She elbowed and writhed and pulled at my fingers which were wrapped tenderly around her arm. She shimmied with adrenaline-charged strength I’d not seen before in her, determined not to know the intimacy of my hold or to hear healing words. Her body fought what it needed most.
In between her resisting my embrace and collapsing underneath it, I brushed fingers across her forehead and wiped away tears from overfull ducts. I held her head to my neck, flesh against flesh, my touch an attempt at smelling salts. I wanted to awaken her to that which was more real than her experience of years past: love.
Shame has a way of settling itself into our bones and making us believe it’s a security blanket.
And she didn’t want to release it.
Just days before, she’d told us that she thought we were sending her back after a year. Though we’ve dreamed with her about the years ahead — when she’d try different birthday cakes, and be able to ride in the front seat — and she’s even found a regular pretend role as a bride dancing with her daddy in the wedding her siblings concocted, the enemy’s words slither through her back-drop.
And, if I step back and view these moments as vignettes, separate from His story, they appear to be exactly what I’d feared about adopting an older child. (Some of you reading, considering older child adoption may feel your heart race as you read my words). But the enemy of lies fed me a lie, even in that fear.
I feared the discomfort which adopting these older children might bring to my recently-achieved placid existence. Yet, at the same time, I prayed prayers to know Him more. It’s almost laughable now that I didn’t make the correlation: in order for me to grow in my understanding of Him, discomfort is required to produce the shedding of old skin.
Molting is often painful.
We run from the very thing through which God has ordained to align us to Him. We put baby-gates on our lives and padlocks on our hearts in hopes that we can avoid anything which hurts. We sit in the emotional kiddie-pool wearing a life-jacket.
We inhale self-protection, a path to a nice christian life that never knows the love of a fiery God who enraptures His people.
But pain grows us. Discomfort shifts our stalemate. It irritates that which was never meant to sit stable, stagnant. And it stretches us into newness. If we let Him, the pain He allows reveals new angles of His love. It changes us.
He’s reaching, wrapping, enfolding lives which subtly thrash and twist in their seeking to avoid the very discomfort that is the making of us. He’s brushing His flesh against our flesh to awaken remembrance. The scent of that same sweat which fell from the cross resuscitates. The life-nearness to Him is where we thrive.
We were made to be held.
And the Father who knows better than we do may, first, have to break, before He can reset.
She broke the winds of the midwestern plains which tore across our yard with her squeals. Her bike racked-up mileage as she spun the circumference of our driveway, over and over and over again. The wind was now at her back and she’d progressed from a premature adult, fending for herself, to the little girl without a care in the world. Submission was safety. Authority — another’s — gave her permission to rest.
Another of mine retells the years of her life outside our home with the same theme: no food, no water, no sleep.
There’s no rest for one who lives fatherless.
What I feared most in bringing these ones into our home — this disruption to what felt “safe”– was the very thing He had ordained to bring forth a further “yes” with our lives to His leadership.
Hardship advances us if we let it. This moment you’re bucking up under, could it be the very irritant He’s allowing to answer your prayer for more?
I’m that little girl, just like her. We’ve both been molting. My defenses aren’t strong enough to resist His loving grip. My ponytail is whipping in the wind as I ride, fearless. And we laugh, me and Nate, at the hunger for Him I can’t quite quench underneath this little life which seems to say there’s no room for anything more than laundry and dishes and kissing ouchies. Eight months post-adoption, four kids in two years, a laundry-pile unending and dust bunnies that keep multiplying … and I am resting in Him. He that good that I can find Him, even here and now in this chaos.
When we stop trudging against His tide and say yes to what He is doing in the pain of stretching, we coalesce to a Leadership meant to make us soar, over and above all these circumstances.
Now to move from conversation to reality …
Do you have a circumstance which just won’t relent? Take a break from praying the singular prayer for it to end (or rest from rebuking the enemy, if you’ve taken this route), and sit on His lap. Ask Him what side of His nature He’s seeking to reveal to you. Open His Word and receive a new perspective on that same old itch and ache.
Moving forward: when you have the urge to cry uncle, to complain, to live in that place of discontent you’ve grown to know well, take captive each of those moments and adore. Our over-arching perspectives are won in the minute-by-minute eye-shifts.
Make a practice of replacing your heart of frustration with words of adoration and start with this moment. Adoration takes our prayers from one-dimensional, one-sided requests, and makes them fuel for engaging with God as multi-dimensional over the circumstances of our lives.
Have you hit a stalemate in your heart’s communion? I’ve grown to believe almost all “lack of connection to Him” rests in a wall we’ve built for ourselves, knowing or not. He doesn’t barricade (His cross tore that down), but the lies we believe and the wounds that forged them – even from years past– they do.
Take some time. Sit with your molekine journal and ask Him to reveal the wound, the heart-pain, which stands between you and Him. Let Him make you a little girl again, needing a daddy to kiss her ouchie. When He surfaces that wound, the old memory or the lie onto which you’ve somehow latched, ask Him where He was when it happened and for a piece of His Word about it and for His whisper to put in place of that hurt.
Write it all down, this exchange: the wound, the image of where He was in that still-frame of your past-now-made-live, and His new Word over that old place. You may need to be reminded.
(This may take some time. Old wounds — or, if you are new at this, at least the first ones we begin to identify — die hard.)
But these wounds are holy opportunity. Some of my greatest moments of communing with God have come from taking an old, old hurt which turned into a rancid lie, placing it at His feet, and walking forward with His new Word over that part of my story.
And once we’ve gotten comfortable tilling the soil of those old wounds, when a new hurt comes — a terse word from a friend or a demotion when you expected promotion — it’s easy to take that hurt right up to Him.
He is always regenerating.
Photos compliments of Mandie Joy.
Sara is a wife to Nate and a mother of five whose arms stretched wide across the ocean to Africa. After almost a decade of Christian life she was introduced to pain and perplexity and, ultimately, intimacy with Jesus. Her book, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet released October 7, 2014 via Zondervan, is an invitation — back to hope, back to healing, back to a place that God is holding for you—a place where the unseen is more real than what the eye can perceive. A place where even the most bitter things become sweet. She writes regularly at EveryBitterThingIsSweet.com.