On Monday, Adam, Isaiah, and I went to Pittsburgh to visit a friend who was being treated for chemical burns at Mercy Hospital. Isaiah was well behaved (in spite of his sugar buzz induced by Darci :)) and waited patiently while we visited. We wanted to do something to make the day fun for him and since we have a Pittsburgh Zoo membership we decided we would swing over there after leaving the hospital. We knew the gates closed at 3 pm in the winter, but it was 2:40 we and only needed about 10 minutes to get there from where we were. We let Isaiah guess where we were taking him and his anticipation was building. He loves the zoo…and we love watching him enjoy life.
Then we hit construction in the middle of the city. Bad news. Our “quick trip” slowed down drastically and we anxiously watched each minute on the clock…
2:51 Do you think we can make it?
2:53 Is it possible to call and tell them we’re coming?
2:55 Dear, Lord, pleeeeeeease let them show us grace!
2:57 Isaiah, Daddy’s trying the best he can, but we might not get there in time.
A failed attempt at preparing our 3 year old for crushed expectations…
We race into the parking lot and Adam drops me off with my zoo pass in one hand and an excited little boy in the other.
Before we even get to the gate, I can see signs that I dread…
I see people ahead of us that had just squeaked through. I ask the kind-looking security guard, “Are we too late?!”
He nods and reminds me of what I already know. The gates are closed for the day.
Cue the sounds of sobs from my 3 year old and a Mama’s heart breaking in pieces.
As I’m trying to comfort my little boy, 2 women with a toddler come through the exit. Their response to my son’s crying?
“Aw, you can come back tomorrow!” (I cringe at the false hope given. We don’t live in the city and will not be driving back tomorrow.)
“All of the animals went to sleep anyway.” (Seriously, lady? He’s 3 but not completely gullible.)
“If you would have checked the website, you’d know that the gates close at 3.” (Oh, dear Lord, please help me practice self-control and keep my mouth shut.)
Adam brings the van back and gives me a look. Our sweet little boy was hurt, confused, and overwhelmed with disappointment…and we, as parents, felt completely and utterly helpless.
In the car we promised Isaiah that we’d find something else fun to do and he dozed off for a little nap. As we drove and I tried to shift my “Type A” mind to “go with the flow”, my thoughts immediately drifted to a very special couple 300 miles away.
Our dear friends began the process of adopting a baby boy from Ethiopia 2 years ago. During the course of the past 2 years, things have changed in Ethiopia and their adoption process has slowed down dramatically. In fact, while waiting for their referral and watching the numbers on the list, it feels like the adoption has come to a screeching halt. They’re still promised to receive their son some day…but that day could still be years away.
They love Jesus deeply, are passionate about adoption, and are so excited to be parents (and they’ll make amazing ones), but like Isaiah, their traffic delay has brought on…
They’ve watched others squeak through the gate and can see from a distance the joy on their faces. They’ve heard the unhelpful and unthoughtful comments from others who make light of their situation (even if unintentionally) because they don’t understand what it’s like to be in their uncomfortable shoes.
Similarly, I thought of the dad that I had just watched stand at his grown son’s hospital bedside. The helpless look in his eyes as he was powerless to take away the pain and damage done to his son’s body.
Here, however, is where my Isaiah analogy must end. You see, as an earthly mother, even though I cared for him and loved him deeply, I was powerless to change the situation. My hands were tied and I was helpless.
That causes us to ask…
Is our Heavenly Father the same? Where is God in all of this?
Doesn’t God care? Isn’t He fair? And if He is, then why doesn’t He fix it? Or can’t He?
Some people have chosen to believe, like Rabbi Kushner, the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, that “a kind-hearted God would stop anything bad from happening to us…if He only could” (from If God is Good… by Randy Alcorn). This is a popular belief that justifies evil and suffering by concluding that there are some things God simply can’t do or change. In my journey of healing after our baby’s death, there were times when the cup I was asked to drink may have been more comfortable to swallow if I could agree that though my Father was good and loving, He was powerless to change the situation…
But if that were true, what kind of God would He be?
Peter Kreeft wrote, “To be wholly trustable, a God must be both all-good and all-powerful. For if he is not all-good, he might deliberately do you harm, and if he is not all-powerful, he might accidentally do you harm.”
If my God is not an all-powerful God, how could He save me? This weak God is certainly not the God revealed in Scripture.
“God compared himself to both father and mother, and if you are his child he says his care for you is greater than anyone’s…God is surely loving, but we dare not attempt to purchase his love at the expense of his power. His attributes are not a menu for us to choose from but are each an essential part of his eternal being.” – Randy Alcorn
Do I believe that God could rush this adoption process and bring a child into my friend’s home today? Of course. Do I trust that He is powerful enough to open her womb with just a word? Absolutely. Do I question His goodness or might just because He’s choosing not to do so right now? Maybe a year ago I would have. But I’ve been down that road…and it led me to an even greater confidence in His sovereignty, power, and unconditional love for me.
After leaving the zoo, Adam and I decided to take Isaiah to Chuck E. Cheese…a gift that he would have missed out on if we had gone only to the zoo. He had a blast…and we loved watching him enjoy life. My mind went to these verses…
“Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much ore will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:9-11
As we walked to the door to leave Chuck E. Cheese (prizes in hand), we noticed that it had been raining the whole time we were there (not exactly great zoo conditions).
Coming out the door we looked up and saw this…
A full rainbow contrasted by a dark sky. A reminder to me of my Father’s power and promise to allow and ordain my darkness, hurt, confusion, and disappointment and turn it into beauty…if I trust Him…and open my eyes to see it.
“As the Heavens declare God’s glory in the absence of other light, so God shows himself against the backdrop of evil and suffering – if only we are willing to look…and to discover that seeing him is worth even the cold darkness.” – Randy Alcorn
We’ll go back to the zoo another day. Until then, we will continue to give good gifts, even in our imperfection, to our child along the way.
And I’m choosing to trust that God has beauty to show my friends while they walk through this dark delay…and may even have some good gifts for them in the process.
“Every time we ask God to remove some obstacle in our lives, we should realize we may be asking him to forgo one more opportunity to declare his greatness. Certainly he sometimes graciously answers our prayers to relieve our suffering,. This too testifies to his greatness, and we should praise him for answering. But when he answers no, we should recognize that he desires to demonstrate his greater glory. May we then bend our knees and trust his sovereign grace.” – Randy Alcorn