Adoption is not for the faint of heart.
You experience great highs and great lows. Your emotions are never settled. You hold back your hope because you know the outcome is not in your control. You don’t fully grieve the little losses along the way because you know something amazing is just around the corner.
You operate in some gray area where the divine and dust of earth meet: where God moves and you work, where God is working and you are following.
We do a lot of praying, which on a good day doesn’t always give me answers but brings me peace. On bad days? I leave with lots of angst that overshadow any answers I might have got.
My parents raised me right and good. Loved. Responsible. Religious with a touch of defiance. Balanced.
I was 19 and stood on the side porch. Woman to burgeoning woman we stood, Momma and me. Her words were respectful but fierce. My words hurtful, based in false strength. Her ultimatum laid.
The time had come to get my head out of my ass. Till a year ago I had been a good kid. I pushed boundaries but I knew where the lines were, accepted my consequences when I went too far, knew right from wrong, was trustworthy and honest. I still can’t tell you exactly why started down the path I did. I was smart. Graduated top of my class. Had learned to speak another language.
I knew better, always knew better. What I was doing was wrong. I was playing with fire and I was gonna get burned. I didn’t admit it, but I knew it.
Because my parents raised me right.
Shattered glass catches the sunlight, glints fluorescent green. The color almost makes it seem other-worldly like visitors from another galaxy crashed here and didn’t pick up all the evidence they were here.
But I know it’s not the remains of an UFO, just shattered glass from an accident. My friend’s son to be exact. A young driver but not really his fault. Just one of those hills, one of those places. A car comes up out of a hill a little too fast. A driver doesn’t react quick enough. Looks up a little too late. You turn and if you had only been just a little faster there’d be no leftover glass. But thank God you didn’t turn a little too slow. There’d be no ….
Well, you know.
And now the glass mocks me. Silently screaming, echoing down the road after I turn: nothing guaranteed.
We want it though, don’t we? The guarantee. The secured outcome. Especially when it comes to our children.
And we know, even if we forget and have to be reminded literally in a crash course, that we can’t control nature, accidents, and freak things. Our kid could get cancer. We could breath our last before we finish reading this sentence.
So maybe that is why we cling to other things. Like whether they finish high school, get into college, have sex before marriage, do drugs, drive drunk, or tell lies. We work so hard to make sure they turn out the right way and when a child doesn’t we look to the parent as the obvious explanation.
But is it?
Are we just deceiving ourselves?
People who never smoked a cigarette, never lived with someone who did, still get lung cancer and die. And people with 40+ year habits live to see their grandchildren give birth.
Maybe the writer of Ecclesiastes is right: life is nothing more than blowing in the wind.
I’ve spent most of my adult life working with kids. With adults who never got over what happened to them – or didn’t happen- as kids. I’m convinced the power of life rests in my words and in my hands. What I choose to say or not say, how I choose to touch or not touch, will leave my child scarred, scary or skilled.
Watch a child grow into a man who beats his wife or who respect there and you can probably trace the reason for that right back to their childhood. Of course, sometimes, it’s not what we expect.
The little boy who watched one man after another use his mother to wipe up their unmet needs may be the one who cherishes his wife beyond measure. And grown men who really do know better have made their mothers cry at the way they treat have treated their wives.
Yet science and research back it up. There may not be cause and effect but there is correlation. You control more than you know.
Train up a child and when he is old he will not depart from it. We claim it like it’s a contract. Valid in all cases and circumstances. We forget it’s a proverb. This makes it an observation of how things seems to go not how they always go. It’s not a promise. God is not beholden to it. It’s about you and what you do. It’s about what your child does.
And doesn’t the theology get screwed if we claim it like a guarantee. For us free-willers doesn’t it remove my child’s free will, remove the need of a Savior and make me God? If I just do the right thing I can make my child be saved, make him turn out okay? For us election-leaners, if God has chosen already then of what affect is your training anyway? Sure obedience but that’s about you to God; this makes it determinism and makes you God.
She was 46 that night.
I went to work and she walked across the gravel parking lot from the parsonage to the church. She took her bible and laid it on the altar, opened to that verse. She put the picture frame with me in it on the altar. Then she laid down next to that altar and staked her claim. Like Moses did when he reminded God of his promises to Israel and what it would like to the other nations if he abandoned them now, Momma reminded God of what he had men write down.
She laid there all night. She told God, in no uncertain terms, she’d done her part. She’d done all that she could, imperfect as it was, she had been a good mother and done right by me. By him. Now it was his turn. He had to come through.
I am the product of her prayer. I am the product of a promise believed. I am an example of a proverb, an observation about life. I have no other explanation for how I am alive, physically and otherwise.
And yet, I’ve seen too much to believe that it is always true and that the same story will be true for my daughters no matter how well I do. Or that had it not been true it would have been her fault.
So for now, this is my prayer and my hope,
The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.
I’ll let God be God. I’ll be the parent.
I’ll let Grace confuse me and work itself and me (and my daughters) out.