One Last Good-Bye
For most of us, the goal of our lives is to limit our own suffering. We avoid going to the places we know it to be. When it crosses our line of sight, we close our eyes until it passes. We live in self-fabricated protection from the harsh realities others are face on a daily basis.
Sometimes we even distract ourselves by engaging a silly conflict between a rich television station and a rich old man with a long beard.
Maybe our blindness would be okay, if everyone possessed the resources to avoid the hardness as well. But for some, it is unavoidable.
As Virginia Woolf put it in her novel, To the Lighthouse (affiliate link):
How could any Lord have made this world? she asked. With her mind she had always seized the fact that there is no reason, order, justice: but suffering, death, the poor. There was no treachery too base for the world to commit; she knew that. No happiness lasted, she knew that.
On Thursday, I stepped into the suffering. It wasn’t much. Like a walk along the beach with bare feet, I hardly felt the coldness of the water before the waves receded. I certainly didn’t touch the bottom of the sea. I can’t begin to fathom its depths.
I was only in the suffering but a second, but I will never forget it.
On Thursday we had the privilege of visiting the orphanage. We saw the good people are doing for children whose needs are great. We saw children learning to read and write. We saw children, who had been abandoned, being held and loved.
Every time we bumped into one of the workers, their eyes opened wide with delight when they saw our son, Sean. Women screamed with delight. They covered him with hugs, swallowing him with the love of their arms. He always grinned sheepishly, like 13 year old boys do. Perhaps embarrassed in front of his new mother and father and brother.
At the end, we were able to visit Sean’s foster mother. It was evident by her reaction that she never expected to see him again. No doubt she had said her good-byes on Monday, when he was brought to meet us. I can only imagine how many tears she has shed this week. Her Christmas day was spent in loss.
And then we saw her cry ourselves. We saw her heart break again. We watched her embrace him. I am certain she wished she could be his forever mother. But again, the hardness of life prevent this.
We sat on Sean’s old bed, already given to his little foster brother. We drank tea. We took pictures. We wiped away tears. We walked to Sean’s old school and watched children play in the yard.
The temperature outside was 18 degrees, but I hardly noticed. I could feel nothing but the joy and sorrow.
And then we walked back to the van. I kept watching her. I wished I had the ability to tell her how much we appreciate her in her own language. With my own lips. I wanted the moment to last as long as possible knowing I will probably never see this woman again. I wanted our lives to intersect again.
I looked back one more time, and she had disappeared. Perhaps the moment was too much for her. Perhaps she had gone inside to avoid having to say one last good-bye.
Just before we climbed into the van, she came running around the corner of the building carrying a bag of bread. She had apparently stopped to buy it from a street vendor on our walk back.
This woman who gives and gives and gives, wanted to give one more time to her son.
There are few things I know to be good in this life. There are few things I am absolutely certain about. But entering into the sadness, reaching out with a helping hand, giving more, I am certain this is good.
I understand Woolf’s cynicism in the quote above. I feel it often. But maybe the Lord has allowed the suffering and the death and the poor so that we could know what is truly good.
Maybe the darkness allows us understand why the light is so beautiful.
And maybe, the Lord allows the darkness, the suffering, the poor, so we can choose it, much like he did for us. Maybe this is how we begin to understand his love for us.
Maybe the suffering is there, so we can step into it. And maybe, just maybe, this is how the kingdom comes. In the hearts of foster moms and orphans. And in you and me.
I want to be more like this woman. I want to live with my eyes and my arms and my heart wide open. I want to hurt so bad that I stop to buy bread along the side of the road.
The greatest tragedy of our lives right now isn’t what Phil Robertson said. Nor is it how A&E responded.
The greatest tragedy of our lives is that we choose to ignore the suffering. We choose to ignore the poor. We choose to ignore the orphan. We choose to not love like this woman loves.
Sitting here in the dark, in the cold and the silence of the early morning in far western China, this is blowing me away.
To give Sean a permanent home. To give him a family. To give him food and clothes. To smile when he is happy. To hug him when he is sad. This is the least I can do for him. This is the least i can do for his birth parents. This is the least I can do for his foster mother.
Here are a few pictures from our day.
The entrance to the main orphanage in Urumqi.
This is a new building for the orphanage. We were very impressed by the facilities.
The orphanage grounds. As always, a cold winter day.
A physical therapy room in the orphanage.
Just a few of the people that have known Sean since he was a little baby. Just a few of the people who love him.
This is the home he has lived in for the last 5 years. To Noah’s right are his foster brother and his foster mother.
Sean’s school until Monday.
Sean with his families. His two foster brothers, his foster mother, his adoptive mother, brother, and father.
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