The day before it happened, I received an email with a good word from God. In it, the sender let me know he’d received a vision of me speaking to a group of people—slender, poised and smiling. It was clear I was on a mission, he said, and as soon as that vision appeared, this person heard God say He had plans to use me.
There was just one catch. I had to get rid of the unforgiveness in my heart.
Until then, I wasn’t really hearing His voice. Until then, I would believe Satan’s lies. I would minister out of my pain.
The next morning, Russ and I woke up to pictures of who we thought was our son. “Fat-full and happy,” the text read. We stayed in bed and giggled and touched the screen as if it were the next closest thing to actually caressing his face.
We spent the day putting together swings and strollers and finalizing things in the nursery. I packed the diaper bags and laid out his first nightie on the changing table. That night, we traveled to my parents’ so we could borrow their car on the trip to get him the next day. The closest phrase I can use to describe that day was deep-soul peace.
At least, until that evening.
The call came after Russ went outside with dad to find the carseat latches in the seats. I looked at my mom and she clutched her hands together, sticking them in between her legs. Right before I answered, I looked at her and whispered this makes me nervous. She widened her eyes, echoing my anxiety, and bounced her feet against the carpet.
I toyed with the hem of my shirt as I listened to the voice on the other end.
“Elora, I’ve been thinking and praying and wondering all day and I just gotta…I just gotta say. I think I was scared.” The birth mom’s voice halted and skipped and my heart crashed along side the breaks. This wasn’t her calling to tell us just to come. This wasn’t good news. I knew that as soon as I heard her voice.
And then she paused and I heard her smile. “Please don’t hate me. Please. Please don’t hate me. But…I’m keeping him.”
I swallowed to keep from screaming. I placed my hand on my chest, as if pressing in would stop the pain, and my mom caught the shallow breathing and got up from her seat across the room and sat down next to me, grabbing my hand in hers.
“How can I hate you?” I asked, more for my own benefit then her, really. I heard the front door open and my dad and Russ burst through the hallway laughing. I’ll remember that moment forever. Two knowing, and two having no idea.
Things are a blur after that, but I remember staying on the phone for an excruciating amount of time as my mom got up and pulled my dad into the kitchen. She started crying. Russ leaned his hands against the counter and dropped his head. I kept thinking, “how could I hate her? How do I respond to this? How does one make it through this type of news? And twice?”
I wanted nothing more than to shatter into a million pieces, each broken bit screaming my discontent. I wanted to thrash. I wanted to punch things. I wanted to curl into a ball and weep. I wanted so many things but knew nothing of what I needed.
Instead, I hung up the phone and stared at my feet, He gives good gifts He gives good gifts echoing through my mind like some harsh joke. My mom came and sat next to me, pulling me into her embrace. I lost it. Holding on to Russ with my other hand, I let the tears fall, hoping some how, some way, they would wash away the past year.
When we got home, we threw the baby things in the closet-made-nursery-now-closet-again. Russ pulled me close to him as we went to bed and I thought of the last twelve hours. Of how we can wake up with the world beginning and fall asleep with it crashing around us.
I never fell asleep that night.
It’s been a month since the world fell out from beneath us. A week after our adoption fell through, Russ was passed over for a promotion he deserved at work. We just need one win, God. I wrote in my journal. Just one win.
We went back to the beach this past week. There’s nothing more healing than for me to sit on the shores of Mama Ocean, and Russ knows this, so we pinched and pulled until we were able to manage a few nights in a small coastal town a few hours away. We went last summer and as we drove into town, it looked as if the year had been just as harsh to the surroundings as it had been on us. Broken down buildings. Closed up restaurants. Bent and collapsed piers.
All pressed up against the bay. Calm. Waiting. I stared out into the horizon, trying to find where the sky met the water. The lines were all a blur. I thought about our seventh year of marriage, how it was supposed to be the year of jubilee, how at the beginning it held such hope and promise and excitement and now all those lines were a blur in my past, pressed up against a whole lot of brokenness and disappointment.
But there had to be a beginning somewhere, right? At some point, one line ends and another takes its place?
It wasn’t until our last night there I felt the swift touch of the One who a little over a year ago asked will you just let Me father you? For the majority of the past month, I’d heard a lot of silence coming from His side of things. And I knew enough about Him to know that didn’t necessarily mean disapproval, but it still made me wonder. It still made me ache.
We were on a sunset cruise. The captain raced across the bay, the winds making the waves choppy and our muscles taut as we hung on to the railings. And then, he stopped. Just like that, we were wind-whipped and in awe of the silence. To our left was an island full of birds and to our right, the big red ball in the sky dipping low to kiss the shore.
I was reminded then of the Silence. A month ago, I scratched in my journal how the hell is this Fathering? How am I supposed to hear You now? What the fuck, God? Am I supposed to get up after this? Am I supposed to trust you after this? I felt wind-whipped. I felt bruised and battered and broken. And I was so, so tired of holding on for dear life.
In those moments after the birth mom called me, I remembered the email I received the day before and wondered if this was what it meant. I wondered if it was true. I wondered if the second broken placement was a penance of some sort for the unforgiveness I held on to, for the ways I’ve placed boundaries around my heart, for the moments I’ve refused to talk with people for fear of manipulation. I whispered then, the tears falling fast and hot on the pages, “is this my fault?”
I felt Him then. It was a quick caress of the cheek. It was a turning of my head to find His gaze. It was those hands finding my own and gripping tight.
“I’m here and I hear. I’ve been here. I’ve been sitting beside you, weeping with you. This—everything you’ve experienced—it’s not you. And it’s not My heart for you. I know you don’t understand and that’s okay. I’m angry too. And I’m here. Even in the silence, I sit with you.”
And as I watched the sun dip low this past week, I felt Him brush up beside me as my heart thudded to a halt. Birds sang and flew all around me. The water resonated with the pink-orange glow of the horizon. And there, straight ahead and right underneath the sunset, was the line separating the end of the bay and the beginning of the night sky.
It was almost as if I could see His smile.
I’m not enough of a theologian to put this past month into a perspective that’s clean enough to wrap these words into a clever point. But I know there’s something to believing lies and ministering out of pain and living with unforgiveness. I know now that no one really knows my heart—not really. No one has the ability to step in and speak into what I have or have not forgiven. And if I do speak, I still want it to be holy and broken. I want to find this pain and minster out of it because it’s through His own broken body we find our healing. I pray that in moments of human frailty, I’ll remember Who sits with us in the silence, when words fail and our hearts are breaking in a million pieces. I may not have all the answers. But I know He can take our weakness. I know He can hold our brokenness and our anger and the questions of “how could I hate her?” and “how the fuck am I supposed to get through this?”
Because the One who drew in the sand and caused the thud of grace to echo in fallen stones will somehow point us to the line in the horizon where we’re able to see the hint of a beginning.
And when our child comes home, whenever it happens, we can point back to these moments of confusion and pain and breathless anticipation and whisper, “see? It was always you. Always.”