catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 9 :: 2005.05.06 — 2005.05.19


Choosing and being chosen

My wife and I are one of the chosen ones. It?s not something we signed up for; it picked us out.

I know it?s a frowned upon confession, but I?m bored with choice. In our self-determined world where I?ll be damned to let someone else dictate my life, I doubt my own capacity to determine well my life. I can?t avoid admitting that the bulk of my life is bound up in a larger guiding force over which I have little say or hold little sway.

Early in our marriage, my wife and I chose to delay having children, hoping to make our way through graduate school with a minimum of debts, expecting that we?d be expecting some time in the future. Never once did the thought cross our minds that we might not be able to have children. We had all the right equipment; we were doing all the right things.

While our naivet? convinced us we were charting our own path, something else chose us. Early on, it felt more like being picked on than picked out. Instead of entering the pastel halls of nurseries and baby clothes, we began a slow, miserable trudge through the white-coat world of infertility. Oddly, it?s a sterile setting, filled with cold, chromed stirrups and sealed sample cups, where every last ounce of mystery and passion is leached out of conception.

More humiliating, however, is infertility?s utter powerlessness, a lived parable of the will?s impotence where the most inbred human capacity fails you. Mostly our infertility felt like a curse, like a personal judgment on us?either that the wisdom of God decided that we?d be positively horrific parents or that evolutionary forces had chosen us as Exhibit A in natural selection, the shallow end of the gene pool.

Yet what my wife and I never would have scripted for our own story opened our lives up to so much more. We were selected by two teens to be the adoptive parents of their baby, tacking on the good to our story of personal catastrophe. It?s an open adoption, where their story and ours are pieced together into our son?s narrative. At home with our son, it feels like a fairy story?which isn?t at all to deny there?s a shadow. Mingled in my melting heart before my son?s shining face are stabs of sadness. I realize that even with my deep joy, adoption is essentially tragic. Both birth parents and adoptive parents find themselves in a situation they would never have chosen.

Yet I?d never choose to be without it now. I have not been a part of something so redemptive as being a partner to this adoption. It feels like what Danish philosopher S?ren Kierkegaard called a “catastrophe of grace.” Adoption is a chastening gift, a blessed affliction rooted in parallel stories of personal tragedy, but with a larger force, a providential hand weaving our grief-streaked narratives into something like a fairy tale. A young birth mother has graced our lives with the squirming gift of a lifetime, wetted with her pain. Carved out of our emptiness, we have offered the gift of a home for her baby for which she could not yet provide. The odd math of it is that adding our griefs together has produced grace. U2 captures it nicely when they sing, “What left a mark no longer stings. Because Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.”

And I would never have known this beauty on the other side of emptiness if I had been calling the shots. It?s a humbling mystery.

My wife and I recently chose to begin the adoption process for a second child, but I can?t help wonder what will choose us. It?s not something I run from in fear anymore, but something I want to run headlong into and lose myself again and again.

This article was originally published in the

Calgary Sun.

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