We are wired to be connected to others. The story of creation in Genesis is a story of a God who is connected with people and people who are supposed to be connected with one another. Sin breaks connection. Our response to sin, whether it be what we have done or what others have done to us or to others, can either be to embrace and accept it and admit it hurts or we can try to ignore, grow callous toward, hide from and attempt to separate it from us. Just as Adam and Eve did we hide, use blame, and we tell lies. We may even go to war in order to not accept our own fallibleness as Cain did against Abel thinking that killing those that know our imperfection might mysteriously remove it from reality. In an effort to be perceived as whole, complete, and strong we utilize force, either physical or psychological as in making rules, to protect our image. This sad thing is that the image we protect is, in fact, a false image.
God, on the other hand, is vulnerable. The fact that he places the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden in the first place is evidence of God’s willingness to be vulnerable. God loves Adam and Eve and then gives them the opportunity to reject, rebel, and injure Him. This vulnerability extends to Jesus and the Cross and beyond in the invitation He gives us to believe.
God’s example of vulnerability is extremely vital for us because the lie we tend to live is that we need to protect ourselves from allowing the truth about who we really are to be exposed. To allow others to see us as the abuser, the abused, the fornicator, the addict, the murderer, the adulterer, the gossip…the broken is seen by the vast majority of people as weakness. Yet if God is God, and He is the epitomy of strength, then being vulnerable and actually inviting the experience of pain and loss should be seen as experiences that lead to strength.
Just think of things that make you feel vulnerable. For me, asking anything of anyone makes me feel vulnerable. As a kid inviting someone to come over used to cripple me with anxiety and when rejection came I would dive deeply into a sea of self pity. I hate it yet I know from God’s example in the Bible that I must be vulnerable. The Church, then in my opinion, should be a gathering of people that doesn’t just allow vulnerability, but demands it. It requires it’s people to invite others to be connected to them and to be confident in the fact that Christ is enough.
In this 20 minute talk, while she doesn’t mention God or the Church, Brene Brown does reveal some biblical truths about what it means to be healthy people. I strongly encourage you to take the time to watch it. Her conclusion falls a little short in my mind as it should be “Jesus is enough,” but everything leading up to her conclusion is an accurate portrayal of our plight as people. For those who have taken the Redemption class her words should ring true. For those who haven’t – this is the kind of stuff we will explore.
We feel like we’re in one of those scenes from The Matrix where bullets are flying and we’re in super slow motion, at least our minds are while our bodies are definitely on their way to Uganda. But our minds are still stuck back in, “Is the day ever going to come God? Are we ever going to actually finish this deal?” After 3 ½ years of waiting and only three days to switch gears it just still seems like a dream.
Several times on the planes or in the airports Kristi and I just look at each other and shake our heads and say, “Is this really happening?” or “We’re going to Africa.” I’m writing this as we wait in a Starbucks in Amsterdam for the last leg of our trip for the union.
I want to call it a reunion. After all we’ve prayed for these kids every day for two years, but in reality it’s just a union…our first connection. Even as I write those words tears begin to well up in my eyes.
As we have dreamed about what the moment we see our children will be like. I never dreamed our first encounter would be at the airport. I have envisioned and romanticized it in my mind. It’s a hot day, around 2:00 pm in the afternoon and we show up at the orphanage and they run into our arms and we ride off into the sunset. Never in the midst of the chaos that is the Ugandan Airport, never did I think that this would happen at night, nor after we have been awake for 24 hours straight.
But if I have learned anything on this Epic Journey it’s that I am just supposed to be an actor in a play for which I know the character I’m supposed to play (Jesus), but the lines, the actions, the circumstances are all improvisational. Nothing is known, at least by us, except that God is God.
I heard Andy Stanley a few years ago say something that was profound enough to end up posted in my office. I read it almost every day, but it only recently seemed to be purposed for this moment. He said, “When it is time God will get you there.” I always applied that to ministry, but never to family. With Mom gone and now 3 ½ years spent toiling none of this has happened the way I think it should have. My new children were supposed to meet their Grandma Sharon, be here at the ages of 3, 4, and 5, and this might be the time when we’d think about coming back to Uganda for a visit. I know without a doubt that those plans were insufficient, and we could not see why this is THE time because “When it is time God will get you there.”
So, after Dennis (pronounced Daneese), came three more Compassion children into our lives. We continued to do the whole birthday match thing and made it a Christmas tradition as a gift to each of our children when they were old enough to write a letter.
Baili’s first Compassion child was tragically killed in an auto accident. She was hit by a car. We had only gotten to know her for a few months. Baili was sad, and too young to process the finality of the event, but Kristi was broken. I can still remember the phone call as Kristi wept as if we had lost our own child. This was supposed to be a cool idea for our kids, and instead it was changing us too. The reality of the Third World had crept into our lives, and the fragility of the life of a child was no longer an idea, but was felt deeply that day.
Help a Child
Compassion sent us another child. This time it was a boy, from Haiti. Roodnelson, known as Son, didn’t have the same birthday, but we didn’t care. He was cute as a button. We couldn’t refuse.Mallori was the last to receive her Compassion child, Emma from Kenya. We now had an African connection.
We read their letters, have the kids write them back, and have made them a part of our family as best we can. Shelbi eventually wants to visit Dennis. It’ll be a priority after we get our new kids home.
Every night our girls would pray and eventually the routine became, “God I pray for Son, Dennis, and Emma.” And that ritual continues to this day.
Go here for the previous chapter in this adventure.