Adoption: Our journey of faith

Jen and Phil Wagler share their adoption story

By Jen and Phil Wagler

The news that we would not be able to conceive a child was both devastating and confirming. Somehow, deep down, we knew without being told. The doctor only stated the painfully obvious. After months and months of romantic nights and fireworks that just went up in smoke, we were a young couple with an empty nursery smiling as best we could as one friend after the next celebrated the wonder of birth.

You prepare yourself for that download of unwanted information as best you can, but the medical jargon of even the most compassionate physician still cuts like a knife. That knife can cut right through the heart of your marriage, and even your faith.

We were Christians. Goodness, we were serving as a pastoral couple with the flock of God. Shouldn’t that count for something? We pleaded like Isaac did for his barren wife Rebekah (Genesis 25:21). It didn’t work. At least, not as anticipated.

Faith is not magic. Faith is wagering your life on God and His promises. Faith is confidence to consider this with Job, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). To be raised to new life in Christ by God’s grace is to come into the startling realization that in all things God is at work to bring about His good purposes, and ultimately to develop the character of Jesus in His kids. And that’s a key point, for faith is sure God has acted to bring us into His family.

Faith accepts that God adopts. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” wrote the Apostle Paul. “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’ ” (Romans 8:14-15). As we cried out to our Father in Heaven about our plight we found that the answer was not going to be rooted in our desires met, but in His character lived through us.

We had talked through the possibility of adoption during our dating years, never thinking that it might become our journey. We had both been primed for this adventure by experiences we never thought could be connected. Church and mission influences broadened our perspective and fostered courage. We began to pray differently. We began praying for God to bless us with the family of His choosing and that, no matter how it came about, we would give Him praise and seek to raise a generation in the fear of the Lord.

And then there were the straight-shooting, pull-no-punches, rubber-meets-the-road words of Scripture: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

Our faith needed feet. Our circumstance was not unknown to the God of the universe; in fact, His hand may very well be in the details of our devastation in some mysterious, and yet ultimately good, way. God desires that His kids reveal His heart and nature to the world. He welcomes the abandoned, lifts the head of the downcast, and makes orphans His sons and daughters. Our grief could be the seedbed of self-pity or the fertilizer of new life. And so it was we mourned our loss and stepped onto the winding, uncertain, testing road of adoption.

Four adoptions (two international, two domestic – including a foster-to-adopt) and two surprise birth children later, we know ourselves more deeply, we cling to our faith more desperately, we know our God more fully, and we know more personally what Job meant when he said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

Jen and Phil Wagler live in British Columbia, Canada, with their six children and adopted dog, Molly.