The late-summer sun hung hot over the Blue Ridge, but this little valley was nestled far enough in its shadow that we felt some temporary reprieve. Men with sweat-kissed faces, old college chums maybe, gathered under the tent’s center strumming their banjos and singing vaguely familiar songs among the long tables of local farmers’ hard work, on display. We bought tomatoes and basil and jugs of honey — our grocery needs had recently multiplied.
We were a family; now four, no longer just the two of us.
I clasped a hand of each of theirs, breathing in this moment. These early-family vignettes where I could lift my head above the clouds of adjustment and revel in what He’d done were critical.
The crowd of participants in this weekly farm fresh ritual opened up and we let the children explore a few steps ahead of us. Within seconds from being out of my grasp, he gave those almond eyes to another — a stranger — with the “help me” look that I thought was only meant for me. He slipped his hand into hers, as if to say “take me home with you.”
The smooth transition we’d labeled this first month with Eden and Caleb to be “maybe” wasn’t so smooth. That wouldn’t be his first time finding safety in a stranger.
“Mommy” suddenly appeared to be a universal; it likely had been all along and I’d missed it. He never knew the weight behind that word, so when he met me, it was simply my name.
My son hadn’t fully attached to me.
Though I fed him his meals and helped him on the potty and tucked him into bed — though we built towers and played dress-up and I held him, long — I was no different, to him, than any stranger. His orphaned-past gave no grid for this role.
He just happened to call me: “Mommy.”
I’d been weeks in a rut. Circumstances, both the big and the small, were serving to set me in motion — a spiral, inward and downward — and their fuel was my thought life. It was subtle, as it often is. My free minutes were getting reclaimed by old thoughts, stale thoughts. I talked to Him less and analyzed myself more. I was easily irritable and had a short fuse for changes to the plan.
I was lost in me.
Morning after morning I would sit down in the chair that wore my imprint and evade the conversation I’d scheduled with Him, unknowingly. Ten, twenty, even thirty minutes of precious before-dawn time were given to silly little anxieties that I made to be great. My heart connect was on pause.
I hid myself behind a fig leaf — the garden now doubled as a place to put distance between Him and I.
I just happened to call Him: “Father.”
Until one day He reminded me of those early moments with Caleb.
This child, made for me, didn’t know me. My face was monochromatic against dozens of others with whom he’d been in contact in the week. He didn’t call the postal worker nor the cashier “Mommy” but he might as well have. Though they didn’t feed him, they had the same potential to fill him.
When you’re not attached, any warm body can mask itself as the one who fills your void.
Back then, when the pieces came together, we put a pause on interactions with the outside world and built a fence around my time with Caleb. I held his much-too-big-for-an-“ergo” body against mine — pushing the weight limit — while I chopped onions and went on walks and swept floors. We spent longer-than-normal hours in the pool, skin-to-skin, making up for the time when his infant flesh was void of a mommy’s touch. I spoon fed him, my almost-two year-old.
At night, I wrapped all of his nearly-beyond-toddler self in my arms and fed him a bottle, nose to nose.
We taught him how to look me in the eye, long. The simplest things that precious infants do are lost on the orphan. They need to be trained to need.
Though it took time, my son learned to be a son, first, by finding out what a mommy was. He attached. And to this day, his morning pattern is to pad his little brown feet across the carpet from his room to the room off of our bedroom, climb into my lap, tuck his neck up in my neck and close his eyes.
He’s his mama’s boy.
The process from there to here was anything but natural. (When a child is an infant, attachment comes along naturally; when a child has been wounded, attachment takes work — and at ages and stages that don’t quite feel normal.) He had to learn the smell of my skin. He spent hours with his head inches from my chest, absorbing the cadence of my heartbeat — the one that didn’t sustain him when his own was first being formed.
Morning, noon and night I held him close.
His attachment came from knowing the one to whom he was attaching.
Though I’m still clicking keys to put finishing touches on the first stage of my writing project and can’t yet return to a weekly Monday Morning Chai adoration post, I will, still, be frequently declaring to myself, here, why I adore.
I adore because attachment comes when I know Him. And I know Him, when I adore Him. When I introduce His Word into my language — my everyday language — my perspective on Him changes.
I was lifted out of that hole of weeks spent trailing off and down into my own thoughts and fears when He spoke to me about Caleb’s attachment.
In the Father’s kingdom, knowing precedes attaching. I can’t attach to a God whose skin I didn’t get near enough to smell.
I’m not referring to the broad-stroke knowing — the knowing that can write papers and blog posts and give sermons about Him — but the knowing of a weaned child against its mother’s breast. The private, quiet knowing. It’s the kind of knowing that makes me reach out, in a crowd, for His hand, only. It makes my body receive Daddy-affirmations from Him …alone.
It links me to One, this attachment
He longs for us to know the cadence of His heartbeat.
We follow a God who made us to search Him out, not just talk about Him to others. Our desire to be known, which creeps into nearly every conversation we have or among most new friendships we share, came first from Him. We have His DNA. And the blood that spilled out of His Son came from His veins — He wrapped Himself in a person, so that He might be known on the earth.
God wants to be known by us.
Many days I find a thrill in the notion of knowing Him for my own sake — opening my lungs to breath Him in so that I might be changed — but what more might I experience when I seek to know Him for His sake? We follow a God who allowed Himself to be moved by His people. This truth, if inhaled, implodes against my insides.
This is attachment.
This is why I adore.
I adore because the Father came to be known, not just to be served.
I press pause on my day, by myself and then, with my family, try to say His Word back to Him. I align my haphazard thought-life with the Truth that changes. I tell Him who He is, using His Word. And I let His Word, then, re-frame my life experience.
And as I utter those strong words with my weak voice — words I can, honestly, barely believe when they leave my mouth — something inside of me shifts.
I begin to know Him — not through my own interpretation, but through His.
Adoration is exploration. And the Father loves to be explored.
We have grossly underestimated the power that our knowing Him has in moving His heart.
And we have grossly underestimated the power that our moving His heart has on our own lives.
Making it practical: If you haven’t yet, pop on over to my favorite space on this blog, that is steadily finding its way into more homes (my prayer!) and among families, for an explanation of adoration. And see my most recent adoration: “To Apprehend Hope.”
If you are compelled, I invite you to participate. Set up a space and time in your own life to begin adoring. Over laundry or dinner dishes, on your commute to work, or in the wee morning hours — five or ten minutes is a great start. You can use the verse I list here every few days as a launch pad for your own adoration. (Showing Up gives you some practicals.)
Then practice praise.
I promise your weary soul won’t regret it.
You can see all of the Morning Chai posts with this link: http://www.EveryBitterThingisSweet.com/posts/chai/ and you can easily subscribe to these devotional meditations as they are delivered, by using this feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/MorningChais or by entering your email address in the second box on the right-hand side.