I Resolve to Lay My Isaac Down

In four days, my entire life is going to change drastically. My C-section is scheduled for the morning of July 2nd. After months of counting down the days and wishing Little Man would hurry up and be born already, I suddenly realized about a week ago how absolutely terrified I was for his birthday to arrive. I have a tendency to stuff my emotions and mentally block them out; this is a talent that has served me well in the past, but also a reaction I knew would not be helpful for this situation. My caseworker from the adoption agency told me early on to start the grieving process as soon as possible, and I determined to do so. I am glad now that I listened to her, because if I had gotten this far in the pregnancy without confronting my emotions concerning LM, I would be in dire straits.

Speaking of my caseworker (CW), she came to my house last Wednesday to go over my hospital plan and the other last minute details that needed to be attended to. These included questions like:

“Who do you want to hold the baby first? Do you want all of his extended family members to see him the first few minutes, or just his parents? Do you want one on one time with your baby, and if so, when do you want it? Do you want the baby to stay in your room? Do you plan on signing the relinquishment papers the day he is born? Will the baby’s biological father be invited to the hospital? Do you want the baby to be discharged when you are discharged? If so, do you want to personally hand him to the adoptive parents or do you want me/a nurse/someone else to do it? Will you be bringing a stuffed animal or outfit to give your baby? Do you want the adoptive mother to feed the baby? If so, do you want her to stay in your hospital room at night in order to do so? After you are discharged, do you want to see your baby and the adoptive parents while they are in town waiting for finalization? Do you want your last name on his birth certificate, or the adoptive family’s last name?”

Not overwhelming at all, right? I actually felt quite relieved after we had all of those questions and concerns ironed out, and it was a relief to talk to my CW about the whole thing because she also relinquished her first child years ago. The comfort I received from having a concrete plan in place lasted about 2 hours, and then I started FREAKING out. The combination of anxiety over relinquishment, fear about having major surgery, excitement for the adoptive family, wonder over the fact that I will have a biological son for the rest of my life, and sadness/guilt for putting my parents through this whole thing was suffocating me. I basically had a panic attack that lasted for two days, and I could not shake my fear.

I decided to divert my attention from it all by cleaning and working in the house. While organizing random things all over the place, I came across a book by Carol Kent titled “When I Lay My Isaac Down”. Now, my mom has TONS of books all over the house, and this was probably the 40th one I had come across that day. This was the only one I paid any mind to, and I felt God prompting me to read it. So, I did.

The title refers to the story of Abraham in the Bible. God asks him to kill and sacrifice his one and only son Isaac – the son whom God had promised would be the one to bring Abraham more descendants than there were stars in the sky – on the altar. Abraham, with no hesitation, obeys. Not only does he obey, but he wakes up early to start on his three day journey to the place of sacrifice. He trusted God and His promises so much that he was willing to “lay his Isaac down” – kill his own son – knowing that God would bring him back from the dead to fulfill His promise if need be, and if not, that God would heal his heart. God, upon testing Abraham’s heart and seeing him raise a knife to kill his son, tells him to stop and provides a ram to offer as a burnt sacrifice instead. An angel then says to Abraham, “God says: because you have gone through with this, and have not refused to give Me your son, your dear, dear son, I’ll bless you…And your descendants will defeat their enemies.”

The author goes on to tell her personal life story about her only son who is an upstanding Christian and member of society; he has an impeccable military record and is the darling of the family. One day, Kent receives a call that her wonderful son has been thrown in jail for the premeditated, first-degree murder of his wife’s ex husband. Several years later, he is sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. He is still in prison today. Carol Kent then goes on to share what God taught her about “laying her Isaac down” and having “unshakeable faith in unthinkable circumstances”.

I cannot recommend this book enough, especially if you have ever gone through anything painful in your life. (Which I’m pretty sure you have, because that’s an essential part of being human.) I read, highlighted, and cried until I finished the last page. The whole book is full of wisdom, but one part in particular really helped me let go of my anxiety and receive peace. I quote:

“Relinquishment is a poignant word. It means ‘to let go of, to cease to hold in the hand.’ It means giving up my rights to control the person, dream, expectation, or preferred outcome of the object of my concern…Relinquishing your ‘right’ to hold your precious Isaac in your own hands is the most painful thing you will ever do. It seems as irrational as Abraham’s decision to place his son on the altar. It goes against the grain of human self-reliance…It’s an act of trusting God when we cannot envision a positive outcome. But in the end, it’s the only thing that works. I know. I have walked this road…I spoke aloud to God, ‘Father, I open my hands and ask You to guide me through these uncharted waters. Please fill the hole in my heart. Your presence is sweeter than I’ve ever known before…I hate the reason why this deeper intimacy with You is being birthed, but I embrace the sweetness and I love You.’…we bow in worship before the God who loves us more than we love our Isaac and open our fists. And in the process of releasing, we find ourselves deeply loved. The love is born from within Him, not from what He sees in us. That’s a good thing, because we know we aren’t worth that much. But in His eyes, we are worth everything. He has already shown us how much. He gave the greatest heart sacrifice known to man – His only son.”

The hidden, nagging fear I have had throughout this whole pregnancy is that I will meet LM and not be able to give him up. This fear has been fueled by several things: reading accounts of women who planned to relinquish their baby and then changed their minds at the last minute; being told constantly by those who know my adoption plan that it will be the hardest thing I will ever have to do; and forgetting the fact that LM is neither mine nor M & D’s, but God’s. I have been fighting this fear through gasping, desperate prayers and recitation of the facts that I know. Here are a few of those facts, along with the nagging doubts that follow them: “I am the most strong willed person I have ever met. Once I decide to do something, I do not change my mind. (But I’ve never had a child before. How do I know what I will do?) I know God and I know God’s voice. God has made it exceedingly clear that this is His plan, and I am determined to be obedient to Him. (But what if I heard Him wrong? What if?) I explicitly trust the adoptive family I have picked to raise my child, and I know that they are excellent parents and the ones God has ordained for LM.(But what if I’m wrong?)”

After reading the afore-mentioned book, I was able to once more open my heart, give my fears to Jesus, and gain assurance that I would be able to relinquish LM. Not only would I be ready and willing to do so when the time came, I would be able to do so with a certain kind of supernatural joy: the kind of joy that only comes from having a personal relationship with Jesus and trusting Him enough for me to make this heart sacrifice to The Father.

As Christians, we do not grieve the way the world grieves. We grieve with hope, because we know our Jesus will always take care of us. We place our trust in Jesus, and eliminate “normal” human fear with a peace that passes all understanding. We put on the garments of praise in place of a spirit of heaviness. We endure with hope. We willingly lay our Isaac down.

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