Monday, March 21, 2016

Save Us Now


Nearly eleven years ago our first adoption referral buzzed across the dial-up internet, landing a grainy, photo-copied picture of our firstborn into our inbox and our hearts. Just one moment, and it suddenly didn't matter that my child didn't have Cory's blue eyes like I'd once hoped. But he almost shared Cory's birthday, and that seemed like something worth holding on to. I'm a daughter of common sense Christianity, after all, no time for mystery or questions without answers. I'd spent my life up to that point reaching into the past or imagining a new spin on the future when life lacked order, connecting unrelated dots with a heavy hand, combing scripture for a string of words to wrap around my particular need. It usually wasn't enough to just trust. I wanted a sign.

We spent last week celebrating Cory then Calvin, with just two days in between. Celebrating - I use that word loosely. On the first day of his thirty-eighth year Cory and I slumped in bed early, bearing the low-grade scorch of a reality slow to relent. I'm sure you can relate. "I just feel sad," I said. "I'm sorry." We faced each each other in our dimly lit room, the edge of my pillow touching his. "Me, too. I don't know why," he said, and for a second I knew the truest truth about marriage and life. Love means making space for things that don't make sense. Love means celebrating life, even when it's hard. Sometimes, love isn't a goodnight kiss, but feet that find each other under the covers until everyone is warm.

Two days later, life eased up in time to celebrate our first son, the one who made us parents. I kissed him every chance I got. He let me, and that's the best part of the miracle. Or maybe it's his shiny eyes, or the way he still likes to wiggle in between us in the mornings, or the fact that we get to watch him become a good friend - making room at his table for boys like him, right on the edge of leaping off the cliff of childhood. Maybe it's the way they keep circling up for Legos and sound effects when others are crouching down, ready to jump.

~

Jason called on Friday night. He's one of my favorite neighbors, and it makes no sense. I'm not entirely sure he even knows my name. But I know his name, and I'm well aware of the effect his face has on my heart. I've walked this road before. It terrifies me, because there's no controlling this kind of love. "What was that boy's name, with the bad life?" Silas would ask later. "Who was that boy who felt sad?" 

Cory scored an hour with him, and I spent the same hour murmuring desperate words while I tucked the kids in and tidied up from the pinata and the cake. What can we do? How will you fix this? The paper plate birthday banner arched overhead with its discount-store promise - what matters most usually isn't the special, but the ordinary. Well, that might be true. But what does that look like right now?

The problem with loving a near-stranger, really and inexplicably loving them, is that you're left holding whatever they give you. Months ago it was hope and promise, and I carted them around through months of silence, until both were absorbed by rattled nerves and worst-case scenarios. He was out doing what he does, but I was right here, thick with worries and wishes. Just like a mom.

~

Three different men planned to join us for church on Sunday, including Jason. Though I've never believed myself to be a reckless optimist, this single point of my reality proves otherwise. It almost never pans out, but this time might be different. I prayed strange prayers, thinly veiling my attempts at bargaining with God and reassuring both of us I would be just fine if we ended up sitting in our pew without them.

Sure enough. One was struck down with a bad tooth (our friends contend with these often), another stunned us with his early regrets (we're usually just left watching the door), and the kid with the baby face, the one betrayed last week to the point of despair, the one who says he wants more yet remains fixed in a cycle of pain and regret, the one I love the most, was a no-show.

I find myself getting worse at this from both sides. Impossibly, my hopefulness flourishes in direct proportion to my cynicism. There are things that make sense to me, but many that don't. I wonder what boundaries God put into place to safeguard a human heart as she loves her broken neighbor. I wonder why I've never been able to find them.

We walked to church, the five of us, in the lion winds of March.

We waved our palms, held hands and prayed. Hosanna! Please save us. Hosanna! In your unfailing love, rescue us. Hosanna! Let us not be your betrayer. Let us not be the crowd, demanding to be satisfied. Can't we be rescued without your suffering? Isn't there a way?

Somewhere,  past the daffodil buds and the tracks, our friends are shot through with different shades of pain.

I have no answers, and I see no signs.
But I ended my day tucking three of my children into bed and listened to their prayers. "Why can't we find someone poor and be their mommy and daddy?"

Just like a decade ago, I know true family isn't born as much as it's fused, without warning or reason.
And just like that night last week, I know sometimes sadness is its own kind of celebration.

Hosanna.

9 comments:

  1. Oh Shannan.....praying for your hearts. Praying against cynicism. Praying for hope, for you and your neighbors! Psalm 16:8 and 11.

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    1. Love you always, K! Thanks for your prayers. We need them everyday.

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  2. Shannan, I've wanted to comment so many times and not sure if i ever have... But just wanted to say that I totally get what you are writing about. My husband and I work with guys in drug rehab in southern Brazil. We love them like our own. I understand the promises about going to church and even toothaches are a very common excuse! Our kids end up loving these guys as we try to welcome them into our lives, and we all suffer when it seems like our efforts bring us disappointment once again. All I can hold on to is that this work is bigger than us and what we can see with our physical eyes right now. These investments of time, caring, listening ears, good advice and unconditional acceptance are deposits of light into dark worlds. We have to trust that those little flames are not extinguished and at the right moment the Holy Spirit will fan that flame. We have to trust in that. I think what I most pray for is that our friends will see the vision that God has for them and that they will have the desire and the great courage to take those hard steps to live that life. God bless you and your family - keep loving even when it is hard and sad. Thanks for your blog - you have a gift.

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    1. Oh, this. I needed this today. It's hard to do this work essentially "alone", just our family, and it helps so much to hear from others doing similar work in different places. Yes, yes, "we have to trust in that". I do! It just wears me down some days, which I know you understand. Your prayers for your friends are so similar to my own. The heavy lifting is God's but man, I am overdue for a happy ending! Sending big love your way today, and praying with you. XO

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  3. Thank you for putting this so eloquently into words. We had a similar experience with a little boy at the park. He so needed something more than the lunches I would bring him every Wednesday and Monday. I really felt that God was calling us to him, but eventually he just stopped showing up with his mom. I pray the best for his life, and yet I still have a nagging feeling that this isn't done.

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  4. Here we are in the middle of the most Holy week of the year. And I find myself asking the same questions and wondering the same things. Why, When, will things get better? So many are hurting and I don't have a clue how to make it better. I pray, and pray again. Children born into a world that has everything stacked against them, and yet we as a society expect them to pull themselves up and become "productive members of "our" society. It is hitting me hard. Following Jesus isn't about the next "blessing", it is about looking for the hurting and and holding their hands for the little while they allow us to, and then putting their hands into God's hands and trusting He will do what He knows they need. But if I am honest, part of my sadness comes from me thinking I would do a better job than He will do. I would make things less painful, less difficult. Letting go and letting God, it is the hardest thing to learn.

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  5. This part right here: "I find myself getting worse at this from both sides. Impossibly, my hopefulness flourishes in direct proportion to my cynicism. There are things that make sense to me, but many that don't. I wonder what boundaries God put into place to safeguard a human heart as she loves her broken neighbor. I wonder why I've never been able to find them."

    Cut right to my heart. Because you could take out "broken neighbor" and substitute "broken husband," "broken wife," "broken child." It will always hurt to love our broken people. It may always be a roller coaster and I just want a straight track. Your words are comfort--sometimes solidarity is its own sort of hope and assurance. So thank you.

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  6. Well, I made the beautiful mistake of reading this while listening to "Ohio" by Over The Rhine. And I just don't think I will ever be the same.

    Your words are stunning, and I feel confident that they reflect your heart well. Thank you for writing.

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    1. Your first two lines are just so, so perfect. Thank you for sharing, Courtney.

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