Jill, thank you so much for taking the time out of you busy life to share with us today. Your words and encouragement are so helpful!
This morning I was reading a children’s book about Russia to my three-year-old son. My husband and I adopted him from Moscow almost a year ago and I love learning with him about his cultural heritage. In the back of the book was a list of Russian words, spelled out phonetically with English translations. I went through the list with him and remembered with emotion the times those words fell upon my ears in Russia. I read “good morning,” “please,” and “thank you” while he smiled and tried to say the word after me. “What does that mean?” I would ask and he would just giggle in reply. Then I sounded out “duh svee-DAH-nee-ya” for him and he replied, correctly, “Bye bye!”
Outwardly I praised his memory, but inwardly I felt a familiar sense of hollow as I reflected for perhaps the hundredth time on how I know so little about my son’s past. Or how little I know about what he remembers. I know where he lived and that he was taken care of by nannies in his orphanage…. but I don’t know how he was put to sleep- with rocking? With singing? With a bottle? With nothing at all? I know he was a “good eater,” but I don’t know what his first food was or the face he made when he ate it. I know he was shy, but I don’t know how he showed it or whose comfort he sought when he was scared. I know he loved music, but I don’t know his favorite Russian songs or lullabyes.
|Arie as an infant in the orphanage|
For the first two and a half years of his life, I wasn’t there. During those years, I was not part of his story and he was not yet a part of mine. I ache to know him as a baby. I long to feel his newborn skin, to hear his early babbles, to smell his baby soft hair, and to see his first steps. But I never will.
Mostly out of necessity, I’ve had to learn to take these hollow feelings to the Lord in prayer. Early in our adoption process, I spent many nights struggling with God, laying my grief before him- sometimes in anger- and asking what he was going to do about it. I knew in my head that he was a God of healing and redemption, but as my heart ached so badly for my son; I questioned how he could ever heal the brokenness I felt or redeem the years my son spent without a family.
|Meeting Arie for the first time.|
In response, I believe God revealed two scripture passages to me and invited me to a deeper journey of faith through them. The first was the story of Job- a story that’s really hard to make sense of. In the story, God allows Satan to destroy Job’s life, killing his family and destroying all his wealth and possessions. Then a very rich conversation happens between Job, his friends, and God- which you should really read if you haven’t yet- and basically God comes out and says, “I’m God and I know what I’m doing,” only in a more poetic way. The story ends with this:
“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before….The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part…..After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years.” (Job 42 vs. 10, 12,16-17)
Now when I first read that story, I could only think one thing: Who the hell cares that the second part of Job’s life was better than the first?!? Can new fortunes and a new family make up for all the pain, loss, grief, and devastation Job experienced?? “Sorry I allowed you old wife to die, but here’s a new one!”
No. I did not like that. I thought about my son and the time we lost together and I insisted that no matter how good the future could be, it would not make up for what we had lost.
But then I came across another passage with the same message. In Joel 2, God speaks through his prophet to his people who have been hungry and devastated by a locust plague. There’s a long, awful description about the pain and decimation the locust bring and then there’s this- a promise, a word of hope:
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25).
Wait. Repay you? Other translations say “restore?” How can you repay, God, something that’s gone forever? Your people can never get back those years they lost in the famine! The hunger, the disease, the death… how can you “repay” that?
How can you restore the years my son and I lost together? How can you repay him for all his cries that went unanswered? The long dark nights alone in his crib? The hole where his mom and dad should have been? Repay? For that? I don’t think so.
As I questioned God in the midst of my pain, his answer came so gently to me: isn’t this what your whole faith it about? Don’t you believe that I am restoring all things through the cross? You ask me how I can restore those 2 years to you, but I am restoring all things. I am making everything new. You ask me how I can repay your son for the years he lost? Though my son. I gave you my son to live perfectly, to suffer excruciatingly, to die unjustly, to take upon himself all the sin and all the brokenness of the world, and to rise again eternally, so that you and your son will be fully restored.
|Flying home from Moscow.|
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”(Rev 21:3-5.)
Now I feel a little sheepish.
Can the future make up for the past? According to the Christian faith, yes it can.
My son will not grow up without scars from his past. As he ages, I anticipate that I will learn more about what he remembers from his life without me and even how things he doesn’t remember from that past have shaped him. Even so, the life we are building together as a family is healing and restoring his past. He is learning to trust, to receive affection, to give love and to get love. Where he once experienced the worst of his culture- lonely orphanage life- he now cuddles up beside me to read and learns about the best- caviar and blini, Fabergé eggs and ballet, adorable Russian blue cats and the big borzoi dog, and how to spell “I love you” in Cyrillic. This is just one small picture of the full redemption that is to come.
Angie and Ryan and all you future adoptive parents out there- the time you miss with your child(ren) will never go away and you won’t forget about it. But take it from someone who didn’t believe it could happen- it will be restored! In the years you spend with your children here on earth you will experience that restoration and you will learn about redemption in a new and profound way. There will be times when you will be hurt and hollowed by the scars those missed years have left on your children. Do not lose heart. A fuller redemption is coming! We have every reason to hope for bright and brilliant futures for our children- both now and forever more.
|Our family: Fall, 2013.|
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33