Discerning God’s call is neither simple nor easy. Rarely does He reveal His will twice in the same way to the same individual or adopt an identical approach with two different people. Sometimes you get a glimpse of what He’s up to from a distance. On other occasions His plan doesn’t become clear until you’re up to your eyeballs in it. The only part of the process that stays constant is your need to remain open, flexible, and willing.
Korean Pastor Lee Jong-rak knows all about this. He would be among the first to tell you that the Lord doesn’t call everybody to install a baby box in the wall of his or her home. And while he’s keenly sensitive to the plight of orphans, he would probably also say that anybody who is thinking seriously about adoption should weigh the options with great care. He realizes it’s a highly specialized calling. For his own part, he didn’t choose that pathway for himself – God did. But once he found himself upon it, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was headed in the right direction.
Tony and Lauren Dungy have a similar story to tell. In early 2000, Tony was living the dream as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His team was on an upward trajectory: the Bucs had come within an inch of the Super Bowl in 1999. There was every reason to suppose that they were on the cusp of a great season. What’s more, after four years the Dungys were finally feeling at home in Florida. They had a great marriage, a church they loved, a supportive community, and three growing and thriving kids: Tiara (fifteen), Jamie (thirteen), and Eric (eight).
That’s when something unexpected happened within the Buccaneers organization. And it had nothing to do with football.
What was that something? Joe Marciano, one of Tony’s assistant coaches, adopted a son. He adopted despite being single and having to make special arrangements simply in order to balance work and parenting responsibilities. He adopted just because he loved kids and wanted to help a little boy who needed a home. And that got Lauren Dungy thinking.
“She told me she felt as if the Lord was speaking to her,” Tony recalls. “She heard Him saying that in this season of our lives, maybe we needed to adopt a child. He was telling her, You have the resources. You have the home and the loving family.”
Tony wasn’t convinced at first. Being the careful, deliberate type, he didn’t jump on the bandwagon right away. After all, he was about to turn forty-five. He was also extremely busy with a high-profile career in the NFL and wondered if he’d have the time or energy to parent another child. That’s not to mention that the couple already had three biological children. Stated simply, Tony had his hesitations. But he was also wise enough to listen and stay open-minded. And as he listened to his wife and heard her heart, he also began to hear the voice of the Lord.
They brought their son Jordan home in August 2000. Almost immediately it was discovered that Jordan had special needs. His problem – congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis – was something no one could have foreseen or predicted on the merely human plane. But God knew about it. And He also knew that Tony and Lauren were the perfect candidates to meet the challenge of caring for a child in his condition.
“Because of Tony’s job and our insurance through the NFL,” says Lauren, “we were in a great position to help this little boy we loved so much grow and thrive.”
In the end, then, it was an apparent obstacle that made God’s call abundantly clear to Tony and Lauren. And the result of that conviction was something else the couple could never have foreseen: they have since adopted five more children, making themselves the proud parents of seven boys and two girls!
As the Dungys can attest, you never know what might happen when you stay open to the Lord’s leading and follow Him with a humble and submissive heart.
(Source: Uncommon Marriage, by Tony and Lauren Dungy; Chapter 9, “Living The Dream,” pp. 121-138.)