He was holding my hand and stroking it with his fingers the whole time I was telling him the story. When I finished, he said "I'm so glad you are my mommy" in a tender, quiet voice that made my eyes fill up. And then it all came flooding out of him.
"Mommy, sometimes I cry for all the kids in Africa who don't have mommies or daddies. Sometimes... about right now... I want to be a grown up so I can go to Africa and adopt as many kids as I can. But it's hard to adopt kids, right, mom? There are special papers you have to have and you have to go to court. Mommy, will you help me go to the court and sign all the papers to adopt the kids? ...Mommy, what if all the kids get adopted? How will I be able to adopt then? Will there still be kids who need families? I think there will. ...Maybe I can be President of Africa someday. Can I be President? If I can be President of Africa then maybe I can make sure all the kids have medicine they need and clean water to drink. Do you think I can do that, mommy?"
That's just a snapshot of the 25 minutes we spent talking together. Much of it was too precious and intimate to put on a blog. We both had tears running down our cheeks as we laid there with our arms wrapped around each other tightly, whispering the deepest longings of our hearts. An 8 year old and a 39 year old... completely bound together by Love, glimpsing each other's desires, hurts and dreams...tears falling over the injustice in this world and the ache to do something about it.
And I told him, not just with my mouth, but with all of the energy of my heart, "Yes, son. You can adopt kids. You can help these kids. And you don't have to wait until you are an adult." And immediately, I was smacked in the face with the reality of the challenges my son faces. I had just come out of an IEP meeting with his teachers earlier in the week where we had talked about all the learning challenges he faces due to his severe starvation during the formative years of the brain as well as the head trauma he suffered. Our hope is that he can read some day... that his brain will start to function in such a way that the pieces will fall together for him to make the necessary connections.
But, here is the reality - he IS making the truly necessary connections. He is making the connections that matter. His connection to compassion and to the very heartbeat of God is real and thriving and it WILL change the world. It already has. And THAT connection to compassion and love will take him places most of us adults would never dare go. I look at my son and I see years of sadness, struggle, abuse and pain turned into fuel for love and justice and compassion. I see how his precious heart has healed and is continuing to heal. I see in him a genuine and authentic desire to believe that he can, should, and will make a difference for suffering children in Africa. And I see that no matter what challenges he might have on paper, God's plans for my son are real and big and bold, as they are for all of our children.
It would serve us well to start looking past the challenges our children are faced with and truly SEE them for who they really are. That child who lashes out at you, that child who pushes your every button, that child who retreats in fear and anxiety, that child who suffers with disabilities, that child who just can't make friends for some reason, that child who struggles with unhealthy responses, that child who doesn't seem to be attaching to you, that child who by every standard of this world seems less than the others around them... SEE them for who they really are. See them for who they can become. See in them the gifts that are there.
As I was laying there next to T last night, dealing with an ocean of emotions, it struck me: This is the very thing God does for us. He looks past my perceived hindrances. He looks past my struggles with fear and doubt. He sees past all my insufficiency. And as my heart dares to whisper the question "Do you think I can?", his eyes light up and the corners of his mouth turn up and he leans in and whispers back - "Of course you can". He looks at all our junk and baggage and says "So what? Are you really going to let that stop you?". He's made all of us for great things... He has put love and desire and passion in our hearts for the very things that move his own. Tariku, at age 8 is paying attention to those things. I truly believe he sees the potential of what he can do more than he sees any impossibility. What if we adults lived more like that? What if we began to breathe that sort of attitude and life into our children?
Somebody once said that we can only give what we have. That leaves a very important question out there for me, as a parent. How do I give the belief to my children that they have been given power to not only dream, but to act on those dreams if I don't believe it for myself? I think I need to say this again because I can hear the virtual crickets from here. :)
How do we give the belief to our children that they have been given power to not only dream, but to act on those dreams if we don't believe it for ourselves?
At some point, our kids will begin to see the sham of us living shallow, fearful, unfulfilled lives while telling them they can do anything and that they have been set apart for a special purpose, and they will stop believing us.
This beautiful, important encounter with my son last night caused me to stop and catch my breath. At age 39 I've wanted to ask the same question of God that Tariku was asking of me... "Do you think I can?" But I've been afraid to ask it because I have been certain of the answer and it's terrifying to me. But it's time to stop being terrified and start being sure of the fact that "The One who calls us is faithful and HE WILL DO IT". The outcome isn't on me, but the obedience to dream, to try, to dare, to risk is. My 8 year old is ready and willing. It's time his mama jumped on board.