In the waiting phase of our adoption I endured months of debilitating sadness. I’d find myself crying for no particular reason, the weight of an unknown timeframe crushing my capacity for joy. My children learned to recognize when Mommy was having a “sad day” and needed time alone. They knew my heart was in Africa—with our future daughter and millions of vulnerable children—not with my own flesh and blood.
Fast forward a year. Home with our Rwandan-born daughter, I should have been ecstatic. Yet the sadness intensified, often morphing into anger, worry, or shame. The love and longing I’d once felt effortlessly for my adopted daughter, before I knew her name or saw her face, now eluded me.
With its disappearance my compassion for the needy also evaporated. When I looked at photos of impoverished children, I saw only my own failure to connect with the child in my arms. Rather than growing in love, I’d hardened to it.
I took a shot at answering that question when I wrote about post-adoption depression. No doubt PAD was part of it, but two years later I’m recognizing this problem is far more complicated, and started long before our road to adoption.
The sad truth is, it’s easier to love people from afar than to love the ones who are right in front of us. More accurately, it’s easier to love the idea of people than the reality.
Isn’t that why we, the fans, are enamored with celebrities, yet their own spouses and children often resent or reject them? We see an image, not a person. We see the polished exterior, the calculated public appearance, not the real-life flaws ingrained in every person walking the planet.
Yet those flaws are the very catalyst of real love. The feeling of love is meaningless until it encounters the unloveable and responds in service and sacrifice. So I ask: What good is my love for Africa’s children if I’m failing to love the children in my own home?
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. ~1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Loving Jesus through Gritted Teeth
Maybe you’ve seen comedian Ken Davis’ bit about the “happy family” driving to church on Sunday morning, complete with arguing, yelling, and attempts to slap at the kids in the backseat while driving—all so they can “go to church and worship Jesus.” It’s funny because so many people relate to it, including me. Why? How is it we can be so cruel, impatient, and selfish in the name of worshipping the God of love, grace, and mercy?
I believe it happens when we become more concerned with “doing God’s work” than loving God Himself. We’re do-ers, not be-ers. It’s easier to do things for God than to be still and know that He is God.
My struggle to love a hurting child, my loss of compassion for the poor—they were symptoms of my own poverty—spiritual poverty. I knew my Bible, I had good theology…but I lacked intimacy with the very God I claimed to serve. I wasn’t drawing my love and compassion from His well, so I ran dry.
The bottom line is I cannot address poverty in Africa without first addressing poverty in myself. I cannot love a child from a hard place until I deal with the hard places in my own heart. It’s a vicious cycle: When I fail to address my need for God’s love and grace, I lack the capacity to show that same love and grace to others.
This lesson has been hard-learned, and right now it’s more head knowledge than action. That’s why I’m asking for your feedback. Have you been where I am? What did you learn, and how has your experience changed the way you love and serve those at home and around the world?
[box] GIVEAWAY TIME!
One more question: How would you like a copy of Peter Greer’s new book, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good? It just happens to be coming out August 1, and I just happen to be giving away a copy! Check it out on Amazon!
Sound good? Entry is simple:
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The winner will be randomly drawn and announced on July 16. Happy reading! [/box]