When Love Cries Out
We had reason to prepare for, now, three.
The mention of two caused eyes to widen when we confessed this scheme we had to adopt. This adoption, in its literal stages, still felt figurative when we spoke it outside of our inner circle. Like teenagers with hearts racing in love, we felt foolish announcing our plan. And that was when we’d decided to adopt only two.
Then the scenery changed in the waiting room.
Weeks earlier, our agency had contacted us with one of those we think you probably wouldn’t say yes to this but thought we’d throw a bone your way asks. The three were siblings; they didn’t want to separate them. And there was suspicion they might be HIV positive. Was this figurative jump that much of a jump at all to us, we who’d read the books but whose fingernails had not yet dug in the dirt of parenting?
We prayed and said yes. The gradations of crazy had lessened once we entered the arena.
After weeks of carrying them in our hearts, these three still without names or faces, a span of 24 hours changed it all. It appeared to our agency as if they were no longer available for adoption. We scratched below this surface and no one had answers. TIA — this is Africa, was the unspoken, the shoulder-shrug response to adoption’s twists and turns.
Then, hours later they told us about two others. A girl and her brother. Beautiful, but wasted read the paperwork. “Marasmic”.
How was I to shift on this dime?
We gathered information and I said, simmer down (my own form of a shoulder shrug), to my heart that was jostled by this jolt of circumstances away from what I had been envisioning just days earlier.
A friend of a friend, who happened to be one of the top adoption medical report doctors in the country, agreed to review their records overnight. We celebrated while we waited on his evaluation, though my mind was still motion-sick.
Then the rain came in the morning.
The email from the adoption doctor referenced data points on their paperwork which we’d neglected and others we didn’t know how to read. We knew they were malnourished — weren’t most orphans in Africa — but had no idea how severely. “My major concern is her head (brain) growth,” he said. Phrases like significant concerns, mental retardation, emotional and behavior problems peppered his email. He was informative and kind but his words harrowed my already-tentative state of celebration. My bubble was burst.
“I’d love for you to adopt them both but only proceed if you feel that you have the personal and financial resources to parent one or perhaps two children who have significant special needs” was his close.
I was stunned.
I went to bed the night before with two, new, children in my mind. I was a mother and those faces were my faces to hold and to kiss. The season of waiting and wondering and questioning this dream I’d been configuring for years now was over. But, this? This wasn’t what we’d planned. This time, for some reason, the jump to a yes felt bigger.
The ticker tape across my mind, that’d been on pause amid the rush of celebrations, began anew. I knew I shouldn’t have celebrated, I’m bound to a life of hardship. I’d been side-swiped. This is not how I pictured motherhood. How will we ever do this? And, (I flinch as I type this now), He’s punishing me. All the thoughts that get washed white when eyes look up were unfettered. I was drunk on misperception, of them and of Him.
I spent the day in my pajamas beside a tissue box, nursing lies that I’d labelled as mere feelings. Little fledgling thoughts that needed exposure and His touch became super-charged. Fear was having its way.
We had two other doctors evaluate their records. They confirmed this first doctor’s speculations.
Nate mellowed the fire in his eyes and said “Babe, I don’t want to force a yes out of you. If after praying you feel we’re to say ‘no’, I will not pressure you towards a ‘yes.’”
He hung back. What he didn’t say spoke volumes. Nate walked taller that day. It was the first of many times since that I witnessed the “He made me for this” gait.
It invited a pause in my wallowing. What was all of this really about? Why was I such a wreck?
Here it was again, in different form. Fear wrapped itself like a noose around my perspective. I couldn’t picture a future with two such as these without taking gulps of fear. I made an agreement with the sentiment I read in to the last line of that email, that their biggest mark would be a burden, that their lives would be a drain. A man’s words became my new roadmap. I took drags on death.
Fear made me crave that which would eventually kill me if I received it.
All of life is caught in this tension between flesh and Spirit. It’s an everyday tug-of-war. An every hour war. There is a war over our minutes. To which will I say yes: confinement … or adoption?
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15
Our adoption into His fold is an every-day, every-hour, leaning in to Love. It’s an active, declarative “no” to fear and a heart-stance that does not recoil or grow numb but reaches up. And speaks. It cries out. “Father!”
His love not only provokes us to lean, it requires it. Love, His way, presses flesh. And this love, the love He initiated that we get to try on, is unfamiliar. Many times it doesn’t even feel right. It is both awkward and exhilarating, because this is who He is to our flesh. It strains that which is natural until we begin to familiarize ourselves with the currency of His unnatural love. (Oh, that one day His love might be more familiar to me than the cheap imitation I so often dress-up and call love.)
Our God is not a passive lover and the love He calls forth from us cannot be passive if it is going to trump fear.
He instructs us how to fight fear and live from the well of our adoption. Love doesn’t call for a whimper. Not a gentle nod, nor a casual, intellectual assent. Love is activated by a cry. A reaching-call from the bowels of our inner man.
When I give in to fear, like I did that day when his gait was broad and expectant and I slouched low, it keeps me from that cry, the one that affords my heart a little more freedom than I had the day before.
I shed the wrong kind of tears that day.
Our unique heart issues — mine, as I struggled with glass-half-empty expectations — are intended to allow us to identify with unique aspects of His nature. Our particular fears, if turned into “Abba Father” cries, give us an exclusive-to-us angle of Him, as Father.
There were two significant wars waged and won that day in March, years ago.
Nate’s gait became mine, hours and tissue-boxes later. (I’m a slow study). Our response to those two and all their potential: He made us for this. He made us for them.
And the second? I took one small step, the one He initiated. I leaned into that awkward, unnatural love. My “Abba Father” gave breath to another layer of His love against my insides that had resisted it. I saw a new side of Him as Father. And that image, made personal to me through my circumstances and my wiring, squeezed out the fear that had been camping there.
I moved an inch closer to having this awkward-to-me love become my new normal.
And the trajectory of their medical concerns did not play as doctors suspected. Though malnourishment has still taken its toll, we haven’t faced nearly what was predicted. That said, those raw hours I described above and the months that followed forced a wrestling with how I saw life that’s still working its way into me. What the world may call a drain or a burden is His prize. We see this so dimly on this side, but one day flesh will be peeled back and the imprint of hearts will speak louder than the frames that held them.
Second, third, fourth and fifth 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.