We have just returned from our trip where we met our 4 new children. Words cannot express the experience of meeting these 4 precious kids and the journey that we have taken in order to find them. Some of that journey has been chronicled on this blog and it is only fitting that we try to convey the experience of meeting them for the first time. Keep in mind, we have a girl age 7, and three boys, ages 4, 3 and 2. Let me set the scene for you a little bit. We spend 2 hours in a room with 8-10 workers who have cared for these children off and on over the past few years. While we are enjoying hearing about the kids, we are chomping at the bit to meet the kids. We are ushered to a place where the children have been cared for over a number of months and then further escorted into what appeared to be a small playroom with a one-way mirror streching completely across one of the walls. There are a few toys, games and a small table in the middle of the room, as well as a couch. We take a seat on the couch while one of the workers instructs us to remain seated while she goes in the back to get our children. The tension is mounting as we anticipate this much awaited moment. A few moments slip by and then we begin to hear children talking in the distance. Their voices are getting louder and it is obvious that they are making their way to us. The voices get even louder and it now approximates some kind of kid tsunami pressing toward us. The door swings open and the four children, led by the eldest, come running into the room with their arms wide open and smiles on their faces! It was a special moment that was both wonderful and awkward. Their excitement gave way to pure, unbridled energy running untamed throughout this small room. Games began to fly off the shelf, cupboards were emptied of stuffed animals and the 2 year old took to climbing up the furniture faster than we could introduce ourselves! In a matter of minutes we were caught up in the pandamonium and found ourselves in "clean and safety" mode. All the time the workers, now seated behind the one-way mirror, observe the interaction. This went on for the better part of an hour or two. The time in the room gave way to the suggestion that we take the children to dinner. We had already determined that we would take the 4 children to Chuck E Cheese's and turn them loose...a decision we came to question some hours later.
Now fast forward to Chuck E Cheese. Thank God we had our 22 year old daughter Julie, Karen's parents and Jeffrey (10 year ) with us. We hit the door with these children and off they went like a squirrel tanked out on caffeine! They went from one thing to another faster than any human being could possibly shadow. We decided to not try to keep up with any one of them and instead surround the perimeter with a zone defense of sorts. That is to say, we shouted across the game room warning each other that one of the children was about to enter their zone so they were now responsible for them! This went on for 2 hours and the little tykes were like Everyready Bunnies...they just kept going and going and going. More than once I asked myself what we had gotten into. As Julie said at one point, she felt like she should go to the management and explain what was going on. But when you've harkened to a Higher voice and leading, He shows up not only to calm your fears but illuminate your path. We'd like to share that illumination if you will indulge us a moment.
As I (Russell) watched these children running completely unrestrained, undisciplined, loud and totally hyperactive across the game floor at Chuck E Cheese, I was reminded of a story told by one of my mentors in psychology. Her story was one of a man who got on a subway train in New York City with 7 children. He quietly assumed his seat while his 7 children rain wildly throughout the subway train, jumping on seats, hanging from the windows and screaming loudly. All the time the man just sat there quietly and seemingly oblivious to his children's behavior. Finally, a passenger who was obviously irritated with the children's behavior and the man's lack of discipline, stood up and approached the man. In the most judgmental of ways, the passenger began to scold the man for his poor parental skills and apparent indifference to his kids' behavior. All the while the man never responded or even acknowledged the passenger's words which further escalated the tension and agitation. Finally, the passenger blurted out in pure frustration, "What are you thinking? What's the matter with these barbaric kids?!" The man slowly raised his gaze and replied, "We just came from the hospital where their mother just lost her 2 year battle with cancer". Nothing else was said as the passenger returned to be seated.
John 7:24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
Our knee jerk reaction, as humans, is not so much unlike that of the passenger. Its easy to pass judgment when you don't know the circumstances. We understood where our children were coming from even if the other patrons didnt. The next day we took the children to the mall. First stop was build a bear where they each made their own bear and kind of took over the store like a whirlwind and then to ride the carousel and eat dinner. All the while getting strange looks from everyone who passed by us. The children spent the night with us at the hotel and we all went down for breakfast the next morning. Again, they come in with so much energy and excitement at everything they do and again we get the strange looks and feel the judgments glaring at us. By the second morning in the hotel, the kids knew their way around and knew what they wanted for breakfast. As we all sat eating together, a lady approached me (Karen) and told me about her sister who had 6 kids and is pregnant with her 7th. She shared that she only had 3 and stopped at that. I knew the unspoken part of the woman's inquiry as the kids went whizzing by in a blur. It would have been easy to share why we were there and explain the energy the kids had. But instead of responding with defense, I simply said, "I have 9". The lady didn't have much else to say and Julie noted the surprise in the eyes of our new 7 year old daughter as she heard my response. It was if she knew the routine: somebody trying to explain her behavior and in the process distance themselves from her lack of social grace. Instead, maybe for the first time, she had felt the warm, gentle embrace of acceptance in her life that each of us human beings long for. I had to think that maybe God feels that way about us at times. Maybe He would like to explain our behavior or say "give them time, they will adjust" or maybe he would like to say to the church that is passing judgment on a new christian that they are new to this and need some love and acceptance. He doesnt explain us, He doesnt distance himself from us, He accepts us! Just as we are.
God uses all kinds of things to reveal His kingdom to a man or woman. Whether its parting a sea or calming a storm or spitting in some dirt so that He can make a mud pie that heals blind eyes, He will find a way to speak a language that you can hear. For us, He continues to use this miracle process of adoption to reveal His kingdom to us. As we drove some 20 hours back from seeing our new children, we wondered if God isn't a little like we were watching these little children jet propel everywhere they went? We wanted to gather these children, who have never known the stability of a home, in our arms and just say, "You don't need that behavior anymore. You're found, you're loved, you're safe and you don't need to wonder or stress about where its coming from. We've got you now, you're home!" All of us have spent our share of time running through life wondering where its coming from...the love, the security, even the next resource to pay a bill when all along God had us in His sites saying, "You don't need that behavior anymore, you're found, you're loved, and you're safe with Me!" Its what Jesus was trying to show us when He said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He didn't say stop running around or clean up your act, He just said "come". We so look forward to our children joining us very, very soon and see how God shows up to meet all our needs as individuals and as a family.