Today Meadow gives us a glimpse into her family’s life as they adopted little Ruth.
The day we adopted our daughter Ruth was one of the happiest of my life. The little brick courthouse packed with friends and family who had helped us through the hard months of working and waiting. The flowers and treats, ready for our big celebration back home. The absolute certainty as the judged signed our adoption papers that no one could take Ruth away from us. No one. Not ever.
Ruth, who was 2 at the time of her adoption, had already been abandoned twice. First by her mother, who gave birth in a Ugandan hospital before sneaking away. Then by a Ugandan foster family who brought the frail, spindly baby home from an orphanage, planning to adopt, only to return her nine months later when Ruth still couldn’t lift her head. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a brain injury that prevented her from walking or talking, Ruth was then sent to Maine for six months of physical therapy.
I had always wanted to adopt. My husband, Dana, not so much. But the moment we met Ruth through friends in a little Maine church our future was sealed. Ruth belonged with us the same as if she’d been born to us. Her adoption, more than one year later, confirmed that she was permanently, irrevocably ours. At least that’s the story we naively believed.
But God has a way of rewriting our most carefully planned stories, of tearing out pages and re-writing the script so that we come face to face with his supremacy and our great need of him. Often, this comes through the most painful circumstances. As author and international disabilities advocate Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralyzed in a diving accident at age 18, has said,
“Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.”
This would be cruel were God not so good. But even in the pain and the sorrow and the loss, God’s plan remains to bless, not to harm. Even in our deepest grief, he remains with us. It is often in the darkest and loneliest places where we discover the depth of God’s limitless love and mercy and faithfulness.
Or as the writer of Lamentations—written in the form of a funeral dirge—proclaims,
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (22:23 ESV).
The key is to turn toward God in our suffering, rather than away from him. To confess that he is in control, not us. To surrender the storyline we thought we were living and ask Jesus “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) to write his story through us.
If our story is to be anything like Christ’s, it too will be marked with sorrow and suffering and sacrifice.
And so after six challenging and joy-filled years of loving and caring for Ruth, the happy adoption story we thought we were living became the story of how God broke our hearts. Not because he is cruel. Or uncaring. But because his story is always about far more than us. And in that tearing and sorrowing, God revised the story of our lives to fill our hearts with love for other abandoned, hurting children like Ruth.
One way? Through that carefree teenage girl who went swimming one fine summer day that rewrote the rest of her life: Joni Eareckson Tada, who this year is celebrating—not cursing, but celebrating—her 50th year in a wheelchair. Rather than blaming God for her accident, Joni has spent the past five decades leading Joni and Friends, an international ministry that has brought God’s message of love to 170 countries and delivered more than 100,000 wheelchairs to people in the developing world.
One of those chairs was Ruth’s.
The fine summer day I drove my husband to the airport, on his way to join a Joni and Friends’ team headed to Uganda, was among the saddest of my life. No friends and family to cheer us on. No celebration waiting back home as I bent and kissed the headrest of my daughter’s wheelchair goodbye because I could not kiss my daughter, who had passed away unexpectedly six months before.
What got me through was holding onto God—the one who never abandons us. Seizing the hard-won trust that this day was not the end of our story. And believing that the celebration, far greater than any we had known, was still ahead when no one—not ever—would be able to take Ruth away and we would be together again.
Meadow Rue Merrill is an award-winning journalist and the author of, Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, which releases with Hendrickson Publishers on May 1. Part travel adventure, part family drama, part spiritual memoir, her story reveals how God wants to bless hurting and broken people through us, even though we are hurt and broken too. Merrill writes from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. Connect at www.meadowrue.com or follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/meadowrue.merrill