Tag Archives: the other story

Imagining a Different Kingdom

This past week, I devoted a few hours to reading a Year-in-Review special magazine edition. I tend to love end of the year things, but this time the evidence of oppression in 2013 seemed to shout at me from the page: chemical warfare in Syria, the Boston Marathon bombing, three women imprisoned in a suburban house for a decade, a boy in a hoodie shot and killed as if it were his destiny, the high rate of sexual assault in the military, a song dripping with unapologetic misogyny being the big hit of the summer. The bad news in one day is fairly easy to dismiss, most of the time, especially because we’re so used to it. The bad news of a year, though? That makes everything go quiet in my head; makes hope seem utterly ridiculous.

Nelson Mandela died, and it seemed fitting for someone who chased after wild dreams, moving far beyond expectation, to pass on during a season of hope. The first anniversary of the shootings at Newtown fell during this season; it too seemed fitting. I drove around town with my two younger children buckled into their seats, listening to the remembrances on the radio, weeping for little AvielleAna Grace, and Dylan, for the unknown stories, for their brave parents. The world is still waiting, still groaning under a heavy weight.

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Yesterday we sang a hymn called Canticle of the Turning; one of many that I’ve never heard before. I’m most familiar with the hymns that speak of longing for heaven, and they are beautiful. But there’s a whole other kind of hymn: the kind that longs for justice in the here and now. This kind you sing with a shaky voice, if you can stand to sing the words at all:

From the halls of power to the fortress tower,

not a stone will be left on stone.

Let the king beware for your justice tears

every tyrant from his throne.

The hungry poor shall weep no more,

for the food they can never earn;

There are tables spread, every mouth be fed,

for the world is about to turn.

Though the nations rage from age to age,

we remember who holds us fast:

God’s mercy must deliver us

from the conqueror’s crushing grasp

This saving word that our forbears heard

is the promise which holds us bound,

‘Til the spear and rod can be crushed by God,

who is turning the world around.

When you press your ear to the ground, you hear all sorts of things.

Shane Claiborne speaks of the prophets who “invited people to dream of the world as it could be and not just accept the world as it is.” He turns guns into farm tools, even though there’s nothing much more valuable to self-protection than a gun; even though there is nothing much less valuable to immediacy than planting seeds. He imagines a different kingdom.

Greg Boyd does, too. He contrasts the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world in his book The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the ChurchIt’s an uncomfortable book, to say the least, even though I agree with most of what he says, because to believe these things and to act like I do are two different things. He writes:

The kingdom of the world is intrinsically tribal in nature, and is heavily invested in defending, if not advancing, one’s own people-group, one’s nation, one’s ethnicity, one’s state, one’s religion, one’s ideologies, or one’s political agendas. That is why it is a kingdom characterized by perpetual conflict. The kingdom of God, however, is intrinsically universal, for it is centered on simply loving as God loves. It is centered on people living for the sole purpose of replicating the love of Jesus Christ to all people at all times in all places without condition. (p. 47, Kindle edition.)

Some days this feels like nothing but imagination. Some days I have to face that it might just be. Then I hear Ana Grace’s mother Nelba speak of how she lit 28 candles to remember the dead (not 26, not even 27) and how she refuses to use words like monster to describe Adam Lanza, instead extending humanity to him. I think of how Nadia Bolz-Weber’s husband said to her that “every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.”

There is unfathomable light, in the here and now. Maybe it’s true; maybe God is turning the world around. I don’t always see it, but I hope it’s true.

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two stories

I wrote this in September of 2012, when our daughter was four months old and in the thick of a difficult, sensitive stage. It was new ground for all of us, and I found myself struggling not only with her specific needs but also with being a parent of three children (two of them eighteen months apart…challenging after a four-year gap between the first two). Since then, the “other story” has continued to manifest itself in beautiful and surprising ways, and I’m so grateful to have recorded some of the hard things so we can remember the journey as it continues. I’m re-posting it here in honor of National Adoption Awareness Month. No two adoption stories are the same, but here is a part of ours.

Open your eyes to the bigger story.

Because there are always two stories. There’s the one that is right in front of your face. The one that seems inevitable. The one you don’t have to try very hard to see.

The other story hides: under a crying, scrunched up face, under your heavy sighs as you bounce and rock, under the way you try to not feel anything because you’re getting bone-tired weary of the rollercoaster. This is never-ending, you think in those moments.

But it’s not. It will pass. See how she smiles when she’s on her tummy, reaches her hands out to bright, colorful objects, stares at the turquoise wall you painted together a few weeks before she came? Things do change, but it’s so slow that you can’t see it until afterward.

So look back, and see. Remember when she slept twenty hours a day, and you had to wake her up to eat? When she was never happy, never calm, unless she was asleep? And now she smiles at people. You play with her, for goodness’ sake! She doesn’t awake with a start, not every time. Remember when Silas was always in her face, and you had to guard her from his curious, not quite gentle ways? Look at him now, how he pats her on the back and brings her bottle.

There is a hole in your heart, and so you feel it. You’re grieving the loss of things that every baby and every mother should experience, in a perfect world. It aches to think about that, but there it is. The stubborn, lingering rescue fantasy is rightly breaking. There is a redemption story here, but it’s mixed in with unfamiliar emotions you’re struggling to name.

It’s not any of the stories that swirled around in your mind before. It’s so real, so right now that you kind of want to sabotage it because it’s scary as hell. Every day you have to lay down that fear, or it will eat you alive. You didn’t know what a mirror this would be, but here it is. 

Right now, this story is mostly about humility, and accepting help, and family. You don’t do this on your own; neither does she. It’s a story about burdens, and dividing the load. It’s a story about a different kind of love, and it will be a story about more than that, too. We have much to learn.

So don’t worry about things like bonding and visits and all the what-ifs. Just do the little things. Maybe she’ll eat some banana again today, perhaps not cry when you do floor play time. Maybe you’ll bite your tongue and count to ten when Silas is head-butting your legs while you make dinner. Maybe you’ll take time to just lay with him while he takes his nap, to kiss his unruly little head. Maybe you’ll listen carefully to Nicky while he talks about school, and maybe you’ll notice again how Ricky’s coming into his own as a father in a whole new way and smile with gratefulness for all of it.

These are the little things that make up a bigger story.

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