Then there is me--- not so much with the millions of college degrees, but I like to learn in other ways. I've realized somewhere along this journey that you can learn something from every person you meet, especially if you stop to listen, to love, to humble yourself. I'm not always especially good at those last three things, but well, I'm learning.
These past few years I've been asking Jesus to teach me how to love more like He does... not just when it's easy or feels good, but I truly want radical Jesus-love to mark and color me, to transform me, to revolutionize how I live. If Jesus is the bread of life on my tongue, I want to leave a trail of bread-crumbs that smell and taste like transforming life to anyone who comes close.
Two weeks after our son Justice was born, a pastor friend of ours showed up on our doorstep on a Sunday afternoon with a young woman beside him. She awkwardly studied the floor, hiding behind a curtain of long dark hair. Her arms circled in front of her, over the baggy dress that was trying to hide a growing belly. "I heard that you would help me", she whispered.
Over a cup of tea, I heard small scraps of a story, disjointed and spoken quickly. She had shown up at our friend's church that day, and knew no one in town. She was from a southern island far away, pregnant and running from everyone. The only person who knew that she was pregnant was her mother, who told her lying and running was the only way out.
Oh, and her daddy is a pastor. Preaching a gospel of anger and rules, but not a whole lot of love, grace, forgiveness. You know-- the things that Jesus is really about.
She had tried to kill her unborn baby, and even now refused to acknowledge the life that was stirring and growing inside her.
This girl, we'll call her Char, came to live with us. She was baptized into our crazy house and life with lots of noise (Three kids under five, don't forget), attention, and all the love she could handle. She lived with us for five months, and during that time she began to learn more of the heart of her Father God, of His grace that is like an Ocean, deep and beautiful. His forgiveness that transforms us and makes us new.
After two months Char woke me in the deep of night with low groans and panting breaths. My feet hit the floor, and with my baby boy wrapped tight against my chest, I took her to our clinic. With each contraction that racked her body, Char buried her face in my neck and sobbed. The pain of labor is usually eased, made bearable by the anticipation of the sweet baby that will fill your arms at the end...but a spirit of sadness filled the birth-room that day as Char refused to think of the possibility of keeping her child, of facing her family with the truth. Protecting a lie was the most important thing in her mind, and she was frantic to forget this ever happened.
Soon a beautiful baby girl slid into my hands, and as Char and I had decided, I immediately took that squirming, perfect, slimy darling into the next room and tucking her body against mine, put her to my breast. She looked at me with big black eyes and began to nurse with fervor, that tiny new hand grabbing mine. And then I cried. whispering to her that she was loved, made in the image of God, beautiful, with a destiny of hope, a purpose.
Char decided to move back into our home, and I chose to nurse baby Ana Grace for two months before transferring her to a Children's home. These two months of tandem nursing our three month old son and baby Ana, 24 hours a day, not sleeping, while also caring for my family and Char, was exhausting. The extent of Char's mental and Emotional issues began to manifest more clearly...day and night she spewed anger and brokenness at me. All of her insecurity, her guilt, her pain, her fear, hurled at the person who was trying to love her best.
I would bite my tongue until it nearly bled to keep myself from responding out of my flesh.
I would sit on my bed with two growling hungry babes at my breast and weep. Oh, Jesus. Please make her leave. I thought she would change by now. It's never been so hard to love another human. All the ugly in me started to surface, and I was horrified at how messy it really was. How can I keep loving someone who spits in my face, screaming lies and hatred at me? No Thanks. Done.
Jesus began to speak gently to me, like the wind that carries a mist, just a whisper against my cheek before the rain comes. "I brought her here to change your heart. Now you're learning my kind of love. This is sacrificial love. This is love that costs something. This is love that does not get a thank you. This is love that looks like me. Walk in it."
My heart ached with mother pain as I held this child and memorized the details of her face, as she nuzzled deeper into my skin, smelling me, thinking I belonged to her. She smiled in her sleep and milk trailed from the corners of her mouth. From here I needed to hand her over to someone else, this baby who felt like my own flesh. Her mother was responding to my love with fury, anger born of deep deep pain. This baby who had been rejected was going to be bathed in love before she was given up for adoption. I prayed night and day over her spirit, sang over her and she was kissed and loved by big sisters night and day.
The day I drove Ana Grace the two hours to the children's home, my heart was a mess of raw meat, tangled up and bloody.
But I knew that we were to give her up, for another family to become her home.
We were willing to keep her, to adopt her. Already we had vowed to love her forever and that her heart would always be woven into ours... But Jesus had another plan for her. I still don't know what it is, But her Daddy does.
This long and trailing, messy story has strands of redemption and healing woven through it, many of the threads leading to places I still cannot see. But I know that when we love, it is never wasted-- It is Jesus pouring out of us. The deepest cry of my heart is that I will learn to love unreservedly, holding back nothing, until I am used up.
We cannot control how people respond to our love, but still we love..... wildly, deeply, messily,and not because they deserve it, but because of the one who fills us and taught us how to love in the first place. Because of the one who loved us when we were ugly and undeserving. And still does.