That is how many people have submitted "Love Ben" pictures so far. Some of those pictures have 75+ people in them. There are thousands of smiling, encouraging, dear faces in those 368 pictures. Well, most are smiling.
by Jen Hatmaker on July 6th, 2011
This one seems to communicate: "Boy, you better get your &^%* home."
So I've written a few things in the last few years. Generally speaking, I write stuff down after I've learned it. I factor in plenty of time for research, first drafts, pilot groups, and perspective. Sometimes, this gives me the benefit of healing and distance, which slightly softens the raw edges. (Not always: Interrupted was like writing from the eye of a hurricane. It was borderline hysterical.) It's kind of like making a baby album on Shutterfly when your cherub is already dating; you gotta wade through several degrees of separation.
Not so with this little bloggy blog. I guess with a blog, you can write about something that happened four hours ago, hit "publish", and it immediately launches into the interwebbings. This has a downside for a loose cannon like me who clearly needs four editors between me and the general public [Note from my editor for 7: "Please just accept this edit. I'm saving you hundreds of emails"], but it also has an upside in that I can write without distance or perspective or resolution sanitizing the actual experience.
So I'd like to weigh in from the dead center of an excruciating adoption wait, long before homecomings and time erase the intensity of this season. In fact, just this morning we received our rejection letter for Ben's adoption, placing a huge question mark on the future, while our daughter has waited in the Transition Home three months longer than necessary. We are in the thick of disappointment, well past any date we thought we'd still be waiting, thrust into an unknown future for Ben with no precedence. We're in Crap Town...Population: us.
A month or two ago, after yet another disappointment in the battle to pass court for Ben, I posted something on Facebook from the deepest part of my broken heart; pretty raw, full of tears. A lady followed it up with:
"It's so good to know that even a woman like you can lose faith and fall short publicly."
In addition to that awesome statement, I've received the wagging finger from several Christians, essentially saying, "Stop whining. What sort of example are you setting with all these tears?" Ladies and gentlemen, grab a cup of coffee and settle in, because I have an opinion here and I'm about to broadcast it.
Faith has nothing to do with being stoic or "chipper" or falsely propped up. We have entered the suffering of the orphan, the mission of Jesus. It is hard and painful. It hurts and makes us cry. Suffering is like that. Spouting off Christian clichés or pretending to be strong isn’t helpful and it isn’t true. It cripples true community and confuses and isolates a watching world.
Adoption means we are willing to enter the devastation of fatherlessness and struggle mightily to free children from the bonds of orphanhood. It is OKAY to struggle and cry and grieve and mourn while we wait. That is exactly the kind of suffering we said “yes” to at the beginning of this journey. We are taking on the pain of our Ethiopian children, and guess what: Their pain is real. Who would dare look into their eyes full of loss and grief and say, "Buck up, kids. Someone might think you don't trust God."
And like my good friend Leslie reminded me, home with her adopted daughter for five years, adopting parents agree to suffer with their children long after the happy airport homecoming pictures are scrapbooked. It is only then we get a true picture of their trauma, fear, insecurity, and loss. Ask any Mama or Daddy who is parenting an adopted child about bringing their baby's suffering home.
Struggling isn’t a “lack of faith” like some have insinuated. It’s not that I doubt the calling or power of God at all; it’s that we've entered the pain of orphanhood and it hurts. Something about adoption seems to exempt waiting parents from permission to rage and wail. Would anyone observe an abused child, trapped in his own home, held captive because of senseless bureaucracy and say, "Well, it's God's timing"? Would we counsel a grieving mother whose child was wasting away with cancer to try not to "fall short publicly"? Of course not. But for some reason in adoption, waiting parents are expected to put on the brave face and whitewash the agony of it all.
So, fellow adoptive parents out there, I want to tell you something: I know your tears, and I know where they come from. I don't think you are doubting your God. Who can doubt the heart of a God who says, "Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; please the case of the widow" (Isaiah 1:17)? God is clearly on the side of the orphan and all those who harbor them.
I don't believe for a second that we are fighting against God who is withholding favor while we and our children wait. I'm totally with Paul on this one: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12). To the degree that God loves something, we can expect our enemy to hate it in equal proportions. With a mission to steal, kill, and destroy, redeeming abandoned lives out of the rubble of injustice is surely at the top of his Hate List.
So go ahead: Cry. Grieve. Wail. Scream at the top of your lungs, "THIS IS NOT FAIR!!" Mourn for the birth mamas who can't raise their own babies. Rage at a system that keeps the rich richer and the poor poorer. Rant against corrupt bureaucracy and power politics that perpetually victimize the most vulnerable ones under its authority. Grieve every single second you are kept apart from your babies, because let me tell you something: If that is wrong, I do not want to be right.
That's why we are not mad at God; we are mad with God. We are not fighting against God; we are fighting alongside Him. We are not crying because God is failing us; we are crying out because 170 million children will go to bed tonight with no parents, and we can not stand this injustice one second longer. These are the tears of the heavens that have been shed since the beginning of time for the least and last, the forgotten and forsaken.
What might appear to be a faith crisis is not. Don't mistake our tears for doubt. It is something like Jesus crying over Jerusalem: "How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings..." (Matthew 23:37). It is the same brand of grief God displayed when He wept over His people: "Let my eyes overflow with tears night and day without ceasing; for the Virgin Daughter, my people, has suffered a grievous wound, a crushing blow" (Jeremiah 14:17).
Christian community, let us not fear real emotion attached to struggle, confusing it for a lack of faith. Like I heard recently: It makes sense that the Holy Spirit is called a Comforter, because if you actually follow where he leads you, you're going to need one. It would be easier to lead a safe, comfortable life, void of sorrow, unattached to human suffering and bubble wrapped within the predictable western Church. But alas, I can't find that brand of discipleship in Scripture, and believe me, I've looked.
So YES, we are fighting, but not against our good God who redeemed our own lives and invited us into a great mission. We trust that the God who begged us to care for the orphan actually cares about them and is weaving this beautiful story together right in front of our eyes. Enjoy these LOVE BEN pictures, because they represent the fight God has planted in us, the determination of our son, and the victory we are watching for through our Jesus.
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