When we first brought her home a few of our normal-to-us family ways made her skittish. Her body stiffened when I hugged her. She sat at the end of the couch when we all piled on for a cuddle. And she retreated behind her eyes at the mention of a “special treat.” A suggested trip to the pool surely meant: it would rain. A surprise right-turn into the ice cream shop and she was already anticipating when the sweetness would be melted and her mouth was empty again.
She braced herself against all that was good, almost as if her insides said, don’t trust this moment. It will turn on you. Every good thing was too good to be true when the sum of her life was just pieced-together circumstance. Seeming happenstance — and often of pain.
“There wasn’t anything I didn’t like!” she replied as I asked her, just days after we met, about her years when dozens of children were the closest thing she had to a family and she lived afraid of the night that had no door to close on the room where she and her peers slept. “Everything was good.”
This little girl was forced to redefine “good” around bleak circumstances, just to survive. It was safe for her to call what was bad, good, and to poke holes in what was truly good. Her orphan-heart made the world small so that her small world could finally be contained, controlled.
Just a few months after she’d been ours, Nate came up behind her and lifted his arms to enfold her and that wee thing — at the site of those arms, slightly raised — she flinched.
His daddy-embrace made her flinch.
That space, safest to any little pixie growing up in a family, wasn’t safe to her. Too good to be true, said that flinch. You can’t trust good or its giver. Because tomorrow it all may die.
We’ve spent twelve years of our married life sleeping through the night. Now I find myself awake at three a.m. with a corner of the room illuminated by our very first bedroom night light, watching the rise and fall of this bundled babe’s chest … and tempted with my own flinch.
I got on a plane with ten bags packed for ten months-plus and nothing else but a prayer to get my girls from Africa. I fought fear while flying over the ocean’s gap between my daughters and me. I disrupted the birth order, twice, and turned an informed-eye on the statistics. I fought fear over what “they” say is a good and right way to grow a family. I fought fear over what may never be when something like a hundred months passed of that silly little test saying “negative.” Yet, here I am checking that four-week old chest to make sure it’s still rising and falling at three a.m.
I’m not all that different from her, bracing myself against the next big hit, wondering when life’s circumstances might turn on me. I’m not all that different from that orphan who subtly believes that a small, controlled life is where it’s at. I could bring myself to tears just envisioning all the “what if’s” that could be waiting around the corner of my life.
I’m still flinching.
While the fight against fear is good and right, this time around He’s more overtly nudging me from defense to offense: find My love. Because this God-Man that shatters our flesh-formed understandings of love gives us a love of His own that can’t share a room with fear.
They can’t mix.
The logical end of all my thinking is revealed for what it truly is when I fear — when I flinch. This bracing myself that’s become habit — even when the exquisite, holy-other hand of the Father interrupts my flesh-spun world — tells the truth about what I believe. Fear comes when I believe that the best of this life rests in an event or a life-position. Fear comes when the end of all things, to me, is something I could physically touch. Fear comes when the intangibles are small and what’s right in front of me is the best I believe I can get.
Fear grows, wild, where loves does not.
Love — the love of this God-Man — friends, it’s chasing me.
And it’s so much more than what even my short twenty years of pursuing Him has yet revealed it to be.
It’s good. It’s always good. Even the worst outcome has His tender hands cupped around it. If I let Him, I can feel the coarseness of the God-made-man fingerprints against my uncertainty. His love has smiling eyes and a “c’mon little girl, you and I will climb that peak together” expression. It’s fiercely loyal; He doesn’t turn when I do. He has a name for me that no one else knows. When my knees buckle and I weep at what looks to be the world falling down around me, He whispers to me: I am near.
If I peer through this crazy-miraculous blessing of an infant that my broken-body formed and cracked open to birth and see the kind eyes of Father on the other side, who has positioned my whole life as a pursuit of knowing and living out of His love, I won’t fear. I can’t be both near enough to smell His skin and living in fear of the next time life will knock me down.
When I move from knowing about His perfect love to feeling hot-tears on my face as I recount that early morning brush I had with the God-Man who said my name in the dark, I stop flinching when life works right, and I don’t re-learn to flinch when life’s circumstances are “bad.”
Have you felt His skin against yours?
Maybe today is the day to stop fighting back the fear, to close the door to your closet and ask Him to smell the scent of His skin.
(Can you just imagine a Church across the earth who didn’t flinch, but instead — in even the very-worst circumstances — expected His goodness, because they had a behind-closed-doors experiences with Him as good? We might just make an imprint on that world around us that lives ever-flinching.)
Looking for a practical application? Consider the habit of adoration. There’s a group of us over here, daily declaring against our stale-old opinions of Him who He really is, according to His Word. And for more on adoration:
For Your Continued Pursuit (search out these words I say, above, for yourself): John 20:11-18 | 1 John 4:18 | 1 John 4:8 | Romans 8:37-39 | Revelation 21:5 | John 1:14 | 1 Corinthians 13:4-10 | Isaiah 41:10 | Revelation 2:17 | Song of Songs 2:10 | Romans 2:4 | Psalm 27:13