I remember the day I looked into her eyes for the first time. It was not the moment I had hoped for. Not the one of elation and heart to heart connection, but one of confusion and fear. As I stared at this picture her eyes seemed to be saying something, it was raw and unhindered. They looked empty and closed from the inside out. Not the characteristics that I lavished in a new daughter. I just remember staring at her for a long, still, quiet moment. Wanting those eyes to change, wanting that picture to say something more, something else. Something like, “I need you, I want you, I. AM. WAITING FOR. YOU.” But that didn’t happen. The truth is the only thing that came were more questions. Is this really my daughter? Why don’t I feel immediate love? Are we supposed to say no, should I feel differently if this is a yes? Ask for another referral? Why does she look so angry?
Thankfully God loves us all infinitely more than we could ever imagine and purposes everything for good. He gave me boldness in the days ahead. Not boldness of my own doing, but entirely of His. We said yes not 10 minutes after looking at her picture for the first time. We had committed to THIS road, to the loving of His lambs, and THIS one, she was His choice for us, and so we said YES!
I chose to push forward in the days ahead, despite my fears, and God moved so fast- like lightning fast – getting her home. I am quite certain He knew that if he tarried I would have panicked and messed it all up, the fear would have set my feet to running. He was gracious giving us less than 3 weeks from finding out we passed court to traveling to bring her home. And when we did, when they placed her in my arms, boy was she cute. The cutest of all the babies in Ethiopia! I.was.in.love. Cute, quiet, she never cried, she smiled at me and then fell asleep fast in my arms. OH- I was over the moon. We had done it, she was ours and she was perfect!
Perfect quickly gave way to months that held more strain and pain than I felt I could hold. We were all so sick, for months, sicker than sick. Those first days home just blurred by dr. appointments, er visits, sleepless nights, worry, fear…
It was then that those questions I had first asked began to come flooding back. When the honey moon was over and my girl was home it all seemed to come crashing down. Those eyes held so much hurt, fear, and distrust. It didn’t seem possible that such a little girl could hold so much past in her. A past she doesn’t even remember, but a past that holds her deep. Most of it unknown, to us, to her, the only telling of it is through those eyes, those deep, beautiful, eyes.
I know now that her eyes were always telling us her story. They were angry and with good right. She had been left, she was starving, and there was no soft blanket to drape over the hurt of a cruel world. She had not had a mama to rock her and hold her tight. What she had desperately needed she was denied. On this fallen earth she was the recipient of neglect and starvation, conceived in an act of brute force and personal gain, so far away from anything beautiful and righteous. OF COURSE SHE WAS ANGRY, I would have been too.
In my ignorance I put my head down and vowed to love her, to heal her, to give her what she had missed. I vowed that I would LOVE HER THE SAME as my Caleb. That there would be no differences between them. She was mine just as much as he was, and this was true. It’s just that it WAS DIFFERENT. SHE WAS DIFFERENT. SHE NEEDED DIFFERENT. And I wasn’t ready for that.
Adoption always had my heart, the beautiful picture of a family created by God knit together through His miraculous hand of choice. Like a breath-taking arrangement of spring flowers hand-picked by the Maker. Different colors and types all woven together to create a stunning image of grace. Each one doing their part to make this picture full of beauty… It’s just that in reality some of those flowers have thorns- sharp and pointed, some are picked before they’re fully ready-they shrivel at first touch, some struggle and fight just to get a glimpse of the sun.
My girl, she is a fighter. That is what I saw in those eyes that first day, so unfamiliar it arrested me and took me for a fool. The anger and fear in her little 10 month old life had given way to self-preservation and resolve. She was forced into sheer survival and self-sufficiency was written on her heart.
There are times I resent it. There are days, weeks even, that her self-determination OFFENDS ME at my core. It shouts that I am not enough and not needed. Her outbursts of hurtful control move me to questions of my inadequacy as mother, as friend and nurturer. Some days the loving is not easy and I fail miserably. It costs, it strains, it chooses Christ. In the face of hurt it takes that little face into mama hands and speaks the words of love and affirmation even if my heart is far. It forces me into the mirror of self-reflection to take a good long look at my own wandering heart, the chasm of sin and selfishness in my life that divides and hurts and seeks self.
It seems a far stretch, but really it is closer than my own breath going in and out at this very moment. I am HIS lost lamb. He came after me. It wasn’t out of feel good love- the kind of romance that steals the heart away, it was brutal choice. It was nails in his hands and feet choice. His love was bloody and raw and purposeful. He. chose. me. Because I was wondering in the thicket with no hope.
And so what makes me think that the love for my daughter need be different from this. There isn’t anything better than this! This. is. real. love. The purposeful choosing despite the way you feel. The coming after the one, the wounded, the hurting, the one that won’t ask for help, that pushes it away. The daily laying down of hurt, of reaching out the hand, and offereing another do over for the 12th time in the past 2 hours. It is choosing His lamb because He chose you. THIS. IS. HIS. WORK. The gospel lived out in this messy, gritty day to day life. The loving and the choosing and the discipling and the forgiveness. They all add up to the pursuit of His heart. Leaving the 99 and going after the 1, my 1. This is his passion, this is why he wore that crown and bled, and gave it all up, When he uttered those beautiful words that would shape humanity for all time, he meant them here, for me, for her, and for you – IT IS FINISHED!
He has done the work and the saving and left us here to live it out...
Will you join me? More importantly, will you join Him in the pursuit of His precious lambs?
The ones left behind, starving for more than just food in their belly and clothes on their backs- “to such as these belongs the kingdom of heaven”.
Do you have one huddled under your roof tonight that needs an extra dose of unconditional today? Is there one waiting the world over for you to come for them? It won’t be easy, but I can promise you this, it will be life. fully. lived.
He is waiting on us to live the finished work, to walk where He walks, to love like He loves. To leave the 99 and passionately pursue the 1.
“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.