What Love Looks Like in Mess

The scene was familiar, only slightly more intense than the last time. As our house becomes her home, what’s buried down deep begins to find its way to the surface. Pain has a buoyancy.

When I came upstairs he’d been holding her for nearly an hour, my child, unrelenting. She scratched his arms and resisted his hold with shame-infused adrenaline, fighting the very thing her body most craved. She wanted to reject him before he could reject her, the inevitable outcome in her mind to a misstep, corrected by Daddy. The undercurrent of her everyday outlook was loud today.

These are the days we are learning to celebrate, not avoid. The night of mourning always promises a new joy in its aftermath.

“I love you,” he whispered.

Quiet truth wreaks havoc against loud lies.

His hands stroked her hair away from her long forehead, familiarly — as if they’d known that smooth skin when it was baby-fresh. Love works every angle to make itself familiar.

“No matter what you do, I will always love you,” he said with his strong arms, unforgiving against her writhing, even before his words followed.

She was angry and he demonstrated intercession, reaching in deep to the heart of the Father and wearing a received-position against injustice. No one wiped your tears, little girl, when they were innocent. And here they are now, aged but not mature. Though it appeared that only Africa’s dust received your pain, wet and crude, there was Another, bottling each drop.

There she was, seemingly belligerent but really just broken. Babe in a big girl’s body, expecting wrath for her big girl actions.

And I watched this whole scene, first from beside her — my hand, too, stroking her course hair and whispering those same quiet words, loud against the lies she’s long-believed — and then in my mind’s eye hours and days later.

He holds me like that, too. Veins raised to reveal the strength it takes Love to hold its sin-stained ones close.

I had a new picture for my cache of how the Father loves me.


“You’re a bad bad mommy” she said with her words after hours of saying it with her scowls and her shoulder shrugs. Last night’s Mommy-Daughter date escaped her. Today’s cuddles and words of encouragement fell on deaf ears.

I was her punching bag.

“I want to be in charge of myself.” The beauty of older-child adoption fills our parenting laboratory with data. A two year-old tantrum played out in a child much older gives voice to what’s really behind those cries. Independence is not a sin for only the mature.

Her words erected a barrier His authority had no problem surmounting.

I reached out for her chin, searched behind those eyes, dark with years of secrets, and said His tender words, imparted, “your sin isn’t strong enough to push me away. Here, now, is where my love for you grows. I will never stop loving you.”

Again I watched. The kind of watching which happens in those moments when I get overshadowed. When my weak knees fall heavy into a strength that only gains steam with weakness. He met the grief of a mother, hungry to have her love received and the grief of a daughter, laying new railway tracks for how to receive.

All at once.

And He breathed.


The end of both of these particular stories, which are only two steps into a much larger story, is beautiful. And while I want to carry the banner that says “His love wins” over every unsettled issue, every seemingly-severed moment, every one of life (and adoption)’s splinters, by telling you about this new turnaround that has happened in her, there’s a higher banner to be foisted.

A voice in the wilderness.

I said yes to what felt hard, when He nudged me, partially because in the back of my mind I expected — with Him — it would one day (soon) get easy. He sends mountains into the sea. But easy, in my mind, was ease of circumstances, not the ease for which my life truly aches.

I want the rest He offers but in my underestimation of who He is and how He works I’ve often equated that to the world’s rest — when all sits “just so”, when all the discomfort is over, when the story is tied up.

In my pursuit of this small picture of rest, I risk giving myself to a small picture of God. One that looks retrospectively to His intervention. What a shame!: to speak joyously of His past-tense work as if it’s His only work, because I’ve settled for present ease over the God-Man who offered me Himself in my discomfort.

The desert was intended to birth song.

The ease for which I long happens when my heart’s greatest desires align with His highest vision for me. Ease is alignment to the Father.

And I can find it under the dark sky, while I wait for the dawn.

My life’s mess — and her mess — are His opportunities to whisper.

To rush to the day when her gaping wounds are healed (a day for which we look to with great expectancy), relegates God to the after-party. It makes me miss the calloused hand, dirty from my soil that’s just surfaced — and her soil that’s just surfaced — whose touch fuses the deepest wound. I don’t get to see the crease on His forehead when He whispers “I’m not leaving you as orphan” when I have eyes only on the finish line.

(And could it be that, sometimes, He extends the distance to that finish line, just so we don’t miss the glimmer in His eye or the soft whisper against our loud wound which leaves us more in love than when we came?)

Higher than “His love wins” … is “He loves.”

He loves, tirelessly and without orthodoxy. He loves elaborately and wild, uncomfortably extravagant. This love transfigures.

And every day’s moment is pregnant.

I can hold both great expectations for the healing He is going to bring to her heart’s pursuit and great expectations for the God-Man’s love I am going to know  — all while I walk under a starless night. He doesn’t ask me to choose one expectation or the other, He asks me to look.


And in, to Him.

While I wait for this story’s finish, my seemingly worst days — and her seemingly worst days — have the treasure of communion with the God-Man, buried, for my searching out.

I am rich.

Photos compliments of Mandie Joy.