Monday, November 26, 2012

It is not enough

We drive across this beautiful dusty town, into a serene neighborhood with pretty houses behind tall walls. Our driver rings the bell and we walk through the gate and there, on the lush green lawn, sit a couple dozen precious, adorable toddling orphans.

One of them will soon be mine, but she doesn't know that yet.

I scan their faces, looking for her. There she is. We slowly walk across the grass and sit by her, cautiously. She gradually lets us come closer, touch fingertips, hold hands. She plays with my necklace, which is why I wore it. Then she lets me take her in my arms. 

But only for a moment. Her nanny leaves the yard, and the sobs begin, and they do not end.

We move upstairs to the little room she shares with beautiful twin girls. It's very small and I try and engage her and she is having none of it. Her suspicions are too high. Probably she's been suspecting something for weeks now. Her heart knows something big is happening, she has no idea what, but she's terrified of it. She cries and claws for her nanny, pushes us away, holds her arms across her little chest, shakes her head adamantly. We finally leave because I can't bear to torment her anymore.

It was not a Kodak moment.

I was not surprised, really. The reports from the agency had told me that she is extremely attached to her nanny. This is good. The fact that she has chosen one person and not every person means that she will probably be able to transfer those feelings of attachment over to me, to us. It's best that she's not "shopping for a new mommy" as a friend put it. It's good. Great. Yea.

But today? Today it stunk.

All I could think of was how hard this is going to be for her, when we come back to bring her home. All I can think about is the grief she is going to experience, the confusion, the pain.

To her, her nanny is mommy. She will believe - she suspects - that I am there to tear her away from the only 'mother' she has ever known.

And the truth is, I am going to do that.
Because she is not mommy. 

I have been paid to care for other people's children in multiple capacities since I was eleven years old. Some of them I have even loved. But it is a love that runs only about an inch deep. When the job or the school year ends, there is a sadness that lasts briefly, and there are fond memories, but that is all. The void is quickly filled by the new small faces replacing the ones that just left. It is a poor substitute for the love of a mother, whose heart would never fully mend if she were to lose her child.

I know this. Her nanny, a mother herself, she knows this.

But Bethie does not know this. Bethie doesn't know that it's not enough.

It's not enough for her, or for any of the babies sitting in the sunshine on the lawn, or for the thousands of children who roam the streets of this city, or the millions of orphans in Africa and America and everywhere else.

It's not enough that my soon-to-be daughter believes that a woman who is paid to care for her and a several other babies is mommy. It's not enough that inch-deep love is all she has ever known. She deserves more.

All children deserve more.

But convincing her of this will not be easy. Teaching her heart to exchange that inch-deep love for the unmeasurable, unending, my-heart-would-never-mend-if-I-lost-you love - the love that surely her first mother would have had for her, had she lived - will be long, and hard, and brutal.

And honestly, when I saw the easily given, gummy smiles of the infants in the next room, I realized what we had given up by adopting an older child.

Yet as sad and scared and intimidated as I am, I'm humbled that God has chosen me - me - to teach this child what it means to be loved by a mother.

Aaron Ivey says,

The call of orphan care is not a call to simply "save the orphan". The call of orphan care is to share in the suffering of the orphan. It's to intentionally position yourself, your family, your community, to suffer alongside the orphan. To say, 'Your suffering, is now my suffering. Your story, is now my story. I willingly position myself to suffer alongside you.'

I hear the call, baby girl. Your suffering is now my suffering. Your story is now my story.

Because the love you know right now? It is not enough.


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