Tonight at Bible study, I was sharing with a dear friend who is waiting (as patiently as one can wait) to bring home a son from Ethiopia. It blesses me to see her want to absorb anything she can to prepare to bring home her long awaited for child, and tonight we were talking about how the transformation of orphan to being a loved child doesn't happen over night. I thought brining home a 1 year old would be quite different--I mean, he was too little to know he was an orphan...right? Boy was I wrong.
I will never forget the weeks of night terrors, changing bassinet sheeting in the middle of the night from drenching sweats or his having to touch my cheeks throughout the night for fear I might go away. I remember the months of wondering how long it might last--and although we've been home almost 2 years, there are still times I have to be sensitive where unfamiliarities are involved that quickly trigger fears or panic in my sweet boys spirit. I have seen leaps and bonds of growth and truly--I know he now FEELS like a son although I have felt he was mine from the day I saw his picture.
I held back tears tonight as I read the children "The Velveteen Rabbit...remembering how this transformation was NOT easy for any of us:
“What is REAL?" asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day... "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept."
"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.” [Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit]
Now--what struck me as I read this tonight is that the Skin Horse told the Velveteen Rabbit this truth that he would and could become real (a beloved son in our case). He would hope for this. He would dream of this. BUT--when it finally happened...he wasn't too sure...
That night, and for many nights after, the Velveteen Rabbit slept in the Boy's bed. At first he found it rather uncomfortable, for the Boy hugged him very tight, and sometimes he rolled over on him, and sometimes he pushed him so far under the pillow that the Rabbit could scarcely breathe. And he missed, too, those long moonlight hours in the nursery, when all the house was silent, and his talks with the Skin Horse."
I'm not sure I even remember ever reading this part of the story until now. And it struck a cord with me tonight remembering how at first--our sweet son wasn't sure about being loved. I would rock him, and he would push me away. I'd sing sweetly to him, and he'd laugh and slap me over and over in the face. I'd take his hand and softly rub it on my cheek and say "gentle" over and over and over. Many times, I too, wanted to cry. Because this kind of love wasn't something I was used to. Loving some one who wasn't sure he even wanted to be loved by another person who for all he knew might leave him. Just as the Rabbit missed the Skin Horse--our children may come to us and miss even the orphanage--and the hugs, the songs, the little kisses on the cheek and whispers of "I love you" are just too much and uncomfortable at first.
But as time goes on in this story--Rabbit grows to like being loved. And in his being loved--Rabbit feels alive...and REAL. He was "so happy that he never noticed how his beautiful velveteen fur was getting shabbier and shabbier, and his tail coming unsewn, and all the pink rubbed off his nowise where the boy had kissed him."
As I read tonight--I realized that Isaac wasn't the only transformed in this process. I, too, felt my fur getting rubbed off and as if maybe I was getting shabbier and shabbier. Our lives all of the sudden stopped and I realized that my new son not only needed me to slow down to connect with him--but so did my biological children too. I struggled with what the rest of the world thought--did others look in during those difficult first months and think we were crazy? And yes--maybe we are--because we actually want to do this all over again. Because in the process of seeing the Lord transform an orphan to a son--He transformed us. He showed us what really matters in this world, and in this process we have let many things go and held dear to others that now we realize are most important.
He has used this transformation process to make us REAL too...and there is beautiful fruit from any shabbiness you might see in my life. If you are in the wait or newly home with your child...or even just in the thick of the beautiful, yet hard transformation from orphan to child--know you are not alone. He will give you strength. And all the hard work in loving this child will forever be worth it.
Blessings to you from Created for Care. Praying for you as you follow Him in the journey.