You have been heavy on my heart again. There are days that I wrestle with feelings of unforgiveness at the judgement that has kept you behind a closed door, not knowing the love of a family. There are days I wrestle with bitterness that your chance to come home to a forever family was ripped from your tiny, pudgy fingers. And there are days when all I know to do is pray for you. The last we heard, and that has been almost a year ago now, was you had been moved into a foster family. We don't understand the complexities of foster homes in Russia, and whenever we ask questions of anyone who would know, we find ourselves looking into crestfallen faces. We were initially hope-filled that a foster family would mean that you were in a better position to be adopted, but from what little information we have gathered, quite the opposite is true. Roman, we still long to gather you up in our arms again. We long to introduce you to Daniel. I used to think that missing you was somehow taking something away from Daniel and our heart and love for him. But, I imagine it's much like any parent who has a second child. The love and commitment to that second child in no way diminishes the love and commitment to the first. You are forever in our hearts as our first son. We stood in the gap for you. I desperately want you to know that in the world of the abandoned, you were fought for with everything we had to give. I so much want to tell you, as you grow up and watch other children go into forever families, wondering why no one chose you, that you were, are and always will be adored, cherished and prayed for. I cannot grasp why or how a judge could have looked into your big blue eyes and ruled that a "procedural error" which could not be validated, was sufficient to deprive you a chance of experiencing what every single child in this world deserves to experience. Maybe that is the very reason that the judge refused to look at the pictures of us holding you, proving that we had spent time with you. Proving as you looked in our eyes that you found a haven in us. I cannot understand, nor do I think I ever will. And I know it would take a miracle from God for you to understand how much we cherish you. Oh, that every orphan would have people praying for him or her with the fervor with which people here still pray for you! I have had two instances in the last few weeks where women have come to me and told me, with tears in their eyes that as often as they think of you, they pray for you. If you never grow up knowing the love of two people committed to you to call themselves your mommy and daddy, I hope that somehow you comprehend that you have not been forgotten. Your name is still on our lips. Your picture is still in our home. Your face is engraved in our minds and your memory is firmly rooted in so many hearts on the other side of your world. And I hope you can know someday that we don't regret a moment of our journey. We were asked regularly by people who were hurting with us why we didn't give up. They could see how the waiting was draining life from us and yet we pressed on. The only answer we could give was that everyone else in the world had turned their back on making a lifelong commitment to you before you were even two years old. We wouldn't be added to the number who walked away of their own volition. You would have to be pried from our grasp. And it's still a fresh hurt that you were.
This morning I woke up to spend some time in God's word and in prayer. I have been studying Isaiah 30 and verse 18 is one that I have had memorized for years. "Yet, the LORD longs to be gracious to you, he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait on Him." I wanted to understand the entire context of this chapter, and so I began studying. Verses 1-2 say:
Ah, stubborn children," declares the LORD,
"who carry out a plan, but not mine,
and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit,
that they may add sin to sin;
who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction
to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh
and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!
Further reading into the commentary of my study Bible revealed that at this time in Judah's history, they were facing a threat from Assyria. God's people took their eyes off their Helper and Redeemer and focused instead on the Assyrian military, got scared and ran to Egypt to make an alliance with them for protection. Egypt. Egypt? EGYPT! Egypt who had enslaved God's people for generations. Egypt who never, not one time had God's people's best interest in mind. The same Egypt from which God had miraculously freed His people. God had freed them and when they took their eyes off Him, they ran right back to the chains that enslaved them. God had a plan for them. He had already promised them that He would protect them. That He would strengthen them with His righteous right hand. The Sovereign God of the entire universe could snap His fingers and descimate the entire Assyrian people. And yet, His chosen people, sought refuge not in the one who actually, by His very character is our Refuge and our shield, but from Pharaoh. They sought shelter, not under the wing of the Almighty, but in the shadow of Egypt. When I'm faced with trials, where do I run to? To my Protecter and my Defender? Or to things from which He has already freed me?
The rest of the chapter reveals that the people's heart is hardened to God. And so, He waits to be gracious. I'd always envisioned God on His throne in heaven, sitting forward on the edge of His seat, His focus intent on the ones who would cry out to Him. I can't imagine any other visual to these verses and yet, I can't fathom why the Sovereign God of the entire universe would be poised, ready to spring into action to pour out His grace on us, rising up to extend His compassion for weary, heavy laden souls. What an incredible, indescribable God! For the first time this morning, I read this verse in a different translation. The ESV translates the verse a little differently. "Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you" The verbage is a little different, but there is more vivid picture painted with this pocketful of words. Because Judah sought strength and protection from the one who had previously enslaved them, because they hardened their hearts, because they refused to obey God or even to seek Him, God stayed His own hand. Hebrews 12:10b says, "...He disciplines us for our good, that we might share his holiness." If He was gracious to us before our hearts turned back to Him, we would be lazy, entitled spoiled brats. But, oh the ache He must feel as He waits! The ache He must feel as He knows what He longs to do for us!
When I asked God to give me a glimpse of the ache, I saw your face, Roman. We ached to hold you. We longed to cradle you in our arms and bring you into a life which you couldn't have even imagined because family had never been modeled for you. While we never could have erased the confusion as to why your birth mother walked away from you, left you in an orphanage in her hometown and never came to see you or never showed the slightest inclination in her heart toward you, we would have bandaged those wounds with the knowledge that you would have been given, by God, to parents who fought and loved you feircely. Endured more than they thought possible for you. We would have thrown open the floodgates of our entire heart and all we had to offer to be yours. If the court would have called and told us to come to you, we would have dropped everything in an instant, flown to Russia and gathered you up to bring you into a life that every single tiny treasure on this earth deserves to have. The ache we felt to shelter you, Roman, to protect you, to defend you, to provide for you and to lavish love and blessings on you that you could not begin right now to fathom is a pale and miserable comparison to the ache the LORD has while He waits for us to return and repent. Our ability and power to bring you home was subject to the mercy of an unmerciful system. In the palest of comparisons, we too were on the edge of our seats, waiting for a change of heart from someone who had the power to transform your life. Our ache was caused by an injustice to you. Something we could not change. And God's ache, because He is holy and righteous and requires repentance, is something that He endures as He waits for us to return to Him. My soul cries out in agreement with Jonah that "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs" (Jonah 2.8) We will probably never know this side of heaven why God allowed the judge to say no to you, but He is still God, he still is worthy to be praised. I can place my trust in Him alone because He has proven Himself trustworthy time and time again. We can place our trust in Him because He says He is to be trusted and He cannot lie.
And so, little boy, I hope somehow, someone tells you that we pray for you. I hope someone who knew us in Russia will whisper in your little ear that you are a valuable and cherished treasure. And, more than anything, we pray that someone comes and shares Jesus with you so that we can hold you in heaven. Until then, as my mother prayed over all five of her children, we ask that God would send an army of angels to laugh and dance and sing and play around you. Our hand has been stayed, LORD Jesus, but be gracious to Roman. Rise to show him your compassion. Thank you for the testimony of the burden, and thank you for the tiny treasure You have entrusted to us. As though it were a prophesy fulfilled, Daniel has healed our hearts.
We love you, Son.