by birth. Adoption is not about settling for something less than the best. Spiritual adoption is and always has been God’s ultimate plan of salvation for His people. God’s saving grace and our adoption into His family is certainly not the prize given to the runner-up. Christians are called to defend the fatherless, welcome a little child, and to the visit the orphan in their distress. Adopting a child is not a consolation prize to having a child by birth.

Adoption is NOT a way of bargaining with God.
I cannot tell you how many people, particularly Christians, who hear the story of our family (4 children in 24 months ~ 2 adopted, 2 by birth) shake their heads or laugh with a comment: ”Isn’t that “just the way it works? God will bless you when you adopt!” This statement again highlights the assumption that adoption is primarily for infertile couples. And, even more disturbing, comments like this suggest the idea that God blesses couples who adopt by giving them “real children” of their own. All of my children are real, and they are all my own. While I have no solid data on this and am solely basing this estimate on my personal experiences, I would estimate that, at minimum, 50% of American Evangelical churchgoers would agree with the notion that God will bless you with children of “your own” if you adopt. Please, please do not adopt if this is your goal. Adoption is not a way of bargaining with God in hopes that He’ll repay you or reward you for your adoption with “kids of your own” later. If your ultimate goal is to earn a few chips in the bank by adopting to cash them in for children “of your own” in the future, then please reconsider the role that God is calling you to related to orphan care.

If you read this post and identify with areas of unresolved grief and loss, I strongly encourage you to:

• Talk with your spouse about this topic. Pray with your spouse.
• Talk with a close family member or trusted friend about this topic; find someone that will hold you accountable and encourage your spiritual growth and grieving process.
• Ask your pastor for a recommendation for a Godly man or woman who can mentor you and help you walk through this time of grief and loss.
• Intentionally enhance your relationship with God through worship and spiritual disciplines.
• Honestly visit the past with fierce truthfulness.
• Be willing to let go of unresolved anger and resentment that may exist.
• If your issues are too elaborate or cause you emotional distress that exceed the level of care provided by ecclesiastical services, please find a professional therapist or counselor who will provide you with solid, clinical and therapeutic services focused on ultimate healing through Jesus Christ.

Guest Blogger: Karen Hutcheson is a pastor’s wife, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and mommy to 4 children within 2 years via adoption and birth. Karen provides clinical training and consultation related to orphan care domestically and internationally