God Gives the Growth
Composition Posted: 984 words
I had a dream, or maybe it was a waking dream, about running away and moving to London. For some reason I’d seen a statistic: “London confirmed to have the worst traffic in Europe,” or maybe the world — I can’t remember. “But I can just ride the Underground,” I thought to myself, as if the plan to move to London was a real thing that existed already.
There is something strangely appealing about stuffing everything into a suitcase, pulling up all your roots, and moving to a new place. February will mark the longest I’ve ever lived in one house — 4 years — so it’s unsurprising that I’m itching to pack up and move once again. For that matter, these past 7 years in Kansas City have been the longest I’ve ever lived in one town without moving.
Time moves onward, and things change. The initial shine has worn off. Now in our 8th year of marriage, the divorces are starting to pile up — some directly inside our closest ring of friends. The pandemic was kind to nobody, and we see the effects every day at work, at church, and in all our social circles. It’s the sort of thing you get weary of experiencing. Maybe, you whisper to yourself, it would be better if you started over.
This sickness, if you want to call it that, calls me especially strongly when we are in the midst of a foster care placement. Foster care becomes our life while it’s going on, and the compromises and concessions we make for the sake of loving kids are many. It’s worth doing, but while we’re doing it my brain flickers in strange directions.
We could do it, after all. My work is not location-specific, and I briefly imagine us living in a small flat, starting over, making new friends, building new communities. We could do this for the low low price of Alisha’s career and lifelong investment in her school, the loss of all our in-person friendships, and the loss of many family members directly here in town with us. It is a steep cost, and yet, everything in flux and boxes is normal for me. I’ve said despedida before, I can say it again, I tell myself.
But in the light of day the crushing impossibility of this sinks back in. We can’t run from where we’ve been planted. This is our home– this is where God has placed us –these are the things he has for us to do. I read a Psalm this morning that promised children, fruitful vines, to those who fear the Lord. The bitterness squeezes tightly and I think, again, about running away. Because that worked so well for Jonah.
I struggle to find joy in our kids, sometimes. While they are in our house they are a heavy load to bear. Once out of our house, they’re often out of our lives, forever. I will never hear from some of them again, and be able to see even fewer of them. How many kids will we accumulate on our wall? A half a dozen? A dozen? This quiver of arrows is fuller than my friends’, and yet each one of these kids carries weights and pains that you can only imagine in your nightmares.
At last, God circles me back around to one simple fact: my life does not exist in a vacuum. Even my wife and I — should I concede that one person, at least, is irrevocably tied to me — are not free to just cut our roots and move away because things have gotten hard. Moving will not recast my life and make me happy. Nor will any of the other small schemes that I contemplate and pine for from day to day.
Here. This is where he has us — in a tiny house on Bellefontaine Avenue with roof that leaks, and a single spare bedroom with a door that creaks, and just enough room for me, and her, and one small kid with big scars on his heart.
Z does not have the luxury of running from his problems, or even dreaming of it. Neither did K. M, our first, stood amidst the turbulence of her life with a serene strength, but it’s true that I’ve never met anyone quite like her. All of these kids need us — us particularly, me and Alisha and our house and the hopeful school that Alisha teaches at, aptly named Providence.
“Partial obedience is not obedience at all; to single out easy things that do not oppose our lusts, which are not against our reputation, therein some will do more than they need; but our obedience must be universal to all God’s commandments, and that because He commands it. Empty relationships are nothing; if we profess ourselves God’s servants and do not honour Him by our obedience, we take but an empty title.”Richard Sibbes
Is there a point to all this? The point is, you will not find yourself by sculpting a new life for yourself, whether here, or in Europe, or on the moon. You will find yourself in the dirt and grime, in the parenting when the trauma dominates the entire day, in the strong satisfaction of sitting down after bedtime with some friends for an adult conversation, or in the hand that your wife squeezes at church as you sing of God’s love for you, that love that you hope to mirror to your son in the days ahead.
My sons and daughters do not look like me, nor will they be in my life forever. But I love them — imperfectly, improbably — I’m the most surprised of any of us. God gives grace for each morning new, and it is unmerited. If it were up to me, I’d move to London. Thank God it’s not.