This column is also being posted on our adoption blog.

My college alumni network has spent the past week sharing stories about how we each chose our school. The conversation brought back the feelings I had early in my time there when I had to stop and remind myself that this surreal experience was actually happening. It took some time to sink in that I was really a student at this strange, demanding, wonderful place. Apparently, many of my peers had to convince themselves of the same thing. Looking back, however, it’s hard to believe that we haven’t always had Grinnell College in our personal histories. It has simply become a part of the landscape.

This memory came up as Leanne and I prepare to meet with our adoption social worker on Friday for our one-month post-placement review. It’s hard to believe that we have had Ian for a full month now, and that I’ve been back at work for two weeks. Life still seems thoroughly turned upside down, and I’m sure Ian feels the same way. We’re learning his routine almost as fast as he is, but I always feel at least a step behind. At this point, almost nothing actually feels “routine.” However, if I look closely, I can start to see the ways life is coming together.

If it took most of a year to start imagining that my college experience was real, I can only imagine how long it will take to believe in myself as a father. Obviously, I’m coming to know the daily facts of this role in life, but on some level it’s not yet a solid reality that this is truly happening. As hard as it is to look back and remember myself before my college experience defined so much of me, it’s just as hard to look forward and imagine what I will look like once I’ve “always been” a father. Even so, I know that my transformation is in progress. It’s only a matter of many more sleepless nights before we get there.

Leanne and I have had the blessing of family during this transition period. Leanne’s parents were here for our first week at home, and my family will be coming up on May 30, when my father will lead our celebration of Ian’s baptism. While I could theoretically baptize my own son, I’m very thankful that I won’t be the one to do it. One of the most important pastoral roles is to walk with people as they move through these major life changes. I think of it as helping to tell someone else’s story when it’s too big for them to tell on their own. This transition into parenthood feels like too big a story for me to tell; I’m grateful that my mom, dad, and brother will be my pastors.

As always, I’m grateful for your support and understanding as I make sense of this new stage in life. Your prayers and support have been a great help throughout the adoption process. You were very generous to allow me leave for the trip to Korea and our adjustment time once we got back home. We appreciate your enthusiasm for our growing family and your respect of the space we need while we forge some of the early bonds. I have no doubt that this is part of why you all were called into my life.

Profound transitions tend to make me especially self-reflective. I have thoughts about the church and our life together that I would love to include in a newsletter column, but sometimes one just has to look inside first. I can feel this process driving me deeper within myself at the same time as it draws me out. I’d like to close with a beloved prayer by Thomas Merton, who knew the connection between interior depth and being drawn out by others:

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. (from Thoughts in Solitude, © Abbey of Gethsemani)

In Christ’s peace,

Nathan

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