Silence. Like a stiflingly hot summer day without even a hint of a breeze. That’s how the Christian walk sometimes feels when needs are great and God seems absent.
Prayers seem to float out of our mouths and hang, suspended in the still air. Unheard. Unanswered.
Scripture assures us that every cry — even the ones that never make it from our hearts to our mouths — is heard by the God of the Universe; our loving, compassionate Father; the One who has promised to meet all our needs. And that He will answer.
But there are times . . . times when our feeble hearts struggle to hold onto this truth.
Like now. Today. This very hot summer morning.
So I think about this: “The little black boy came!”
. . . . . . . .
One year ago today, Scott and I boarded a plane and flew to Oklahoma. One year ago tomorrow, we met him for the first time. Six years old. Clumsy, awkward body, communicating stress and anxiety in every movement; fearful, darting eyes full of confusion; beautiful ebony skin; tangled, kinky hair; shy, uncertain smile. Our son.
His young life had already been very hard. Born to a young African birth mom who lived on the streets, he spent the first couple of years of his life surviving there with her. We’ve been told that it was an abusive relationship.
He eventually ended up in an orphanage and, after awhile, was adopted by a family in the United States. Sadly, this adoption did not work out. And it became clear to us almost immediately that he not only felt responsible for this “failure.” but that the fear of “causing” the same thing to happen in his new family pretty much dominated his little being.
Those first few days and weeks were incredibly hard. It required so much energy to stay on top of his constant motion. So much patience to deal with the outbursts of anger. So many prayers to find words for assuring him that we were there to stay forever, that it was not his fault that his first adoption had failed, and that nothing he could ever do would make us give up on him.
We were immediately and palpably aware of his sweet, tender spirit hiding under all of that fear and anger and guilt. And this gave wings to our determination as we threw ourselves into pulling this little one close to our hearts and trying to breathe healing into every fiber of the broken little him.
The love we felt for him was instant, and although it was clear that he was afraid to believe that love could really be true, he began very tentatively responding to it almost right away.
We chose the name Nolan David for him. It means “beloved noble one.” We so loved this courageous and strong little boy.
And we chose a very special song for him — Andrew Peterson’s, “Rest Easy.” These lyrics were perfect for him:
You don’t have to work so hard
You can rest easy
You don’t have to prove yourself
You’re already mine
You don’t have to hide your heart
I already love you
I hold it in mine
So you can rest easy
And healing happened! And continues happening every day.
Not long after Nolan came home to us, we were having a family discussion about delayed answers to prayer. About God’s seemingly indifferent silences to the pouring out of the desires of our hearts. We all took turns sharing something we had prayed a very long time for, or that we were still praying for.
By the time it was my turn to share, the younger children had begun to drift off into bored daydreams, but they were all sitting still and quiet, including Nolan. I said, “I prayed for ten years that God would bring me a little black boy.” (This was very true, and for reasons that I could never explain, I continually felt that our family wouldn’t be complete until God had answered that prayer.)
Suddenly Nolan, who had been sitting in distracted quietness beside me, jumped off of the couch, threw his arms out wide, looked me in the eyes, and proclaimed with a glowing face and a voice that gushed with joy, “The little black boy came!!!”
My eyes still fill with tears of happiness as I type out that memory. So much truth and emotion and encouragement and wisdom packed into those words!
God tarried until just the right time; waiting for just the right little black boy and for just the right moment in our lives. He had been listening to my prayers all through that long decade, but His timing is always perfect.
Today (and anytime in the future), as I wrestle with God’s silence over some very great needs our family is facing, I will remember this. “The little black boy came!”
Although, personally I love Nolan’s way of speaking this truth, Richard Sibbes, also did a pretty good job of it back in the 16th century.
“To pray properly is not any easy matter. To pour out your heart and soul before God, to believe He hears and will come to help you; to pray in faith and to wrestle with Him; to strive for a blessing and hope against hope; being delayed, yet waiting for Him until He comes; this is exceeding hard to be done. Our ignorance of the nature and methods of God hinders us from praying properly. We have a false image of God and view Him more like one of us, and not as One filling heaven and earth with His majesty and glory. Though He is so good to us, our prayers are weak and cold. We view delays as denials, our faith wavers and we are discouraged and give up.”
~ Richard Sibbes (1577–1635)
As we celebrate this one-year anniversary of our first meeting with this remarkable son, and rejoice over his healing and all of the beauty he brings to this family, I will refuse to “view delays as denials.” I will try harder not to become “discouraged and give up.”
I will wait for God’s answers, and watch for signs that He is hearing me in the silences.
This is our beloved noble one today.
A little photo-journey through Nolan’s first year at home.
If you are waiting and waiting and waiting for answers to some prayer. Remind yourself today that “the little black boy came!!”