While we were in process to adopt, stories of those home and the transformation their children experienced was inspiring. The rallying cry was often "only love can." Only love can mend this broken heart. Only love can make a family. Only love can give this child a chance. What I've learned recently is that only my love "can't" do it all. It can't heal my daughter, teach her safety, gain her trust. It can't repair hurt feelings in my little boy who has lost his status as baby nor can it make every situation of stolen toys or lack of attention fair. It can't bridge the three year gap that my daughter was not my daughter and fill me with the motherly feelings that I have for my kids who were with me from birth. My love can't patiently show consistent connection with my little girl who seeks out other adults for positive attention as a self preservation means. Daily I am reminded how much my love falls short.
Love is patient- my love dried up at the many opportunities to be patient. A perfect example is corralling three little ones into car seats, waiting for them all to either refuse to sit down, refuse to let me buckle them, or refuse to buckle themselves into said car seats. My love is certainly not patient.
Love is kind- too often kindness is sacrificed in my house. Pajamas put on a little too roughly, good night tuck-ins rushed through, special requests denied just out of weariness. Kindness matters. But my weariness wins out more often than not.
Love is not jealous- the online community of adoptive families is wonderful- but also misleading. I know what people show on Facebook is only a tiny piece of reality and yet it is increasingly easy to feed jealousy rather than respect for others and contentment in my own circumstances. My thoughts are not fueled by love but by jealousy as I wonder if I am the only adoptive mom doing this all wrong.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things- nope. My love does not even come close. I'd rather claim the victim than accept the responsibility. My love is weak and lacking. It is disillusioned and not hopeful. And it has an amazingly short memory. Those days pining for news from China, praying fervently for a child we had not even met, so quickly forgotten when that child is home, but crumpled on the floor and twitching, overwhelmed with everything new and refusing connection with her family. My love comes up short. Only love can... But mine certainly cannot.
And that is where I have arrived. At the end of myself. I can do hard things- for a little while. And then my human frailty shows through the cracks. My love is not enough. But God's is. My morning ritual of thinking though each day's potential scenarios and how I will respond to them has changed to a plea for help, a cry for an ever present reminder that I. Just. Can't. Do. It. But God can.
"God I am at the end of myself. This is hard and I don't know what I am doing. Surely I am doing more harm than good even though I've tried so very hard to be the best. Only Your love can redeem this mess that I've made. Please let me love her with Your love."
I love the Phil Wickman "Amazing Grace" line,
"Who makes the orphan a son or daughter? The King of Glory. The King above all Kings. This is amazing grace...."
I thought we had witnessed that already when we signed the dotted line in China, giving a scared little Chinese girl our last name. But I've come to realize that shared last names do not guarantee love. As my attempts at loving her as my daughter have fallen short, a new prayer has been added to my morning ritual,
"God, thank you for loving me as Your daughter. Please help me love her as my daughter. Only YOUR love can."
My amazing friends and family ask me "how are you doing?" And I've jokingly answered how our bar has been lowered- if everyone has been mostly fed, we're good! Or if we all show up with shoes on, we're doing ok! But really, I'm not doing ok. I've watched my best efforts at being a mother, being an adoptive parent, being a Christian crumble before my eyes. I am at the end of myself. And strangely, it seems that that is where God wants me. At the end of myself leaves plenty of room for God's love to work. And really, that's better than my best efforts any day. So, if you ask, I am not ok. This is the hardest thing I've ever done and I feel like daily I screw everything up. But I know that that is ok, because only God's love can truly bear, believe, hope, and endure all that life has to throw at it. The bar has been dropped- not just lowered- and the freedom of allowing God to move is absolutely amazing.