June 13, 2015

What Kind of Story is That?

The day I had been dreading is finally here.  The day that no mother should ever have to experience.  They day I say goodbye to this precious child I hold in my arms.  He is the temporary treasure that the Lord had entrusted to me to love and protect and nurture a year and half ago.  I knew he would not be with me forever.  I knew that  my role, this chapter in his life, would some day be over.  But knowing it does not make it any easier.  The heart does not always listen to the facts; it opens wide and gives itself away, knowing the whole time that doing so will cause it to some day break.  But it courageously extends its arms anyway, undeterred by the inevitable.

The sign on the door says, “Welcome Home!” which makes a little piece inside of me cringe.  “Home.”  They can call it a home.  They can pretend it’s a home.  But can it really be a home if no family lives there?  Of course the staff are all professionals, skilled and thoroughly equipped to meet his every need.  Nurses, a nutritionist, a physical therapist and a case manager.  Someone to take him to all of his doctors’ appointments and someone else to give him a bath and wash his beautiful curly hair.  I am so thankful that there are places like this for children like him.  Places where he will be able to grow and thrive and reach his fullest potential.

But still, it grieves me that he will now have a rotating cast of professionals caring for him.  That he will no longer have a mother.  Has that sweet face received its last kiss?  Will anyone ever hold him in their arms and rock him to sleep?  Will he ever know what the words “I love you” mean?

Is this what the story is all about?  Where it all ends?  What about the happy ending?  Stories are supposed to leaving you feeling good when they end.  They are supposed to have meaning.  They are supposed to include love and family and home.  What kind of story is this one, anyway?

When he came to live with us a year and a half ago, I was enthusiastic about his arrival.  I was almost giddy with excitement, with the honor of being a part of this boy’s biography!  And surely it would be an amazing adventure indeed!  I had such great expectations for how he would excel, for the milestones he would meet, and for who he would become.  I couldn’t wait to watch God’s plan unfold in his young life!

I fully embraced spending and expending myself for this one child.  Sacrificing such essentials as unstructured free time, rejuvenating sleep, precious friendships, family vacations and even countless Sunday worship times - all so that he would receive the very best care I could possibly give him.  I recognized his infinite value, knowing that he was created by the loving hand of God for a specific purpose.  And I understood that every act of service for him - every muscle exercise routine, every g-tube feeding, every load of his laundry, every diaper change - was really an act of service to the One who created him.

After living with us for a few months, and after spending innumerable hours with the most experienced doctors and specialists and therapists, I began to realize that all of my best efforts were not enough.  All of the best experts in the medical profession were not enough.  So I began praying for a miracle.  Every day I prayed.  For months and months I prayed.  With unwavering faith I prayed that the Great Physician would heal his broken body in ways that no one else could.  But no.  Those prayers remain unanswered.

And when it became apparent that he was never going to return home to his parents, that his family was fragmented beyond repair, I began to wonder what would happen to him.  I wondered if he would ever be adopted into a permanent family.  If anyone would ever be able to look past his physical limitations and fall crazy in love with him.  I wondered if he would ever be chosen.  But no.  He remains an orphan.

So now he is moving into his new “home,” a long-term care facility where he will most likely spend the rest of his life.  As I guide his wheelchair down the sterile hallway towards his new room, I can’t help but ask myself the hard question . . . what is the purpose of this boy’s story anyway?  There has been no miraculous healing.  No unexpected hero arriving at the last minute to change this child’s destiny.  Not even any sneak peeks of God’s hand at work to accomplish His plan.  Throughout it all, God has remained silent. 

No miracles, no heroes, no happily ever after . . . What kind of story is that?  What is the purpose of this child’s life - his frail body and his unfortunate circumstances and his bleak future?  How can this be a fulfillment of God’s promise to “work all things together for good?”

When the circumstances are obvious and prayers are answered and miracles happen, it’s easy to believe that God is good.  But what happens when God is silent?  When His purposes remain invisible?  When obedience doesn’t lead to happily ever after?

That’s when faith begins.

I mean, really . . . was the Lord looking for results?  Was he counting on my accomplishments as his foster mother?  On my wisdom or tireless efforts or ability to help this child make progress?  Was he disappointed that I didn’t achieve a better outcome?  Of course not.  The one thing He was looking for, the one thing that pleases more than anything else, is faith (Hebrews 11:6). 

Faith that the Author has not yet finished writing.  Faith that even before one page of the story was written, He ordained every day of this child’s life (Psalm 139:16). 

Faith that from the very beginning, the Author had a plan, a purpose in His heart that will stand firm forever (Psalm 33:11)

Faith that this child’s condition – his disabilities, his limitations, his weaknesses, his deficiencies – it happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life (John 9:3)

In the book of Hebrews, we read about amazing people like Noah, Abraham, Joseph and Moses.  People who followed God in obedience, even when they did not know where they were going.  People whose names are synonymous with faith. 

“These were all commended for their . . . “  What?  For their extraordinary accomplishments?  For their impressive strength and unwavering obedience?  No.  They were commended for their faith! 

And yet . . . “not one of them received what had been promised.” (Hebrews 11:39)  “All these people were still living by faith when they died.”  (Hebrews 11:13)  They all had learned what it means to trust in the invisible purpose.  To understand that the story wasn’t over yet.  That the Author was still writing.

And so I say good-bye to this sweet child, knowing that my role in his life is finished.  His story is not like the other ones I have been a part of before.  It may not include any miracles.  There may never be any heroes.  It may not end with happily ever after.  What kind of story is that?  

It is a courageous, breath-taking, adventurous story!  A suspense story brim-full of faith and promise and hope!  A love story written by a faithful Author who will not overlook one single detail.  A story that will  not end until this child is forever in his Father’s arms.  Until this child is Home.

And that, I believe, is the most beautiful story of all!

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