But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
" . . . and the lifter of my head."
What struck me about this small section of the verse was that it made me think of Cava. Like many adopted children, when he first arrived here, he would not look a person in the eyes. More often than not, his eyes were on the ground and his head was lowered. A lot of this had to do with a lack of self-worth, with fear and insecurity, and from being bullied back in the boarding school.
Over the last three years, however, I have watched him begin to understand that he has worth and meaning, that we are there to love and protect him, that his feelings and thoughts matter, and that our love does not fluctuate based on his behavior. Often we would bend lower so that, instead of him having to look up at us, we looked up at him. We gave up the stance of authority to one of love. We did not need to be dominant because he did not need to know our dominance (he was all to aware of his smallness having been so during all his years in the orphanage system) but he needed to see that our eyes held compassion and not anger, acceptance and not rejection.
Is this not exactly what the Lord did for us?
He left authority behind to become a servant to us so that we, in our abuse and brokenness, could see that our Father loved us with mercy and grace. In the midst of our grief and pain, Jesus lifts our heads so that we can see the absolute love and compassion in his eyes. He embraces us in our shame, in our fear, our hurts, and in our unwantedness and says, "You are mine. You are deeply loved, exactly as you are."
Just as with Cava, when we begin to comprehend that we are "beloved" a light starts to appear in those lifeless eyes. We become brand new. We are taken from insignificance to prime importance, from orphan to adopted son or daughter. He loves us unconditionally and without reservation, hesitation, or invitation. He comes to us when we cannot even come to him. He takes us in our disillusionment, our anger, our depression, our loneliness, our pride, our stubbornness, our shame, our frailties, our faults, and our self-denial. Christ sees us exactly as we are and says, in all tenderness, "Child, let me hold you."
I cannot tell you the huge impact love has made in Cava's life, of just being held, kissed, and told, "You are mine. You will always be mine and I will always love you no matter what." So, too, can we hear those exact words from a Savior in whose vulnerability and grace our identity rests. He brings us out of darkness into light, out of abandonment into adoption, out of loss into love. This is a love without borders, boundaries, depths, or heights. This is a love that created us. This is a love that says, "Though you reject me, I have not rejected you but come to you again and again and again . . ." What great affection our Father has for us.
He is the good Samaritan who sees us broken, bruised, battered and bedraggled in the ditch. We are there, ignored by the religious and the important of the world, but noticed by the one who sees the outsider, the forgotten, and the unwanted. He takes us in his arm, bandages and tends our wounds with "oil and wine" (both symbolic of Christ), puts us on his donkey, and takes us to be tended, cleaned up, and healed.
"You are no longer an outcast," he tells us. "You are a child of God."
Our eyes will look upward when we grasp this truth. We begin to see ourselves not through our own eyes, our own past, our own failures, but through the eyes of Jesus. These are unwavering eyes that see us as forgiven, cherished, accepted, affirmed and no longer alienated. We are given a new name. His name, just as we gave Cava our own. The blessing of "sonship" or "daughterhood" is given to us by the Father. Just as Jacob blesssed all of his sons, as God bestowed His blessing on Jesus at his baptism, so, too, does He long to tell us, "You are my son or daughter in whom I'm well pleased." As His children, He takes delight and pleasure in us.
Any child who has not had this blessing from a parent will feel deeply the sense of healing this can bring of having acceptance and approval. For our heavenly Abba to say, "I am proud of you. I delight in you," causes us to lift our heads to Him because we desperately long to hear those words being spoken to us.
This is the gospel. This is amazing grace. This is the reality and the truth that is shown in the love of Christ. Like any child who wants to be adopted, all we have to do is say, "Yes," because adoption is a gift of the chosen who accept their chosenness. It is the beauty of allowing Abba to hold us in His arms, to kiss our heads, and to allow us to make our homes in His heart forever.