Monday, December 8, 2014

Healing The Hurts

There are so many hidden hurts and wounds in an adopted child. Some of the pain shows itself immediately in angry rants and tantrums or acting out or meltdowns. But there are so many more that don't. Some slowly reveal themselves in tiny glimpses and some may never be fully known. These kids have faced deeper sorrows and pains than most of us will ever know. They struggle with identity, fitting in, being accepted and accepting themselves, as well as giving and accepting love. I cannot imagine all that goes on in the head and heart of a child who knows abandonment, abuse, and neglect for most of their young lives.

Oftentimes it can feel overwhelming and I am at a loss as to help our own adopted son heal. I can feel helpless in the face of his hurting.  I feel inadequate and far from up to the task, but God has chosen me to be a father to this boy. If He has placed Cava in my home then He will also supply the strength, patience, tenderness, understanding, brokenness, peace, and whatever else is needed to raise this child who has such a deep well of sorrow, loneliness, and pain.

It can be heartbreaking.

It can be made more difficult when the child is unable to express the "why" of their actions, as they may not even understand, and can offer only an answer of, "I don't know." And he oftentimes really doesn't know why. He can be a child who just acts and reacts. It's fight or flight!

As his parent, I can easily feel the frustrations and the failures, the discouragement and the defeats. But I have to lay all of the agony and the anxiety on the altar before God. I have cried out, "I know you're a great God who is big enough to create universes with just Your words, but right now, I need you to be small enough to heal a little boy's heart."

Therapy and play therapy help. But even those are limited in their ability to truly heal this broken child.

We understand that it's not a quick fix or an overnight process. Yet this knowledge does not make the pain and the struggle any easier.

Too many people have told me, and continue to do so, "I couldn't do what you're doing." They are shocked when I respond with, "I couldn't either." I can see their surprise in their faces. I also add, "Not without God's help."  Even then it often feels far too overwhelming.

I cannot understand or heal all his wounds, but Christ can. Only Christ can. As the Bible teaches us, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5). We pray fervently and daily (sometimes hourly) for Cava's healing. We cannot heal or change him, only God can. Only God's love can. Where we are inadequate, He is more than enough. We give Cava to Him. We pray that Cava will have peace, that he will truly know the love of his heavenly Father, who loves him far more than we do and loves Cava enough to work on the hearts of a family in North Carolina to the point they went to Ukraine to adopt this little boy in a village they had never heard of before.

Recently Cava has had a rough patch at school and, one morning, as we were waiting in the car line to drop him off, his voice, small and full of anxiety, said, "Papa . . ."

"Yes buddy?"

"Can we pray that I have a good day today."

"Of course we can," I replied and we did. We prayed together. And we do this every morning. I also told him how he can do this throughout his day. "Whenever you're feeling angry or frustrated or upset, stop and pray inside. Pray for peace and for all of those bad feelings to go away. God is with you in school. He wants to help you."

The Psalms tell us that, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." (34:18)

I've told him about how Jesus told his followers to let the children come to him and explained to Cava that Jesus still wants children to come to him. I said, "Whenever you feel overwhelmed and feel like you won't be able to control yourself, stop, close your eyes for a moment and picture Jesus holding you just like Mommy or I hold you when you're hurting." This is something all of us really need to do throughout our day and how much with just realizing the love He has for us will truly transform us and our day.

We work to help Cava gain the tools for being able to deal with his hurts and frustrations. It is a slow and difficult process. It has setbacks, but we have to keep seeing these as just setbacks and not defeats. And we have to give them to God. We have to see that the hard times, as well as the victories, are all part of his plan. This isn't easy.

This morning, as I was doing my Bible study, I was reading in the book of James where it tells us, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." This is not an easy verse for me. I am not one who traditionally "counts it all joy." I tend to be one who complains it all difficult. Yet I know that I need to give this to God as well and let Him work on me just as He will Cava. I need that patience, not just to help Cava, but to help myself learn to trust and obey God, especially in those moments where I am left wondering, "Why?"

The book of Psalms is my favorite book of the Bible. The reason for this is that the psalmists were real. They tended to start their psalms with, "Why? Where are you God? Why is this happening to me? What are You going to do about it?"  They aren't afraid to ask these questions. Real questions. But, in the end, they always finish their psalms with the realization that, "I may not know and understand this, but I will put my trust in You and You alone."

Ultimately, all of the pain and the struggles and the sorrows and joys - all of it - are for His glory.  

It's also knowing that nothing is beyond Him. Only His arms are long enough to reach past the prison bars of Cava's hurts and anger, to reach that scared and frightened child with a love that will set him free. I can't. My wife can't. And we will only become more defeated if we think that we can. 

God has put us in this place.

When He led the Israelites out of Egypt, He did so by a way that had mountains and a desert on one side and a sea on the other. Why? I'm sure even Moses wondered this. But God had a plan. He wanted them to see, as He wants us to see, that only He can truly deliver us. Only He can rescue us and it will be to His glory and not our own. We cannot take credit for any of it.

One of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry, wrote that, "it may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings."

I have definitely begun my "real work" and started my "real journey" then.

Nichole Nordeman is one of my favorite singers and she has a song called "Miles" that really hit home with me lately. In it, she sings:

It may be miles and miles before the journey's clear.
There may be rivers, may be oceans of tears.
But the very hand that shields your eyes from understanding
Is the hand that will be holding you for miles.

All of this is a lesson in trust and obedience.

As a parent, I often view my kids as a kind of mirror of myself. Their hurts are my hurts. Whatever they are going through, positive or negative, are often seen through the prism of my past. I try to guide them from my failures, my loneliness, my pains, and my own bad choices. Sometimes this can be very helpful, in that my solitary nature can have great understanding and empathy for Cava's.

But that is not enough.

That is a feeble kind of love compared to the one that the Holy Spirit can impart. This kind of love is the one that 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 speaks of, " Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." This is a love that will heal Cava. He needs this kind of love just as I do. It is only with this kind of love that we will know peace and healing.

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