Rare morning. No one screaming, no one crying, only a few verbal digs between siblings. We drove to school listening to the christian radio station, the girls singing along, AB being giddy after being Mr. Grumpalupagus at breakfast. As I drove home, the thoughts, emotions and angst of the last very challenging week with Sissy still weighing on my mind, JJ Heller came on singing this:
Which is exactly what I have been thinking. What does love really mean? It's been so very hard with Sissy. I want to hang onto my pain and anger for how she's treated us by choice but I just can't do it. When I look at her, I still feel that indelible pull of maternal love and it tears me apart. Last night she told me she had a dream that a "bad man" stabbed me in the back. I asked her more about the dream, her point of view, what the man looked like and where he came from. "He came from upstairs and I was standing behind him, I didn't even see him. I only saw the knife going into your back."
"Sissy," I asked very carefully, "Were you the one holding the knife?"
She got uncomfortable. "No. no..." she stammered. "I was just ... yeah. I was just watching him do it. He was there. I just couldn't see him. It really scared me. I didn't know why he was stabbing you!"
"That IS a scary dream. I'm sorry you had that dream. Did you dream this recently?"
"I don't know. It was awhile ago." But I knew better. She didn't make eye contact when she said it. She probably had this dream very recently.
"Mom, can I hug you?"
"Yes." And she came to me and hugged me very tight, slightly trembling and kissed me on the head. Something she hasn't done for a very long time.
How my heart breaks! A child that desperately needs my love that dreams she is trying to kill me. Such pain. For both of us. And I just wanted to love a child, and this child just really needs my love. But is love enough?
During service on Sunday, before I felt like, yet again, I was being called to answer for my impaired children, there was a baby dedication. A beautiful baby girl dressed all in white, her parents proud and teary-eyed as they handed her to the Pastor to baptize. In the Methodist church, the Sacrament of Baptism is a typical liturgical experience. As the Pastor continued with the recitation and the congregation and parents responded aloud accordingly, I was struck by the profound knowledge that this ordinary Baptism is ordinary for only a few children that are born to this world.
I began to cry. What if EVERY child that was born was dedicated, regardless of the circumstance they are born to? What if EVERY little person that has breath (or doesn't) is given the same rousing response from a congregation of like-minded believers? The congregation recited:
With God's help, we will so order our lives after the example of Christ, that surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in the faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.
After baptizing her in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Pastor took the baby and walked with her through the congregation. "Look at this face," he roused us. "It is the face of God. God is in her. Indeed, He is in ALL of us. When you look at this little child, remember Christ, remember that YOU hold the keys to the kingdom just as she does."
Oh what a treatise! What for all the world would humanity be like if we all embraced this wisdom, if every child received such a blessing?
My tears began to sting my cheeks because that's not the case. Children are destroyed before they breathe because their existence causes fear in the hearts of their parents. Children are born in poverty and pain. Children are born to mothers addicted to drugs and alcohol. Children are born only to be beaten, traumatized or ravished by angry men and women. Children, who know nothing other than their own dependence upon another human being are denied their inalienable rights to food, clothing and shelter. Children, little beautiful babies who should all be clothed head to foot in white and presented to the world as gifts full of potential but instead are born to know only pain.
So we adopt them hoping to deliver them from pain only to discover that the damage is done and in some cases is irrevocable. We want to love them for who they are, as this song begs. But our love alone is not enough. These children, who were denied the privelege of being born to proud parents that seek to raise their family with morals, integrity and compassion, unwittingly abuse the families that take them from their pain and attempt to restore what is right.
Our children may never recover. They may go on to create more havoc and more children born in poverty and pain. They may destroy our lives as we desperately cling to the hope that their potential is not void. They may want to destroy us because we try to love them for who they are but we will not falter. We will not fail. We will do as the pastor beseeches us and look upon their faces as though we gaze upon the face of God.
I sat between two strangers, tears streaming down my face and I wondered, Do they even know what I know about these children as we sit here, gazing upon this beautiful face and agree to raise her as a congregation? And what about MY children? Will they still be so loved and regarded even though they are so challenged? Will I still be regarded as a proud mother that seeks to raise her children with morals, integrity and compassion? Or will I be treated with disdain when they behave poorly because it is perceived as a reflection of my parenting?
I got my answer 30 minutes later.
I'm no different than my own child! I also beg to be loved for whom I've become, regardless of MY pain, poverty, suffering and trauma. Don't we all?
Bart and Claudia, bless my soul, have suffered so much anguish attempting to raise their challenged children. And now, as they step into the next generation, they have the esteemed privilege of seeing that hope is returned anew. On Sunday, as I sat in my own methodist congregation, Bart had the remarkable privilege to baptize his new grandchild and affirm two sons. And at the same time, Kari's husband decided NOT be become an elder because he knew his challenged children would not help him set the proper example for his congregation of an elder's family.
What irony that everyday we embrace and walk in the truth of WHAT LOVE REALLY MEANS only to be reminded that the truth in it's nakedness, filth and pain isn't wanted.