I long for her to know she is alive... I'm certain she wouldn't believe it. When Rachel's Mama left her at the bus station right in front of the orphanage gates, her little girl was dying. They had obviously done all they thought they could do to save her life and were out of options, and so, out of desperation, were leaving her for the help they could not give. Open heart surgery shortly after her birth would have been a temporary fix and there is no doubt they knew so. I don't pretend to know what a Mama is thinking when she abandons her baby beside the road... I also have no intention of romanticizing a story where she is a hero and her actions are driven only by overwhelming love and selflessness. The truth is that her actions, no matter the reasons, flow from a terrible brokenness- both personally and culturally. While leaving your dying baby as an orphan might ultimately save her life, the long term effects of that decision will never be erased.
I see it in the way Rachel silently hurts. The way she runs away from memories and tries to convince herself that all is well that ends well. There is a brokenness deep inside Rachel's physically broken heart that is almost palpable if you choose to get close enough. We spent the first few years of Rachel's time in our family so focused on the physical healing of her heart that we completely missed the emotional void that was a gaping hole in her heart.
I saw it in the faces of the children there this week. The ones who are still waiting. The ones who wonder if their time will ever come. I can hardly breathe when I think about their futures without hope, without love and someone that cares if they live or die. I saw Rachel in their eyes and I understood her in a way I don't think I have before. I was there to find answers for Rachel about her past. Instead, the Lord reminded me the devastating effects of that past and the very present heart-breaking reality for so many others that still wait.
I stood and looked through nursery windows where the only thing between me and a newborn crying baby was a piece of glass. This infant had obviously just come into the orphanage because she did not yet know that crying would not help or bring the Mama's love she desperately needed. I cried with her. I was staring the sin of the world directly in the face and realizing the devastating effects that sin has on the weakest among us. I was reminded, as I counted the number of babies filling the cribs in this one nursery, why God's Word says that true religion (an expression of who He is) is seen best when we care about these broken souls and are willing to lay our lives aside to do something about it!
We went from room to room snapping photos and videos, in hopes of finding someone- anyone- who might be moved to make a difference in their lives through the redemption of adoption... Then suddenly I saw through my camera lens a precious child with a sweatshirt on with words that took my breath away. Three little words....
In that instant I knew why I was there- I have spent the majority of my life living it for myself. I suspect that's what the people that surround me every day are doing too! How else do I explain the 147 million children just like the one wearing this sweatshirt, that waste away without hope, while the world, and God's people, do nothing about it! That's it.... Just Live. Your. Life. - Make it as comfortable and profitable as possible and forget that the very least of these are wasting away behind the four walls of orphanages around the world. And all the while we are missing God and don't even know it!
I wanted one thing when I arrived. I wanted Rachel's birth mother to know that she is alive. I wanted her to know that she lives with an overwhelming joy and a hope in the promises of Jesus Christ that even a new heart can not give her. I wanted her to know that her attempts to save her daughter's life were successful. But I walked away from the orphanage on Thursday conflicted. I felt angry. I am struggling to embrace a woman who would walk away from her baby girl and allow her to experience the horrors and hopelessness behind the very walls that might extend her life. Rachel entered that orphanage bearing the scars from a lifesaving surgery and she left there, seven years later, with an unseen emotional scar- this one so much deeper than a physical one could ever leave.
We taped posters to the bus station posts so that every bus rider could see the face of our little girl- both the day she was left there and now a glowing photo of her today! I do pray her Mama sees it and might know. I pray even more that her Mama might come to know Jesus and the relationship that was broken by her choices on March 19, 2005 might be fully restored and enjoyed for all eternity. But today, as I write from the train as we leave the Shanghai station bound for my newest daughter, I want desperately to NOT forget!
I refuse to leave Rachel's orphanage and the desperate lives behind those walls and move on as if I have not seen. I am haunted by the longing eyes I looked into and the hands I held for a few short moments. They are a picture of my own daughters and I want to remember them when I tuck mine into bed at night and hold them when they are sick or hurting. I refuse to just Live My Life as if I have not seen... As if I do not know.
CS Lewis said "God whispers to us in our pleasure, but He shouts to us in our pain."
If we have ears to hear, I believe that God often chooses to shout to us through the pain of others too. He is honored when we linger long enough to listen and hear His words echo through our selfish souls.
The sweatshirt got it partly right... "Live Your Life", it says.
And God's words shout louder... "Live Your Life... For ME!" I am moved to do more in His name!
Our train is pulling into the station. We are just outside the city of Jinan where my newest daughter is waiting. I am nervous and I can feel my flesh struggling to let the parts of my life that still cling to comfort and ease tell me that this is a crazy idea. Then I remember the lessons from just days ago, and I am grateful for another opportunity to Live For HIM even more! I am too experienced to think this journey will be easy, but experienced enough to know that it will ultimately lead to greater JOY. May He be glorified and honored as I step out for one more in His name.