by Julie Thoreen
“I set him back down in his crib knowing that he’ll never know he spent this night with me. It was like a death.” Leah Berg, and her husband, Paul, had already invested so much of their hearts into the baby boy that was supposed to be theirs. They had named him and taken and sent photos of him to family. Inseparable, they had spent his first day and night of life together only to wake to the news that his birth mom had decided to keep him. They boarded a plane from Arizona and flew back to Minnesota alone.
Adoption is a beautiful, complicated, messy process. There are a lot of uncertainties. It requires a release of control and trust from the birth mother difficult to imagine. It expects the adoptive parent(s) take a child in as theirs while fully understanding that the child is not fully theirs. And depending on the age of the adopted child, it calls for the child to exhibit an emotional flexibility that most adults will never have to confront in their entire lifetimes.
Many times I have heard among my Christian friends, and I have even caught myself thinking, “I was so sure that this was God’s plan for my life. Did I hear him wrong? Did I mess up somewhere? Why did it not happen?” The plan seemingly falls to pieces and we can lose hope, believe God has abandoned us, and even pull away from relationship with him, as if he has broken our trust.
The Bergs had been drawn to adoption even at the beginning of their relationship together. They felt strongly that it was part of the vision God had for them to manifest his Kingdom. Having already adopted their daughter, Vivian, a couple years earlier, they began building a relationship with the birth mom of their next adoptive child and flew down to Arizona for the birth.
“I remember sitting outside of the hospital room thinking, ‘What if, after all of this, she changes her mind?’ In that moment I [heard] an unbelievably overwhelming [message] of ‘even if she does change her mind, even if you get hurt in this, this girl needs you now. There is no one else here for her and that is enough reason for this to all have happened.’
After they received the heartbreaking news that the birth mom had changed her mind, Leah surprises me. “We were totally gutted, don’t get me wrong, but not hopeless. We had such a clear message of ‘love is not wasted’ during our time with the birth mom, so we clung to that hope and let it carry us. We honestly felt like that time had a purpose even though it didn’t work out like we planned.”
Two weeks later, the Bergs got a call that the birth mom had decided to go through with the adoption in the end. This may seem like the happy ending, but it isn’t really the heart of the story. At this point, the Bergs could have flown down to Arizona, isolated themselves with the baby (Cruz, who was legally theirs now) and celebrated God’s faithfulness to fulfill his plan for their lives. But instead, they chose to spend fifteen days in an Air BnB with their new baby and the birth mom.
They made space for the birth mom’s decision, choosing compassion over judgment. They reconciled their relationship, seeing her through Jesus’ eyes as the brave and strong woman she had to be.”The pain and sadness was a level and depth neither of us had experienced before and it could’ve taken us under so easily. It could’ve totally made us bitter towards his birth mom…but it didn’t. And I honestly can’t really explain it other than the sweet mercy of God.”
The world tells us “plans” are products–a job that fits, a spouse you love, a family that gives you purpose, money that secures. God’s “plan” for us is not a product, it is love–to experience the self-sacrificial love of God through Christ and, because of that love, to freely and similarly give it to others. With conviction, Leah reminds me, “Love is never wasted. It’s freely given. We don’t love to get an outcome. Love is the goal.”
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”
Leah Berg, along with her husband Paul and children, Vivian and Cruz, attend Woodland Hills Church. Leah leads the Adoptive Families of Woodland Hills Facebook group.