My husband, Jeff, and I adopted our youngest daughter, Jia, in October of 2017 from Harbin, China. We met her early on a Monday morning in a Harbin civic building. She spent the day and night with us, timidly engaging and building bonds, increasing trust with every interaction. After an initial shock, she no longer cried or showed typical signs of grief as is often seen in adopted children initially. She was running, playing, and laughing with us after only a few hours. Things were going unbelievably well. We returned to the civic center on Tuesday morning to finalize the adoption. It was official: She was ours!
That evening, we were eating dinner at a local restaurant in Harbin, enjoying our first meal with our new daughter. Jia sat on my lap. I noticed she felt a little warm, but I didn’t worry. As we were walking back to the hotel from the restaurant, Jia abruptly dropped her sippy cup to the ground and fell backward, lifeless, in Jeff’s arms. She was able, with our assistance, to lean forward to regain her upright position, but seemed spacey. Because it was dark, it was hard to make out her expressions, as we were only able to see her face intermittently in the light of the storefronts we passed. Again, it seemed somewhat concerning, but nothing over which to sound the alarm. Shortly thereafter, we entered the well-lit hotel lobby which confirmed our apprehension. Jia’s stare was unmistakably off, and her mouth began to take on a bluish tint.
We immediately sprang into action. We ripped her coat off, started calling her name, snapping and trying to rub her arms and back to get her to respond. She seemed to recompose a little. Moments later we moved toward the elevator, and Jia attempted to make motions to indicate that she recognized pictures we had discussed just hours before. I told myself, “Okay, things are off, but it feels like we may be regaining some control here.” We made it to the hotel room, and shortly after arriving, Jia began shaking in a full-scale seizure.
My mind quickly jumped to some information I distantly remembered on seizures while Jeff pulled up an informational article on his phone. I don’t remember much of what he read aloud to me while she was seizing in my arms; however, I do remember one specific line which stated, “If the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, call 911.” I remember at that moment thinking, “What!? There is no 911 here!” It was in that immediate instant it became undeniably obvious our dependence was wholly and completely on the Lord.
By this point, Jia had been seizing for well over five minutes, and there was no 911. There was no other individual in this city that spoke English other than our guide, and the guide was not immediately available. There was no ambulance, and we had no way of traveling to a hospital to get assistance. It was clear that God was our very present help in that time of trouble. As Jia continued to seize, I held her–and prayed.
The prayer was in total dependence. We were overwhelmingly helpless, and yet, as I prayed, I felt the peace of God envelop the situation. God assured me that even though my world was shaking, He was our refuge and strength and that His steadfast love would be sufficient for us.
Today, by God’s grace, Jia is healthy and has not had a seizure in two years. The truth is I am no less dependent on God right here as I write this in Pennsylvania than I was there in Harbin, China. My circumstances and inclination to lean on myself provide a dangerous illusion of independence. I am learning to see my dependence on God in all things. Even though I don’t experience situations like that regularly, I can rest knowing that God is my strength in my daily circumstances: the ups and downs of parenting, decisions I make as a school principal, in the context of being a wife, and in the ways I serve at church. There is a peace that comes from knowing I never have to be enough because He always is. This frees me to step out in faith to take on roles and serve in ministries that God is leading me to – including those in which I may not feel naturally gifted.
How can we resist the temptation to self-reliance? I believe we can look at the two directives given in Psalm 46: “Be still, and know that I am God” and “Come, behold the works of the Lord.” When I still my heart, consider rightly who He is, and remember His faithfulness to the generations, I find myself humbled and in awe. This is the heart posture that allows me to trust that He is all I need.