Mingling With Brokenness

When I think back on the things that our little guy walked into our home with a year ago, the list was rather short. I assumed there would be a piece of luggage… maybe not the fancy kind that you see scattered throughout airports… but, I figured there would be something simple… something to transport his most valuable possessions and some underwear at least. That wasn’t the case though. He walked into our home with nothing.

However, it doesn’t take long at all to realize that children in the foster system carry around plenty of luggage… especially older children that have been yanked from their homes and moved across the state.

We’ve spent the last year unpacking bag after bag after giant airport-sized bag of brokenness with our son. The reality is… we’ll continue this process long after adoption… long after he has been calling us Mommy and Daddy… long after our home feels normal to him.

There seems to be the thought floating around the Christian sub-culture that adoption is this simple, clean, two-step process… fill out the paperwork… rescue a child from some horrible situation… give them their first hug and warm bed… then, Bam!, they’re yours forever and you can move on to the next thing in life. You’ve earned your little adoption badge to wear proudly around other Christians and you can take pride in getting a few extra stares when you walk around public with a child that looks different than you.

I gotta be honest… I think we really thought it was that easy… or at least I did.

But those blasted bags still pile up around our home waiting to be unpacked. When we walk around and keep stumping our toes on the luggage and dance around cursing their existence, our prideful little adoption badge does us very little good.

As I sit here over a year into this thing, I have to say that the thing about foster care and adoption that is so riveting and redemptive at the same time is this constant mingling we do with brokenness.

In our Christian sub-culture, we have managed to find a way to sweep and mop and polish away the dirt and brokenness of this world from our lives. We have shelves filled with books on theology and best practices for doing just about anything… We eat organic… We even buy organic toilet paper… We devote plenty of attention on making sure that with our kids, only good goes in and pray that crap doesn’t come out… We try our hardest to fight against materialism and avoid our consumer driven culture. I’m not knocking any of those things… heck, we do most of those things!

At the end of the day our formula works pretty well. Our kids don’t walk around cussing people out on a regular basis… Our bodies feel better and free from chemicals… We are able to know tons of things about God and share them with others. It’s a pretty good life… no doubt.

But, as much as we’ve tried to mop around those bags laying around our house or sprinkle homemade organic compost on top of them thinking that they’ll turn into something that’s healthy, they simply don’t.

Brokenness refuses to let us go on with our managed life.

We’re forced to throw our theology book against the wall in anger and tears and actually cry out to God and ask for answers that just aren’t written down in a book. We’re forced to realize that there are many things that we aren’t going to be able to control over the next 20 years of our life as parents.

Although my heart aches for our son and I would love nothing more than to scrub his heart down with a giant eraser so that he wouldn’t have to carry any more bags ever again… I know that God is doing something wonderful in our life as we mingle with brokenness. We are getting to see pieces of him that simply are invisible to us when we lead our managed lives.

A lot of times, stories of adoption are presented as a package with a nice bow on top… it’s labeled “redemption”, and hearts are left warmer because they simply see a sad story turned happy.

We know that God is still writing the redemption story happening in our home, but the beautiful thing at this point is that our family is getting to mingle with “broken”, and it’s the best thing that has happened to us.

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Desires

This prayer from the Valley of Vision has been wrecking me this entire week. I’ve just been trying to chew through these words one by one… they have revealed so many inconsistencies in my heart and have brought me to my knees to beg for new mercies.

O Thou that hearest prayer,

Teach me to pray,
I confess that in religious exercises
the language of my lips and the feelings of my heart
have not always agreed,
that I have frequently taken carelessly upon my tongue
a name never pronounced above
without reverence and humility,
that I have often desired things which would have injured me,
that I have depreciated some of my chief mercies,
that I have erred both on the side of my hopes
and also my fears,
that I am unfit to choose for myself,
for it is not in me to direct my steps.

Let thy Spirit help my infirmities,
for I know not what to pray for as I ought.
Let him produce in me wise desires by which I may ask right things,
then I shall know thou hearest me.

May I never be importunate for temporal blessings,
but always refer them to thy fatherly goodness,
for thou knowest what I need before I ask;
May I never think I prosper unless my soul prospers,
or I am rich unless rich toward thee,
or that I am wise unless wise unto salvation.
May I seek first thy kingdom and its righteousness.
May I value things in relation to eternity.
May my spiritual welfare be my chief solicitude.
May I be poor, afflicted, despised and have thy blessing,
rather than be successful in enterprise
or have more than my heart can wish.
or be admired by my fellow-men,
if thereby these things make me forget thee.
May I regard the world as dreams, lies, vanities, vexation of spirit,
and desire to depart from it.
And may I seek my happiness in thy favour, image, presence, service.

~DesiresThe Valley of Vision, p. 106

 

Advent Prayer

O Source of all Good,

What shall I render to Thee for the gift of gifts,
thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.

Herein is love:
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace, to raise me to himself.

Herein is power:
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
he united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom:
when I was undone, with no will to return to him, and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat
to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his.

In him thou has given me so much that heaven can give no more.

~The Valley of Vision, The Gift of Gifts, p. 16

 

Lead Us Back

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The words of this song have been wreaking havoc on my soul as of late.

This photo is inspired from the lyrics.

Falling down upon our knees
Sharing now in common shame
We have sought security
Not the cross that bears Your name
Fences guard our hearts and homes
Comfort sings a siren tune
We’re a valley of dry bones
Lead us back to life in You

Lord we fall upon our knees
We have shunned the weak and poor
Worshipped beauty, courted kings
And the things their gold affords
Prayed for those we’d like to know
Favor sings a siren tune
We’ve become a talent show
Lead us back to life in You

You have caused the blind to see
We have blinded him again
With our man-made laws and creeds
Eager, ready to condemn
Now we plead before Your throne
Power sings a siren tune
We’ve been throwing heavy stones
Lead us back to life in You

We’re a valley of dry bones
Lead us back to life in You
We’ve become a talent show
Lead us back to life in You
We’ve been throwing heavy stones
Lead us back to life in You

w/m: Bobby Gilles & Brooks Ritter
Sojourn Community Church
Listen here.

Distractions

I just read this article from Al Jazeera a minute ago.

Basically, there are some new testimonies emerging from people who escaped from the oppressive regime of North Korea a while back. They are telling horrific facts about how the North Korean regime is using disabled (mentally and physically) children as guinea pigs for testing their chemical and biological weapons.

The government says that their “best contribution to society” is to be guinea pigs… and without much choice of their own, they are ripped away from their families and thrown into gas chambers and other horrible devices.

When I read stuff like this, I really get pissed-off/discouraged.

I think of a line from a great Sara Groves song that says: “Lord I have a heavy burden of all I’ve seen and known, it often overwhealms me“.

I mean, seriously, what do you do with crap like that?

I refuse to believe that you can just ignore it because they live on the other side of the world, look different than us, sound different than us and have closed themselves off from the rest of the world.

Does that mean we can just count it as a loss?

What’s even more depressing are the crazy other things that are happening in North Korea (and numerous other countries for that matter) that we aren’t really aware of.

Does it seem a little odd that we get all worked up and freaked out about things that only affect us and are rather insignificant to the rest of the world?

Healthcare overhaul?

Whether Michael Jackson’s death was foul play or not?

Whether your church has a children’s program or not?

Don’t some of those things just start to seem a little insignificant when we consider what’s going on around the world?

Is it just me, or are those things merely distractions that keep us from seeing things that are really important?

I find myself facing so many distractions. I really do.

At the end of the week, if I’m not careful, I will find myself consumed with: cooking a good meal and savoring it with my wife and a nice glass of wine; editing a photograph all night until I’m happy with it; reading a book about how church should/could/would/must be and letting it end there; imagining how we can make our worship/creative ministry better and cooler and more effective at our church.

If I’m not careful, I will wake up the next Monday and start all over again.

I will have taken all these good things and have made them into ultimate things. The only things that I do.

I strongly believe that life is a balance.

I believe there must be a place in my life for savoring good food and drink (especially with other people in community).

I feel alive when I have the chance to focus on photography and make images that will inspire.

I am all for revisiting how we do church and making sure it is in line with what Christ intended.

And I feel that the church should be a place where creativity happens, and am passionate about seeing us get there as a Body of believers.

However, if at the end of our lives we look back and say that we enjoyed good things with good people, were able to create and foster environments of creativity and in the end make a church that looks super-cool in our culture… yet the world is still full of horrible injustices and we didn’t even pause to pray that the God of justice would come and make things right.

Restore things to how they should be.

Then, have any of the other things even been worth it?

Don’t get me wrong… I am realizing the truth that humans (no matter how hard we try) will never be able to cure the injustices in the world. To set out on a mission to do that would be highly prideful and self-righteous.

I’m not talking about forsaking all things to make the world a perfect place. That’s not going to happen.

I’m talking about being aware of the realities that are occurring in the world that God has placed us in and then realizing that we have the ONLY hope for this world living inside us (if we are reginerate follower of Christ… not just humans with happy hearts).

Are we being good stewards of that hope?

Do our hearts break for the things that break God’s heart?

Do we even see the things that break God’s heart, or are we too distracted by our attempts to make sure we’re doing everything right?