Swimming against the current, salmon travel hundreds of miles from sea through river and come to a hard stop. The end. A dead end.
I saw where the salmon end and begin yesterday. They end and begin at the falls. Each year, without fail, salmon swim through the mouth of the Columbia all the way to this spot where spawning occurs and only two percent of eggs laid will live to become mature fish, keeping the cycle of salmon life going. They lay and they die. They come here to give life and die. And their dying gives life. Everything a salmon is made of, she lays it down and her body dies and decays and provides exactly what new life will need when hatched, to feed and grow and live and die so others can come to life and start the whole process over—again and again and again.
Dead ends. This is where life begins.
I’ve experienced more than a few dead ends in life. Like the day the doctor told me I would never conceive a child. Infertile. Like slapping the face of motherhood, the word stung, wounding deep beyond flesh to soul sinew. No babies. No birthing. No breast-feeding. No gurgling and cooing and eyes like mine or my husband’s looking back, telling us that the cycle of life had begun once again.
I won’t lie. Even after being told infertility would keep us from bearing a child, I kept hoping and praying because I’ve seen God touch other bodies, making them mothers. But God had a different plan for this woman here. For this woman here, and her husband, we flew against air current to bring home babies who weren’t babies.
Three children, then six, four, and nineteen months, came into our lives at a dead end with a new beginning, an opportunity for new life to be born of another sort. At the base of our own waterfall of tears, my husband and I found life through adoption. Where bodies defy, spirits can rely on the One who overcame flesh with His flesh and helps us mid-wife new life of spirit.
To bear. Produce, create, generate, give birth to, develop.
What do we adoptive parents bear when our bodies won’t give birth? What do we create with our years and our tears and our prayers on soul knees calloused and worn? When we come once again to falls of overwhelming odds and we’re stopped short of hopes and we wonder if the upstream swim has been worth it at all and we’re just plain old and tired?
Dead ends are new beginnings.
I remember the night, not even a year after bringing Anna and Zach home from Russia. We were sitting on Anna’s bed as we did every night, reading books and ending with their children’s Bible and talks of Jesus. I remember the night I asked them if they wanted to live with Jesus forever. And they said yes. They said yes to eternal life with Jesus that night. That night, new life was born and I was the mid-wife. The Spirit spawned new life and I realized that eternal life was all I had ever wanted—for me and for those I love.
I grew up in a home with no awareness of God, no exposure to God. No Bible stories, no mention of Jesus, I often felt little hope and wondered if the future would hold much hope either. And then I met the man in the moon and I saw the man ON the moon. There, on a night alone as a 9 year old, when the first man walked on the face of the moon, I began my conscious swim upstream, searching for a spawning bed, driven to deliver new life to my own soul.
I found Jesus in a Bible I bought for myself. And the God of that Bible led me like a salmon, right to a dead end—to the end of myself and all my strivings. He led me right to His own holy feet and He birthed me right there. And He grew me and loved me and provided me many adoptive parents and brothers and sisters—all part of His family here on earth.
And now? All these years later when my body is aging and eggs won’t be fertilized and babies won’t be born? New life was born anyway, despite what body refused to produce. In triplicate, right here in our home of dead ends, new life has been born in the souls of three children.
When we find ourselves at the foot of the falls, where powerful forces prohibit ascent and we’re forced to stop right where we are—this place can be a holy place, a life-giving place where God Himself showers us with the mist of His blessing and takes the dead and turns it into new life.
Three Russian kids, three now grown and swimming up their own streams. Will they all bear new life someday? They already have. Their hearts have believed and their tongues have confessed that Jesus Christ is their Lord and their Savior. Bold and strong swimmers, they are. Each, in their own way, by God’s own unique gifting, have mid-wifed life to those around them, especially their adoptive parents.
In the kingdom of God, right here on earth, children can help bear parents. And this is precisely why Jesus admonished adults who tried to keep children from coming to Him. Children are strong little spiritual swimmers, spawning many opportunities for new life. And I’ve been born again, again—over and over as I’ve been fertilized with the truth and love of God coming through Anna . . . and Zach . . . and Nick.
With God—at the foot of the falls—where dead ends stop our striving—this is the place where spawning begins. This is the place where beginnings are born from endings—where children take over for their parents who pass on. And even when bodies won’t reproduce, spirits are always and forever fertile ground, spawning and releasing and sending forth new opportunities for life. True Life.