After a bout of unruliness, temper tantrums and borderline psychosis shreaking from my youngest daughter, I turned to God in deep desperation for answers. It didn’t make sense to me that such a sweet child could have turned so cold and unloving, so desperate, so mean. She was just too old for this kind of behavior and my mind drifted to the worst possible scenarios, something might really be wrong. Here we go again God. You gave me one child with a disability, could it possibly be two?
Pain is deep and manifests itself differently for all of us. In working with deep-end foster children for as long as I did, my mind drifts quickly to the worst case scenario. I have lived my career on the extreme side, seeing the worst cases, never really getting to experience children who had major breakthroughs. They had been sexually abused, physically abused, burned, tortured and the like. But the one thing I learned from all of the jails, institutions and hard concrete walls I visited them behind was that love permeated through all of it. They may not have gotten better, the physicality of their situation may not have changed, but they did. I saw it in every hug I gave them, every hand I held and every tissue I offered up for their pain. It wasn’t even really what I did, it was just the fact that I was there. I didn’t have to understand what they were going through, I just had to show up.
I learned back then that people, not just children understand the power of love. I spent myself back then in giving of my own love, which sent me down a dark and dangerous path. I had no way to replenish the love that I had within me, because I was depending on myself to be their savior. But inside of Christ, is all the love you will ever need- it is replenished, and it is utterly glorious.
And in prayer before the one who made me I implored Him as I have on countless nights to help my daughter. There were a lot more questions about why rather than asking how I can help her. I didn’t realize how selfish that was at the time. Did it really matter why? Many things are without good explanation and we waste ourselves in prayer. Instead of why, I should have been asking how.
So the where-are-you-God turned to crying turned to screaming turned to sheer torture of my insides until I decided to turn the car around and come home. It had occurred to me that we had not given our youngest closure in saying goodbye to our old home after moving in on Thursday. I too had not received closure. It was time to go back.
A quick text to the new owner who was beyond a blessing in allowing us in. I scooped up my youngest with her pouty face and told her that it was time to go. Instinctively, she knew where we were headed. God told me mommy, she said. And I knew that I was now speaking her language, something she could now understand.
We climbed the stairs to floor two and she slowly walked around, her wide eyes gazing on every inch of that place. She was nervous to go in to her empty old room, but I urged her to. I sat on the floor and told her to do the same, her little head resting in my lap. I couldn’t help but let out a loud cry, for this was the house that God gave me, the one I thought we’d be in forever.
I can’t get the tears out mommy, they won’t come out.
I told her that it was ok. We both sat and reminisced about the wonderful memories we had made in that house, all the funny stunts they pulled and how much she particularly loved that window. She really didn’t know why, just that she loved it. I loved that I knew that now, the little things that meant so much to her.
We finished our guided tour with the Holy Spirit in tow and placed our hands on the handrails of the stairs and the floors and looked up at the ceiling.
Mommy I am really going to miss this house and all of my memories.
But you don’t have to , I told her, God stores the memories in your heart and you can access them whenever you want. The memories are no longer in this house, you have them with you now.
That excited her to no end and I saw a smile for the first time in weeks. That angry child had been hurting without me knowing or understanding. She wasn’t an impossible cause, she was a child who spoke a different love language than my son. She was a unique child of God.
And that got me thinking about Paul’s piece, Anything is Possible. Are we quick to think that “conversion” trumps love? Aren’t we converted by Christ’s love and doesn’t he speak to us in a way we understand? This concept was lovingly explored in a wonderful series of books by Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages. In it, the author explores human need as expressed in many different ways. Are we not called to do the same? To speak to people in a way that they can understand? Mother Teresa knew this well. Caring for the dying in a way that they understood, urging them to seek God in a way they understood. This is not universalism, this is the love of Christ.
So I picked up a copy of Mr. Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages of Children. I know now not to ask why first. I know now simply to hold her.