Eight years ago today, this boy came home to us.
Home. At last. His life started in China, where he was abandoned by the parents who gave him life. His severe, bilateral cleft lip and palate would’ve been a huge — probably insurmountable — challenge for a family there, as in most developing countries.
Finally, as a young preschooler, a family came for him. He spent days with this family before circumstances resulted in his being returned to the orphanage, and this family’s return to America without him.
Alone. Abandoned. Again.
Then, when he was four, another family came for him. This time they took him all the way to America. Sadly, fifteen months later, these parents were looking for another home for him.
He was five when he came to us. His resilience astounded me then; his beauty of character, his laugh, his contentment all continue to amaze me today.
He was like one of those jigsaw pieces you just can’t find a place for. You keep trying, but you have to continue putting it aside.
And then . . . finally! Once you have enough of the other pieces in place, it becomes so very clear that . . . there! That’s where this piece belongs!
When God had all of the necessary pieces in place, He brought Ian home. For good.
And he slipped so beautifully into place here — just like that puzzle piece that was put aside over and over again until just the right time. What a gift this child has been to our family.
Whenever Scott and I travel to bring home a new child, our oldest daughter and her husband (and children) move into our house to stay with our children until we return. One of the things she does with them to help count down the days until our return, is to take a family photo and cut it into jigsaw pieces. The number of pieces matches the number of days that we will be gone. Each night, they put one piece of the puzzle together. By the time we come home with their new sibling, the family photo has been completed — just as our family is, once again, “completed” with the homecoming of the new child.
But, actually, the puzzle only appears complete to us at the time we bring home our new one. Only God sees the truly completed puzzle. Only He knows exactly how many pieces are still out there waiting to slip into place in our family photo jigsaw puzzle.
Ian was the second child to come to us under such circumstances.
And a third is on his way home now, to fill his place as the 22nd child in our family.
I don’t know how these children survive what they are forced to live through. But I do know that they don’t come through unscathed. They all arrive home with scars, and sometimes with open, bleeding wounds.
Recently, I was praying for my children who still struggle with those scars, and especially for this new son who will join us very soon. The words, “I want to be your hero,” flitted through my mind. You know how words sometimes come faster than your realization of what was behind them? Does that ever happen to you?
I was kind of surprised by these words. And I began to examine what my heart meant by sending those words to my head.
There are a number of songs out there about heroes: Enrique Iglesias’s love song, “Hero”
I can be your hero baby; I can kiss away the pain; I will stand by you forever; You can take my breath away
Mariah Carey’s, also called “Hero”
And then a hero comes along; With the strength to carry on; And you cast your fears aside; And you know you can survive
Foo Fighters’ song, “My Hero” (definitely not my choice in music, but I do like what these particular lyrics say about a hero)
Don’t the best of them bleed it out; While the rest of them peter out?
I noticed that each of these songs have some characteristics in common when referring to heroism:
Rescue; strength; courage, comfort; hope; commitment; perseverance; freedom; self-sacrifice.
Years ago, one of our sons won an 1828 Noah Webster dictionary in a writing contest. I love that book! I looked up “hero.” This was Mr. Webster’s definition of a hero:
A [person] of distinguished valor, intrepidity, or enterprise in danger.”
“Intrepidity.” What an awesome word! It’s definition is: “Fearless bravery in danger; undaunted courage or boldness.”
And what about “valor?” “Strength of mind in regard to danger; that quality which enables a man to encounter danger with firmness; personal bravery; courage.”
Oh, my! I don’t have any of those things.
But . . . I want to be your hero! I want to kiss away your pain; I want to commit to you forever; I want to keep my promise to never hurt you; I want to remain brave and strong when you are scared and weak; I want to give you hope when you can’t see any reason to hope; I want to give up my very life and breath for you; I want to be brave enough to “bleed it out” when that’s what’s required for your full healing.
And “enterprise?” “A bold, arduous or hazardous undertaking.” (Wow. Sounds a lot like the adoption of an older, very broken child.)
One of the things I don’t like about the Mariah Carey song quoted above is that the main point of her song is that heroism is inside of us if we just reach down deeply enough and try hard enough:
So when you feel like hope is gone; Look inside you and be strong; And you’ll finally see the truth; That a hero lies in you
You may have noticed that the very name of my blog is rooted in the deep conviction that we really do not possess this strength on our own — inside ourselves.
But . . . I want to be your hero!
Immediately I am reminded of the words of Richard Sibbes, who lived in the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries:
“Weakness, with acknowledgement of it, is the fittest seat and subject for God to perfect His strength in; for consciousness of our infirmities drives us out of ourselves to Him in whom our strength lies.”
And there is the secret. God will perfect His strength in my weakness. He knows my heart’s deepest desire. He is working through my less-than-heroic attempts to love my babies back to healing. Back to a place where their untapped potential will be free to gush forth for all of the world to see. I can’t wait!
I can be your hero with God’s help.
I am so excited about this new son. I can’t wait to look into his face (even though he almost certainly won’t be able to look back into mine for a long time). I am excited about this next “enterprise,” as God gradually reveals this already-written chapter for our family; as He brings us this next puzzle piece and fits him into the slot that’s been designed just for him. We’ve been waiting for this son without even knowing it.
And I’m ready for God to do something amazing in the lives of each of my children. I’m waiting in breathless anticipation, even as I crawl through the trenches for them.
Through Him I will continue to find the perseverance I’m lacking on my own. I will continue to find strength and courage and the ability to sacrifice myself when my sinful heart wants to run for places of comfort and ease.
He will continue to bring to my children — through my weak-but-genuine efforts — rescue, hope, comfort, freedom from fear.
Isn’t that amazing!? I can be my children’s hero with God’s promised help. I can be one of the most critical keys that unlocks all of the beauty and talents and joy and gifts and music and light hiding inside my little scarred ones.
And those scars. Each and every one of them has been a part of creating the beauty that will emerge as the healing takes place. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. I don’t have the answers. But I trust the One who does. And I’ll keep allowing Him to teach me how to trust Him more and more.
“No possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded of the greatest saints is beyond what He is determined to produce in every one of us in the end. The job will not be completed in this life: but He means to get us as far as possible before death.” ~ C. S. Lewis