It was the end of a long day. You’ve had them.
I was minutes away from leaving the house for a Bible study. A way out — an unfiltered thought I received. Mistake #1. Though the scenery might change, I couldn’t leave my heart at home.
She was dustpan-in-hand and song-in-her-mouth, scooping up the last pile her sister had formed. (Life is always a song for this one.) I reached up to put away one last thing from the kitchen counter, with goodbye, on my lips and down it came. Glass crashed and smashed and liquid found its way into corners we’re still cleaning. Liquid Vitamin B stained my planner (a nightmare for an organized-type like me), on its path towards streaking our cream cabinets. Two third’s full, nearly $80 lost in an instant.
I snapped on the inside. I detached, from Him. No longer abiding in the One who is so gracious to infuse patience, as needed, for this wet-behind-the-ears mama.
“Sweetheart, what task are you doing?” I asked, reminding her to focus. Not so ironically, this Vitamin B was the supplement we’d determined was filling up the gaps that years of malnourishment had left in her brain. No breast to feed for my little girl, she spent days sitting alone in the hot African sun while her African daddy worked the fields. And now, just a few years later, her (at times) scattered focus revealed the wear and tear.
She went back to her job and resumed the whistle of her work until I started cleaning up. I glanced over and she stood frozen, fixed on me, dust pan vertical and crumbs back where they started.
The severance that had happened minutes earlier, within, came up and out. Like vomit, my no-longer-abiding heart produced words. “I said sweep up the piles … do it now.” My volume did not change, but my biting tone spoke volumes.
And she crumbled. Tears replaced her song as she scooted along the floor, hurriedly, clamoring for dispersed crumbs. The light that made her participation in the family’s work fun was smoldered. It was now just a task for her.
It took several long minutes for me to come to my senses. She was wet-faced and I was full of remorse. “Oh, sweetheart, will you forgive me? I should never have spoken to you that way.”
She softened and received me, but I knew the work wasn’t done.
The Father was teaching me by exposing me. What came out of my mouth like a damp cloth over her heart was evidence of a deeper disconnect. While the rush of the moment may cause me to believe it was between she and me –or, even, in her — the issue was mine alone to tend.
Because every misbehavior or heart-issue, off, in a child sits as an opportunity in the hands of their mama.
He is the perfect leader of our mommyhood.
There is a great divorce that has snuck into the parenting of this hour. In the culture of subtle independence — us from God — we have created an independence between them and us, unknowingly. Many of us live with the unnecessary stains of fatherlessness.
We’re tempted with thinking harsh thoughts and muttering words over the behavior manifested from untrained hearts. We declare, unfettered. I know, I’ve been there before– allured into breathing death when the Father wants to speak life. If we believe them to be separate, their behavior unconnected to us, then somehow they aren’t a reflection of us. Bridges meant to be fortified between father and mother and child are threatened with virus-laden words and thoughts that divide. We dismiss the beautifully God-crafted authority He has given us as parent and see them through a lens, independent from us.
But they are ours. Adopted and biological — He gave them to us to steward, while He stewards us. If we make out their issues to be other, as if they “just came that way”, we miss the God-Man who is surfacing them. We miss searching out the Truth of who He is to heal them. And to heal us. We miss knowing the Restorer, of even just the little holes.
This subtle disconnect between fathers and sons and mothers daughters seeks to run roughshod through homes with families of both the adopted and biological kind. It’s infectious. Though we adoptive parents are most at risk — because adoption can mask itself as permission to divorce them from us — it spans across the family-formation spectrum.
But we don’t have to breathe these fumes.
There’s another way.
The opposing current operating throughout all of parenthood is this: God’s allure.
They flop and flutter and fail, and we get tempted to look away, to find our significance in something that “works” and validates us because we just don’t know what to do with this mess. Fear erects a wall and sometimes it’s easier to dismiss it, than it is to scale it. But the story doesn’t stop. His story has only just begun.
He tears down walls. And builds bridges. And plants gardens in seemingly stripped-dry soil.
He doesn’t look into what’s broken and throw up His hands as if to say “oh well”, He whispers, it’s time to lean. Come find your leadership under my leadership. There is a side of Myself I want to reveal to you.
He gives us everything we need to thrive, here, in the trenches of motherhood (and fatherhood), because here we were made to thrive.
If something is broken between your four walls — if that child isn’t responding to your correction or seems to buck your leadership, if his emotions are out of control or her anger, loose, if your slightly older ones continually undo the order you seek to maintain or don’t hold dear the things you hold up, if they simply ignore you — this isn’t a final verdict.
It’s an invitation.
In an effort to avoid the dissonance between who we say He is and who we (deep-down) believe Him to be, we all-too-often avoid the broken places in them and, ultimately, the broken places in us.
We ignore, we excuse, we avert.
Our hesitance exposes the truth: we don’t know the God of the Bible. We don’t believe He is who He says He is. We leave Him at church on Sundays, or in our prayer room, or at our Bible Studies — our “outlets” — because the gaps between where they are and what we desire seem too big (and the gaps between where we are and what we desire seem too big).
I have been there. Every bit of raising these children with 15+ combined years of fatherlessness has challenged old, stale notions of Him. But when I see lack, in light of who His Word says He is, it creates hunger. Longing. Desperation. I want to drink from His Spirit and wrap up in His Word, I want to write it over our home and deep into their hearts. I want to inherit His reality, in place of my current state of affairs.
I want to turn in my flesh for His promises.
In a day or two, I’ll write a little more about finding Him as Restorer of the big and the small when the fissures in your home reveal themselves — but in the meantime I’d like to suggest a new way of approach. So many times we receive suggestions for these parental gaps as check-lists, to validate what we’ve done or condemn what we’ve left undone. Parenting can be so controversial.
Might I suggest a new paradigm? All that He reveals as broken, every single one of our gaps and their gaps, is the in-road to Him. To the real Him, the God of the Bible: merciful, loving, enduring.
I want to walk out the other side of this parenting thing knowing Him more, with my children hungry for the same and ready for a lifetime of pursuing His Word and His whisper.
To do so, I need to look at the cracks in my walls as an ache … for something more. For Someone more.
I invite you to, also.
Light a candle. If your March is still winter, sit beside your fireplace. Pull out your moleskine journal and Bible and come expectant. Adore. Ask Him, before you look at you as mother (or father), to reveal Himself as the Father He is to you. Set aside any preconceived notions, and let His Word witness. (Here are a few potential starting points: Deuteronomy 4:31, Zephaniah 3:17, Psalm 145:8, Romans 2:6, Exodus 34:6.)
Choose to replace eyes on what you’re not (because, mamas, the enemy of this age has found a hot button in us) for eyes on who He is.
Check back here in a day or two. I hope and pray my words here would be His words, reaching their way in to expand the work He is already doing.
Photos compliments of Mandie Joy.