When I was a little girl, I had a vision of me standing on top of a lush green hill with my hair flowing in the breeze, sunshine in my face, getting ready to lead an army for God. I don’t know where this vision came from, a dream maybe, I don’t know…it was always just kind of there. I was going to do something great for God…little girl me just knew it…
In fact, I prayed for that…to go on a brave adventure for God. We grow up watching movies and books of where the lead characters go on grand, exciting adventures. There are mythical creatures and plot twists. There’s also peril and, at some point, usually certainty of death. I was hoping my grand adventure for God would look a lot more like the former descriptors of mythical creatures and a few unexpected plot twists that land me safely on a cloud with a unicorn. But alas, I have yet to meet my unicorn.
I remember sharing the story of my girlhood vision with Lilly and Marcus’ former foster mom. There was a day later on that was really rough for me and she sent me the message, “Remember that girl who wanted to do something great for Christ?” Followed by an excerpt from a devotion she was reading at blessedisshe.net, “God’s will might be wildly different than we imagine, but in releasing control of our finite wants, we are able to open our arms to God’s dreams for us, which encompass all eternity with Him.”
I don’t know why I ever expected living a grand adventure for Jesus would feel different than this, different than hard. History is filled with people who gave their lives full-on for Christ and suffered because of it. Their lives were not peaceful or easy and many were martyred. Why would I, who am doing a fraction of what others have done, be any different? Am I the one exception? Nope. “Jesus offers you the cross, a very heavy cross,” says St. Therese of Liseux, “and you are afraid of not being able to carry it without giving way. Why? Our Beloved Himself fell three times on the way to Calvary, and why should we not imitate Him?” Makes sense. But honestly, I sometimes still get angry about how hard this is. My vision for a battle leading charge for Jesus doesn’t feel the way I expected it to. A lot of times I don’t feel powerful or even empowered. There’s a cliched phrase “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.” Yeah, Yeah, I hear you but I’m not feeling you. Archbishop Desmond Tutu in The Book of Joy puts it slightly better I think: “God uses each of us in our own way, and even if you are not the best one, you may be the one who is needed or the one who is there.”
So that’s me…maybe not qualified or even called…just the one who is here.
If any of you have seen the movie Love Actually, there’s a scene toward the end of movie where two of the lead characters, a man named Daniel and his stepson Sam, are talking about how a plan to get Sam’s crush to notice him didn’t work. They are now going to create another opportunity for Sam to tell the girl his feelings. Then Sam says a line that is my absolute favorite. As he’s found his courage to run off and tell the girl how he feels, he declares to Daniel, “Let’s go get the shit kicked out of us by love.”
I know it may sound a bit crass and out of context, but lately this line has often been one of my first waking thoughts. Let’s get up and do this. Go full in. Because just like a line Daniel says to Sam in the same scene, “You’ve seen the films, kiddo. It aint over ‘til it’s over.” So I get up and face what is undoubtably going to be another rough day because the journey isn’t over until it’s over and today is not the day to quit.
One of the first books that opened my eyes to the fact that the rough experiences of adoption are fairly universal was Marcy Pusey’s book Reclaiming Hope. My favorite quote from the book is this, “There are families, like ours and yours, who, with machetes in hand, are tearing through the wild jungle of this life of raising kids of navigating through the new. We get scrapes and scratches and scars—but we just keep pushing. We could turn back. We really could. But we don’t, in all our hurt and disappointment and hopelessness, each day we get up and try again. This is enough, friends. This is amazing. At least this. We are not noble. We aren’t saviors. We aren’t superhuman. We’re just hurting people, trying to get through the forest with our hurting kids, to make a better path for everyone behind us.”
So maybe I am that girl on the hill and this is that battle, but instead of charging “onward Christian soldier” into victory, our war anthem is “Let’s go get the shit kicked out of us by love” as we wield our metaphorical machetes through the jungle of life. It is the daily ugly battle in the middle of a beautiful war.
The band Kings of Leon wrote a song with that same title “Beautiful War.” The song describes romantic love, but I think the message applies here as well. I love this song because it’s a beautiful, raw anthem for what love is really like. There’s a line in the song, “They say love don’t mean nothing, unless there’s something worth fighting for. It’s a beautiful war.” What we’re doing in this house does mean something—these kids are worth fighting for, our marriage that has at times been horribly strained because of this process is worth fighting for.
We are in the middle of an ugly chapter of a beautiful story. I feel like we’re a Jackson Pollock painting in the making—zoom in real close and you just see splats of paint. However, zoom out and it can still look pretty meaningless and chaotic; but, it’s also kind of beautiful too. The trick is not to focus too much on each individual splatter but to step back and admire the whole masterpiece in process. Not the individual shades—not the blues of sadness, the greens of grief, the reds of anger and resentment, or even the yellows of joy, but to step back and enjoy the cacophony of colors that make up life. This is where God comes in. As a wise friend told me, “It’s hard to look in a microscope when you’re looking up.” It’s easy to get tunnel vision in the rough of it. To look down and have the ugly magnified into view. But when we do that, we miss God; we miss the big picture.
For us there was no easy transition into the perfect little family. I think our journey looks a lot less like a Disney film and a lot more like the The Lord of the Rings saga. It’s a long dangerous journey between the Shire to where the ring is destroyed in Mordor. I have a feeling there’s a lot of time between now and what I hope will be our eventual “and they all lived happily ever after.” Brene Brown in her book Rising Strong says, “The Middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.” That’s where we are…in the messy middle.
Sometimes it feels like we’re just rubbing two sticks together aimlessly in the hope of starting a fire, but every once in a while, we get lucky and we get a spark. Chris and I are two broken people trying to lead broken kiddos into a better existence. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu says in The Book of Joy, “You are made for perfection, but you are not yet perfect. You are a masterpiece in the making.” We as individuals in this family are all masterpieces in the making and so is our family as a whole. We’re a few paint splatters away from being a Jackson Pollock painting, but every day we get up ready to get the shit kicked out of us by love in order to move us a little closer in that direction of masterpiece status.
“To live would be an awfully big adventure.” ~Peter Pan