Sunday, July 28, 2013

Struggling with Sovereignty

[Warning: for those of you who like easy answers or safe, comfortable thoughts, this post is not for you. You've been warned.]

The first week we were home from Africa, the three girls and I were in the dining room. Mali was poking her way through a bowl of cheerios and I was talking to Olivia and Katie. A quiet lull hangs over the room when OG says, "You know Mom, God knew you were going to adopt Mali. He knew even when you and dad were first married."

Me, the pinnacle of wisdom, "Yeah, he did."

She continues, "He even knew when you were born."

"Yes, he did." A wide smile erupts across my face. My daughter gets that God has a plan for me and for our family that includes adoption. Yes!! She understands, in her 6-year-old self, that God is sovereign over my life. Quietly, I pat myself on the back and file that conversation away.

And I start to think about the truth of her statement. Yes, God knew and pre-ordained that Mali would become a part of this family. And while right now it feels hard to see, it is part of his story of redemption.

However, if I acknowledge that this was part of his plan for redemption for this child, I also have to acknowledge her life before we welcomed her. In general, her story, like so many adopted orphans, goes something like this. She was born. She was mis-treated. She was abandoned. She waited for us.

Did my God stand by as this innocent child was subjected to the whims of humans? As they harmed her? If God ordained for her to come to our family, did he also ordain for her abandonment?

These are difficult questions. There are no easy answers.

There are things that I know to be true, things that I claim with my entire being to be true, things I claim for the other three children, for Eric, for our family. It's stated most clearly in my denomination's statement of faith, the Heidelberg Catechism.

Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own,
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

Did you read every word of that? Did any of it strike you? I do, whenever I think of Mali and her story, these words get me: "He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in Heaven."

Not a hair? The will of my Father in Heaven?

I can accept that for myself, as an adult, that he is using difficult things to advance his kingdom and his presence in my life. But I am an adult. She was not, she is not, she is an innocent child to whom things happened.

I am having a difficult time reconciling God's sovereignty to Mali's story.

But I have to. Because God is sovereign, he rules over all the crap that happens in this world, even that which happens to innocent children, to babies.

I can hear you now, saying something like this, "But look at God's plan for her, he brought her into your family."

Yes, God did. He is working in her life even now. This is part of his sovereignty. I can accept this easily, but what about the millions of other children--those who are without parents right now, those who are being abused, those who are hungry, those who scavenge trash to find something to eat, those who have to protect their even younger siblings, those who are alone, those who are scared, those who are without hope? How is God still sovereign? How can God still reign when innocence is lost, when the innocent are wounded, when babies cry out in hunger or fear or pain?

I don't know the answers, but I know it to be true. God is still sovereign. God still reigns. He still holds the whole world and every single, precious, broken child in the palm of his hand.

But I can't end there. I can't just accept that God is sovereign and feel comforted and walk away. Because God in his sovereignty called me to be his hands and feet, he calls me to respond to this deep and desperate need, he calls me to love, to grieve, to pray, to act. If I believe that God is sovereign, I also believe that his rule over my life is complete and when he calls me to protect the fatherless and love the widow, he means it. It's part of his plan.

He means it for you, too.

That's what I've come to. I'm sure it's not a total answer and there are theologians who can do this much  better than me, but God has planned that his love, his message, his care and concern is extended to those who need it through my hands, your hands, our hands.

Because if I believe that I belong to Jesus Christ, if I believe that he watches me, defends me, loves me, I also need to respond:

The catechism finishes, "Because I belong to him, Christ...makes me wholeheartedly ready and willing and ready from now on to live for him."

I'm ready to act. I'm ready to live for Him. Are you?

[How will you live for him? How will answer the call to be part of God's sovereign plan? Adoption isn't the answer for everyone--but everyone is called to defend, to love, to care. You could sponsor a child through Compassion International or you could sponsor an orphan program through Lifesong for Orphans or you could sponsor an orphanage that seeks to be the hands and feet of Christ to those precious ones that have been abandoned. Beautiful Gate in Lesotho is where Mali lived and was loved. It will always have a special place in our heart.]

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Hungry for truth-telling

Before, when we were in the waiting process, I read this blog by Jen Hatmaker called "After the Airport," talking about the year after she brought her two adopted kids home from Ethiopia and the stages of an international adoption story. It gave me a real sense of hope, but also, I read ahead and thought, "Oh yeah, we can do this."

However, now we are in the thick of it. I want to quit. It feels so impossibly hard. The needs are bigger than I am, the demands are greater, the wisdom is lacking.  It feels like we have done something terribly wrong.

Today, in a fit of (divine?) inspiration, I re-read that blog and this is what I read.

"Your sweet one is grieving. This is sorrow and loss and fear and trauma; it is visceral. It is devastating.You and your spouse are haunted, unshowered, unhinged, unmoored. You stare into each other’s eyes, begging the other one to fix this: What have we done? What are we doing? What are we going to do?

The house is a disaster. Your bios are huddled up in the corner, begging grandparents to come rescue them. You can’t talk to anyone. Everyone is still beaming at you, asking: “Isn’t this the best thing?? Is this just the happiest time of your life?” You are starving for truth-tellers in adoption. You scour blogs and Yahoo groups, desperate for one morsel of truth, one brave person to say how hard this in and give you a shred of hope. You only find adorable pictures and cute stories, and you despair. You feel so alone. You’ve ruined your life. You’ve ruined your kids’ lives. Your marriage is doomed. Your adopted child hates you. You want to go back to that person pining away in the Pre-Stage and punch her in the liver."

I felt so much relief I almost cried. Eric, too. This is us. This is how we feel. These are the conversations we have with each other. I am in the desperate need of truth-hearing. Quiet conversations with other adoptive mom friends and their admissions and confessions have brought peace and relief. 

I, too, have scoured the internet, trying to find explanations and help. I, too, find cute pictures and inspiring videos. But nothing gives me what I crave: How do I handle this? I don't know what to do now. 

So, I will be a truth-teller. If it makes you a bit squirmy or you think I'm being melodramatic or I'm exaggerating a bit then don't read these next words. But regardless of how they make you feel, I'm not apologizing for them.  

These past three weeks have been the absolute hardest of my life. I've tried to describe the how and the why and find that words are utterly empty and not nearly definitive enough. 

I am emotionally-empty, worn out, tired. 

We are working hard to repair and heal a broken and tramautised toddler--and it is excruciating work. Every day, we discover another hurt or wound. Every day she fights her growing dependence on us. Every day, amid the needs of this one, we battle the needs of three others who feel neglected, forgotten, un-loved. 

And then, even after all that, there is still the physical aspect of life:
Laundry (oh, was that much beloved shirt that is now ruined due to mold? sorry!) 
Food (you want to eat again? didn't you just eat a few hours go?) 
Clean (oh, you don't really want to sit on the couch?)
And a hundred other little details that go into running a house and staying healthy and sane. 

To add to that are the other "mom" requests:
Hold me, play with me, read to me, fight for me, pursue me, love me as only a mom can. 

And each one of these sometimes seems to be more than I can handle. I am not the super-mom. 

Why do I put this out there? So you know. This "stage" is one that will be in our lives for a few months. I cannot escape it's reality. It is what life is for the foreseeable future. Yes, we see steps forward every day, but those are coupled, just as often, with frustrating steps backward. I have seen and learned things about myself that frighten me. 

So after you read this blog tonight, take a moment and send up a prayer for every single adoptive parent you know, regardless of the stage they are in. Whether their child has been home from the moment of birth or just in the past days, the healing from loss and trauma is life-long. The questions are hard, the answers seem lacking. This work brings us to our knees in prayers for daily, moment-by-moment wisdom, grace, and peace. Sometimes, we even pray for love. 

And I finish again, with more of Jen's wise words, for she is further down the path than I am and has much to offer me. 

"Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting through, and adoption is one of them. I can hardly think of something closer to God’s character, who is the “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy.” Certainly, we are his difficult children who spaz out and pull away and manipulate and struggle. We distrust His good love and sabotage our blessings, imagining our shame disqualifies us or that God couldn’t possibly be faithful to such orphans.

But He is. We are loved with an everlasting love, and it is enough to overwhelm our own fear and shame and humanity. In adoption, God is enough for us all. He can overcome our children’s grief. He can overshadow our own inadequacies. He can sweep up our families in a beautiful story of redemption and hope and healing. If you are afraid of adoption, trying to stiff-arm the call, God is the courage you don’t have. If you are waiting, suffering with longing for your child, God is the determination you need. If you are in the early days of chaos, God is the peace you and your child hunger for. If your family feels lost, He is the stability everyone is looking for. If you are working hard on healing, digging deep with your child, God is every ounce of the hope and restoration and safety and grace.

In Him, you can do this."