“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis
My heart has been given away. I am vulnerable. Soccer Boy makes all of my previous little luxuries and hobbies seem so much paler than they were a month ago. I want more vulnerable love. I want more Soccer Boy, and more children like him.
Even in my sadness, I want more of this adventure.
And what I have learned is this: the pain matters.
For a long time, I have thought that I do not have the love of God. I have had the kindness of God, and the faithfulness of God, but not the soft, loveable love of God. I knew he loved me corporately (as in “God loves his church” or “God loves his children”) but he did not show that love to me specifically. If He would leave the 99 to save the one, I was always the 99. I was the backdrop of pain against which his grace to others could be seen in greater relief. I was the example of suffering that others used to increase their gratefulness for the mercies they have received.
I was never the blessed. I was never the loved. God did not care about me, except when my suffering served a purpose to help someone else he did love. I was a useful cog that he was glad to utilize as needed. But I was not loved.
So I was diligent. I persevered. I endured. Because at least then I was useful. If I could not be loved, I could at least be valuable. It would need to be enough.
And so I brought a little boy here. He needed my love. And I can love little boys. I can be diligent in that. I can be the love of God to him. After all, isn’t that what my life is—showing others how God loves them, even if he doesn’t love me? I can work hard and be useful in this boy’s life. I can persevere through whatever was coming and love without being loved myself.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I know that there are so many who don’t understand what has happened to me. How love has grown and multiplied. How my home and my heart has been turned upside down by a little imp of a child.
I can see the lack of understanding on their faces. I can hear it in their voices when they say, “Now you can do thus and such you couldn’t do while he was here…” It’s just five weeks. What does five weeks do? Great job serving a child, showing them something different…now they go back and you go back and everything is normal again. It’s an extended exchange student program.
But it’s not.
It’s life changing.
It’s love. Love I haven’t understood for a long time.
It’s a new normal.
Many of you have asked me how I’m doing today. Honestly, I’m good. I’m a big breath after a flurry of activity. Yesterday was worse. Yesterday I was angry. Exchanging sad for mad. We all were. And I was mad at the attitudes and the fighting and the tension.
But today, I am grateful. Little Man said, “I am sad, but I’m glad too. The last three days have been just awful. I’m glad those three days are finished.”
They really were awful. The bravado of the Soccer Boy is simply amazing. He’s so like me: If I am brave and say I won’t miss you, then I won’t.
You can’t fool me, Soccer Boy. I invented bravado. I perfected the distract-and-dodge technique.
So while I am sad that he is gone, and I know the heart twists are coming, I’m grateful that neither of us needs to be brave for the other anymore. I’m grateful that we don’t need to be awful anymore. We can start processing now.
But I’m grateful for something else, too.
I’m beyond grateful for New Horizons for Children. I can’t begin to describe how supported I have been in this whole process. As this new family was born, a group of people came alongside us and experienced it too.
Every day with these friends has been nothing short of a miracle.
How is it that I have grown to love—in a very personal way— children visiting all over the United States? How is it that my friendships with people I have never met have become so dear to me?
Because they love, too. They have also found that family is not the little box we often think it is. These children have captured our hearts in ways unexplainable.
Faith really does move mountains.
The presence of God really is found where his people commune together…even when that’s a group on Facebook.
Struggles are posted by others, and they say, “Is this normal?” And I say yes! Me too! I am not alone! You are not alone!
I say “I need help” and I have three phone calls and messages in a matter of minutes.
I say, “I think that maybe this path is jigging when I thought it would jag. Things are happening I don’t understand….the future is starting to look different than I thought it would with this boy.” And people share their stories and their unconventional paths and the times that these children have been grafted into families in unexpected ways.
God is bigger than I ever understood.
And as I have been the hands and feet of the Lord to this little boy, I marvel at how entangled he is in my heart. But these others, these also-entangled, they have become my community. They have become ears really listening and mouths really speaking comfort and minds really understanding this crazy adventure.
They are the body of Christ made tangible.
And faith is built together, and we go to our own local communities and share it and it grows there, too.
And now we weep, and we rail, and we breathe sighs of relief, and there is room for it all.
Because this is what love does.
I am smitten. Smitten with a dramatic, creative, hurting, brave little boy flying away from me. Smitten with the family God has built for him here in America. Smitten with the community that has come together because we have all seen and experienced a love unconditional, and we have all been willing to sacrificially and concretely express that love.
Smitten anew with how loved I am by the One who isn’t limited by space or time or cultural conventions and definitions of family.
The creator of families is in this.
And what will come out of it will be amazing.
Because God really does love me.