“… the same as if born of your body”
This was to be, merely, our rubber stamp — nothing like our own personal safari that we experienced a year before, where we logged miles on African terrain and hours of hearts held in suspension … waiting, wondering and praying.
Uganda was the birthing room of miracles — the kind that reach well beyond the word that describes them, the kind that forever leave their mark on your person.
And, as a result, Hope and Lily were ours. They’d been won, already; so the state court was now just recognizing what we’d already been living.
Still, I had jitters. We sat around a table in a large boardroom/courtroom and breathed stale air under fluorescent lights, trying not to drum our fingers on the table that held the microphone recording this formality. Our script was short - yes, and no, respectively, when asked.
The judge shuffled through the stack of paperwork — the one that was stained with sweat and tears and all those questions we had asked ourselves, and Him, when He called us to go to places that we hadn’t planned or projected — her half-day’s work held our family’s story in legalese.
I remained clinical, distant, just like I presumed her to be. Thank God for the “off” button when all the ache and beauty of a child’s life left in your hands is wrapped up in a few short sentences.
The “Guardian Ad Litem” asked us if we’d assume the risk, to us and to our family. And I made that switch my brain has been practicing, like translating a foreign tongue. What they call “risk” is my opportunity for seeing God’s glory. “Yes, sir,” I said. I’m willing to take the opportunity for glory.
Then our lawyer closed with these final questions: “You do realize that by consenting to this adoption, these two children shall be considered, for the purposes of inheritance and succession and for all other legal considerations — in every way, your natural, legitimate children, the same as if born of your body?”
The “yes”, when it came out of my mouth, gave annunciation to what was already brewing inside.
Even the law witnessed and called forth what I’d been grappling to put into words for years. They are mine. The same as if born of my body.
Though they didn’t find themselves folded against my organs when their hearts gave forth their first beats, though her eyes are almond and his skin is brown, they are every bit “Hagerty”, as if my DNA had been infused into their blueprints. Their umbilical chord stretched across the continents.
The miracle of adoption is that another woman carried my baby and I give new inheritance to her family line. That child who takes on all that is me is still wearing all that is her.
The natural reality we’re all reaching to understand with our human limitations is happening under my roof. We all have the chance to be re-written, to lose the worst of who we once were — the broken parts of our inheritance — to retain what was strength, and gain the miraculousness found in ones who are legitimate children of the Father of all time.
We were born of His body. And all that is His — the majestic One whose eyes pierce hearts, whose words overturn shame, and whose touch heals flesh — is ours not just to speak, but to breathe.
But to grow into that reality, there must first be loss.
All growth is, first, loss.
So, I see her spill old tears over pain that I didn’t inflict, hours before her mouth squeals with the new words about herself that I’d been praying for months. She is, every day, molting.
That which *I* can often hide and shuffle into the cobwebbed corners of my heart is a non-negotiable in her life, if she is to grow. Her all-too-obvious history doesn’t allow us to deny this life-death exchange. There is only so much space in her heart, and to become her inheritance — the newness that He’s offered her, in our home and in Him — her stale, old orphanhood that’s been squatting, illegitimately, must go.
She can’t be both abandoned and daughter. One mantle precludes the other.
One must go.
The risk of adoption is, really, the risk we’ve all assumed by saying “yes” to Him. To grow, to not just assent to new life but to live it out, we must walk through the pain of extraction. The old that’s clamped itself to our understanding cannot exist alongside His newness, if we are to thrive. And when I’m numb, when my heart feels frozen, it’s an indication I’ve been trying to cramp it all inside the same space.
New and old cannot coexist.
One must go.
Born of His body means we must, first, break because birth, in Him, always includes a death.
She told me she wanted to go back to the orphanage.
Her eyes were heavy, locked on her fingers, and her words hid themselves behind a biting tone, but really they were just searching. In this one flash-moment the veneer was pulled back and I saw the war churning away inside of her. She’d convinced herself that the place where meals weren’t always a given and eating seconds, an annual luxury, was appealing. The place where her whole life — her body, her books and sometimes even her food scraps– could be stored on a sagging mattress in a damp, dark room with no doors and no daddy to watch over her, really did look attractive to her in this moment.
Never mind the stories of the gaping hole that the loneliness left and even, at times, the child-like fear verging on terror that crowded her night hours; today, that place was her mind’s candyland.
Life here felt hard in this particular moment. Loving siblings and saying “will you forgive me?” and having a mommy and daddy instruct her days was a new current that, on this day, felt like a riptide for my little one.
Why not just go back? said the voice on the other side of the battlefield.
My daughter is like me, though her adoption is more obvious to the eye.
Some days she just might choose familiarity over the hard walk, through death-to-the-old, to arrive at life. (Even rancid familiarity can wear a sweet perfume.)
True living, as one born of His body, is not passive. It requires participation.
God is giving me the blueprint for my own life as I live it for hers and his. The words we assented to in court can fall as passive declarations, but were intended to be living truth. And the one “yes” I spoke the day that our state recognized them as “ours” must be supported by the thousand which I mutter under my breath over the course of a year, if she is to truly assume our inheritance.
Just like how the one yes I muttered that cold November night at a Young Life camp must be followed by the thousand others I say when my flesh wants to wear old skin but my heart knows that this “old” has to go if I’m to inherit His newness.
“The old has gone, the new has come” is not the one-time reality I once believed it was.
Adoption is a one-time act that introduces us to a daily, hourly pursuit of receiving all of its implications.
As we teach little feet that stepping forward into who they are now means stepping away from the orphans they once were, He asks me to do the same. My daughters and son are the parable. My story is tucked into theirs.
Making it practical: Our capacities are limited. By nature, we as Westerners — as humans — are those who avoid the pain but deeply crave the beauty that pain produces. To step into the newness, requires a shedding of the old. And that is often painful. In His mercy, God orchestrates circumstances to surface heart-wounds which are taking up the space in us that His inheritance was meant to inhabit. He’s made us for a lifetime journey of discarding the old and receiving the new in its place.
If you find yourself numb, or cold to to the truth of His Word, or if you remember His whisper to be only a distant reality, ask Him what’s squatting in that space. Father, is it something I love more than you? Was there a hurt, once inflicted, that I have now inhaled as a part of my lens on life and on You? Did I inherit things that I assumed to be truths about You that don’t really hold true against Your Word? What’s the origin of this “old”?
Walking with Him is daily restoration. But to be painted new, the old wallpaper has to go. Carve out space and time in your day, in your week — a season, perhaps — to ask Him about that old. And as He starts to bring to mind more cleary what has stolen the space of your new inheritance, write His Word over the old lies you’ve believed and ask His perspective on that old pain.
Father, where were you when my heart broke? is a question I often ask about old pains that are infecting my daily perspective. Many times He shifts the camera angle to reveal where He stood when I was hurt and seeing from that angle makes it all look different.
I’m one who believes we don’t just grow new rooms in our house, but we reclaim the old ones.
It’s this every-day regeneration thats making my flesh learn to lean.
Photos compliments of Mandie Joy.
And a note: as you may have gathered, summer days in the Hagerty home are for slowing down. Schooling takes on a different rhythm, as do our lives. I’m resuming writing here, but with no set schedule. And since our summer-Mondays don’t feel like Fall, Winter, or Spring Mondays, I’ll be pressing pause on Monday Morning Chais. Adoration is still very much my bedrock. I’ll resume adoring over here, just not on schedule . You can sign-up by using this RSS feed link: http://www.EveryBitterThingisSweet.com/posts/chai/feed or by entering your email address in the second box on the right-hand side.