Unlike our daughter, who is blessed with two earthly moms and who I recently wrote about, our oldest son was thrice orphaned. First by his birth father, followed shortly thereafter by his birth mother, and then again by his grandmother.
Sometimes, most of the time, I look at him in awe. He has lived through so much hurt and pain during his short life. I look at him and wonder, “How has he navigated through all this mess and yet emerged so gentle? So kind? So peaceful. So empathetic?”
It is truly beyond my limited human understanding to backtrack through my son’s life, piecing together the details, knowing what we do about his previous living conditions, and understand how he has been able to arrive here, arrive home, not simply in tact physically, spiritually, and emotionally, but often leading the way. Of course there are scars and hurt that reside deep within, but unlike our daughter who can look over her shoulder and see her birth mom, our son looks over his shoulder and sees mainly just his roots. Memories. He sees where he was born. Where he was raised. He sees dust and fragmentation. He sees no one in his immediate family. It is not over his shoulder or back in the past, therefore, where he looks to find his wings. To determine his path, he looks up to God, he looks to his left and his right…and he looks straight ahead when he questions where God will take him from here.
I imagine Big Brother may feel like Davion Only felt when Only realized his birth mom had passed away. I imagine that somewhere deep in his heart, he acknowledges that there is no one to look back to. No one who will be “coming for him.” No one else on earth on to claim him. Could you imagine being eleven years old and having to come to terms with that sad, unjust reality? I cannot…which is why I remain in awe of the relationship our son has with Christ. From a place deep within, Christ continues to soothe, build, reassure, nurture, and empower our son to keep on marching.
Christ’s gentle, peaceful and empathetic presence in our son has blessed us more than you could ever imagine. It was Christ who assured our son he wasn’t alone after his grandmother’s death and that God would provide a family. It was Christ who nudged us to step out of our comfort zone and be that family, his family. It was Christ who unified us for the six months we remained apart. It was Christ who traveled home with us on that airplane. It was Christ who translated when our family members were speaking two different languages. It was Christ who wiped the tears. It was Christ who mediated the conflicts. It was Christ who began the healing process. And it is Christ who calls us to our feet every morning so that we can continue to participate in our redemption.
When I tell people our son blesses me more than I could ever bless him, I mean that from the depths of my soul. Because it was through God nudging us to open our hearts, home, and family to an eleven year old boy, that I met a deeper and more meaningful Christ than I had previously known. It was through God whispering “follow me” that I came to understand what it means to be adopted into God’s family. It was through active participation in our faith, right in the midst of the mess of this world, that Jesus has been able to say, “Ahhh…now you’re starting to get it.”
For those reasons and so many more, I constantly encourage others to step out of their comfort zones. When God urges us to do something that is clearly beyond is our own abilities to accomplish, when we must rely on our faith and trust that there is a living God…a God journeying with us…we are invited to actively participate in Jesus’ redeeming power and grace. We meet a Jesus present in the pain, in the process, and in the hurt. A Jesus present in the redemption…calling all things to be made new. A Jesus calling us to live our lives “on earth as is in heaven.”
My heart breaks for everything our son had to leave behind. The family, the brokenness, the memories, the thought of what could have been…if only. I wish I had more of his story, his family history, his traditions to pass along. I ask him to draw pictures and recount stories…so he doesn’t forget.
Yet, lest I get lost in what could have been-should have been, I must catch myself and remember that Christ is at the center of our family, of God’s family, making all things new. And I must trust that God is speaking words of hope and comfort and assurance to our son.
And on any given day, when I start wondering if our son feels connected, attached, embraced, and loved, I need to look no further than an entire drawer of artwork he has gifted me and see that yes, God has called us to “Stand together as a family.” And while our family may look differently and may be been built differently than others families, we are all part of God’s family, who is constantly at work reclaiming and redeeming.