I've always been kind of a nerd about dates. I just like them. Whenever something feels very important, I instantly commit the date to memory, as to preserve it always.
That's why I remember that 7 years ago today, I flew home from Haiti from a medical mission trip for the 2nd time.
The trip was powerful and humbling, as mission trips always are. But I don't remember the day I came home from the first trip: even though that day the pilot required us all to exit the plane and manually push the wing to turn us around on the very tight dirt-lined runway. That left an impression, to be sure, but not the memorize-the-date kind of impression.
But the reason I remember the day we came home from the 2nd trip is because THAT day, 10/18/05, God answered the prayer that I had been praying since I was a very small girl.
I remember a couple months before, growing a little discouraged with life in general, and thinking about pulling out of the trip. Which is why it's so important to have friends in our lives who love God and love us. Friends like A and B, who said "oh no, you're going. And we're going to pick you up and bring you to the next meeting."
And so I went.
There were a lot of things I was prepared for this time around. Like the smell of burning garbage, the overwhelming poverty, the increased sense of spiritual darkness, and the rapt joy of singing hymns in two different languages in a sweaty hut with no walls.
I was prepared for the beautiful children. Like Rocky Pablo who must be about 12 years old by now. That's crazy.
What I wasn't prepared for was to fall in love. But that's what I did.
I knew JT already in a limited fashion. He had joined the church I grew up in a few months before, and had then started attending our young adult's bible study, and had been surfing and playing volleyball with my group of friends since then.
I'm not going to lie, he caught my attention from the start. But I figured him to be way out of my league. What with him being completely gorgeous and- something I had never been attracted to before- NICE.
But throughout the trip, I seemed to be completely off his radar. I couldn't help but notice how physically affectionate he was with everyone but me. How he barely seemed to notice me, even though I had a hard time noticing anyone else.
But it wasn't until our last night there that I realized how terribly distracted and frustrated I had become with it all.
I decided it was time for me to get away, on my own with God. To pour my heart out to Him, and let it go.
I found myself in Ezekiel 16. We had been studying the book of Ezekiel in our bible study, and there was a particular part that had stuck out to me since we read it:
"on the day you were born, your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in swaddling clothes. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you; but you were cast out on the open field; for you were abhorred on the day that you were born. And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood: 'Live!'" v4-6
He said to me when I was in my blood: "Live!"
I remembered when He said it to me. I was 6 years old. Deeply loved by my earthly family, but floundering around in that field, covered in my own blood; helpless to my own sin and the death inside of my heart. I remembered the life that came into me when He said "Live!"
"But I just want him to know me, God." I said through my tears to God that night in Haiti. And He came to me, wrapped His arms around me, said: "I want to know you."
I went to bed in peace that night. Loved. Cleaned up and wrapped in warm clothes and knowing that if no one else ever really knew me, it was more than enough to be known by God.
The next day we boarded the plane to go home. JT was the last one on the plane, because that's JT. I'm sure he was holding the door and helping everyone up the stairs. And the only seat left was next to me.
We talked the whole way home. And I still remember the way that oval plane window blurred through my tears as we were making our descent when he said "thanks for talking to me today. I really want to know you."
And so I committed this day, October 18th, to heart, because it matters. Not just because 7 years ago today I fell in love with the man who was and is everything I had ever dreamed of. But because 7 years ago today God reminded me how much He loved me, by giving that man just the right words to say.
Those verses in Ezekiel have been on my heart again lately, as I seek daily to point my children to Christ's redemptive love.
I am struggling a bit to find a balance, particularly with my older son who is so perceptive and thoughtful. Since the birth of each of my sons I have studied the love of God as a Father and as a Mother. I love the definition I heard of El-Shaddai: "The Breasty One", particularly in having infants and toddlers who have been at times difficult to console, but have always found their greatest comfort through nursing.
It is so important to me, though I know in my humanity I will ultimately fail them, to set them up as best as possible to be able to depend upon God.
It's the reason why I've never been into cry-it-out-alone-in-their-beds. It seems so western. Teaching "self-soothing" and "independence". We were made for relationship. Made for dependence. Made to seek out the solace of another bigger Parent in the darkest night.
It's why my desire is to model God's unconditional Love and Patience and to rid myself of my own selfish ambitions in approaching motherhood. Recognizing my own sinful flesh which can be even more powerful than my childrens'.
But there is a new dimension as my children grow older and increase in understanding, and I struggle to find the balance in pointing them to their need for a Savior. Aquaman is a deep thinker, and I'm so glad he is able to verbalize so many of his thoughts, but I can already percieve his sense of shame in regards to his imperfections: his sin. Even at only the slightest correction.
Maybe it isn't such an issue with every child, but understanding his nature as being much like mine, there is a big part of me that celebrates those feelings of inadequacy and general bad-ness. But I can also see how easily it could tip the scales too far. After being corrected a few days ago, he cried inconsolably and said "I just don't want you to still be mad at me the NEXT day."
As if I even could. As if I could be mad at him for longer than 5 rotten minutes before he melts my heart again. As if, really, I was even mad at HIM in the first place.
So I guess it's the age old question. How do I demonstrate to my son that God hates the sin, but loves the sinner? I'm afraid he'll give up, get discouraged, deem himself unworthy.
I'm glad it's not all up to me. I take so much comfort that even if his cord had never been cut by his excited Daddy, even if those nurses had never bathed him and wrapped him in blankets, and even if I had not looked in pity at that red little face and offered him the comfort given by El-Shaddai; God would have been there. He would have said to him: "Live!"
I know He's saying that to him even now.
And I'm so looking forward to watching him come to Life.