One day, my wife Lisa said she felt that it was time we sacrifice more. I wasn’t sure what she meant. Was it time to begin to construct an altar in the back yard? What would our neighbors think? What would we do with all the animals? Would Chihuahuas qualify?
“Stephan, Stephan, Stephaaaaaaan….I think God is telling us we need to sacrifice more.”
When I heard my name repeated several times, I realized that I had drifted off, probably a coping mechanism.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I think we ought to adopt a child, and I think that child should be from another country, and I have already done some research, and I have found out it won’t even be that expensive.”
“OK, I I I I think. You know we have four children all ready, right? You are telling me we need to sacrifice more… and by adopting a child from another country, we will accomplish that, especially if it doesn’t cost us much…hmmmmmm. WHERE IS THE SACRIFICE?” I asked.
Time for me to call her bluff and be the super spiritual leader that I am supposed to be… (not so sure of my sincerity, but I was desperate to regain the momentum…because that’s what spiritual leaders do, riiiiiiight?)
I then proceeded to say, “Hey, I have an idea. If you want to sacrifice so much, why don’t we become foster parents? …touché and drop the mic!
My precious and beautiful, sacrifice desiring wife immediately said, “I can’t do that.”
So I said… “Really, I thought you were all into sacrificing all of a sudden. Therefore, why not foster? Let’s go get licensed and see if that is what God wants us to do.” Awkward moment but profound.
The rest is history. Though we had no idea what we were getting into and our initial conversation was innocent and somewhat naïve, God had a way of taking our desire to sacrifice more and making it a reality. Though I would have to seriously question if we actually ever did sacrifice. When you avail yourselves to God’s Will, He has a way of blessing the process in ways you can’t even imagine.
We did proceed to get licensed through 4KIDS of South Florida and started down the journey of opening our home to the most precious children who had found themselves in the middle of circumstances beyond their control. These innocent children, who had been given life instead of being terminated, found themselves in circumstances that were toxic, and they needed a safe place, often just for a season while their families received the help they needed and were able to be reunited with their families. We fostered seven children over a period of about five years.
One romantic weekend, Lisa (in her bikini) and I were walking along a beach enjoying a small little get away. I was enjoying the moment. She then proceeded to mention to me that she believed God had been speaking to her. I was happy to hear that because a wife that hears from God is a good thing… I think. She then proceeded to tell me that she felt that God was telling us that we ought to adopt the baby girl we were currently fostering. My mind was still thinking about our romantic walk and I responded, “cool” (Then my brain kicked in…SCREEEEEEECH! What #$)(*$)@#*$)( did she say?).
“Hey, hun, God has not said that to me and if that is what He is saying to you, then He will need to tell me the same thing.”
She was quick to agree and I was sincere in saying that I would sincerely pray about it… and that started an 18-month conversation with God, and by the way, the weekend was romantic and wonderful.
We proceeded to continue to foster this little girl that God had placed into our home. We were not sure if she would ever be adoptable and always were happy to see a foster child reunited with her family. However, these decisions are beyond our control, and you learn to wait and be faithful where God places you. Therefore, we continued to love this little girl. However, it began to become more and more apparent that she was going to become adoptable, and we had to make a decision as to whether we would adopt her if that opportunity availed itself to us.
During this time, God and I were having many conversations. “God, if she becomes adoptable, is this what You want us to do?”
My conversation with God had several profound moments over that 18-month period. I remember several of them.
One morning, while getting ready to go to work and preparing my coffee and small breakfast, I noticed that our little girl was enjoying her little breakfast. I realized that she was totally into the moment. She had no sense of anything beyond breakfast. I, on the other hand was too focused on everything but breakfast. I thought about how that translates to my walk with God. I am looking at this little child realizing she is oblivious to her situation. I, on the other hand knew that there were many people making decisions on her behalf that would shape her entire future, and all she is concerned about is her breakfast. I thought about God looking at me and saying to Himself, “you have no idea of the battle that is going on for you my child. I’ve got it…just enjoy your breakfast.” Doesn’t the Bible say, “Rejoice always and don’t be anxious”? Yet we live in a world where we seem to do the opposite, “complain and freak out about everything.”
One afternoon I was sitting on the beach reading an article in a Christian magazine about three families that had lost a loved one. One was a story of a spouse passing away after a long health battle; the other two were stories of parents losing their adult children, one to an aneurysm and the other to an auto accident. They all explained how their faith was strengthened through the journey. I was struck that I had personally been with each of these people at some point in the past two years. I knew them, I knew their stories. I asked God, “Are you saying that the only way we gain a deep devotion to you is through the tragic loss of someone close to us, like a child?” He was quick to respond and say, “I am not planning on taking a child from you. I am simply asking you, will you take one from me?” WOW! God’s has a profound way of nudging us when we take time to hear Him. He is gentle, but direct. He is faithful and friendly. He is just and just in time.
I also distinctly remember watching a short little video entitled “Corner,” and it was about Ruth and Boaz and how God had allowed her to glean from the corner. The video goes on to make a statement that I will forever remember, “My overflow is someone else’s necessity.” My greatest argument to God during this conversation He and I were having on the subject of whether we ought to adopt or not adopt was that this was going to be an inconvenience to us. Honestly, really weak argument when talking to God because He always wins that one… He simply turns His hands around and you see two nail pierced scars on His wrists and He gently says to me, “Stephan, I know all about being inconvenienced.” I think He has a small smile when He says that because it’s His way of saying, “touché and drop the mic.”
Needless to say, over that eighteen-month period, I went from “no way God” to “FINE (gritting my teeth) I will do it if You make me” to “I can’t wait too.”
This month, our precious little Zulu (the name in the Zulu language means gift from above) turns eleven and is one of our greatest blessings (we jokingly say, she is our favorite). She has impacted all of our family with a love of God that we can’t explain. She reminds us every day of God’s presence, faithfulness and incredible sacrifice. She makes us laugh, cry and think deeply about how God has us all in the palm of His hand.
Therefore, in the month where the focus is gratefulness, I am grateful that God burdened Lisa with the simple word of “sacrifice.” However, I think I misunderstood it from the beginning. I was thinking I had to give up something and in my selfish way resisted, only to realize that God was showing me just how much He is willing to sacrifice for me. I am grateful for God’s incredible faithful love.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.