an eternal weight of glory

an eternal weight of glory: the worst foster mom ever \\ sarahsandel.com A month ago a little creature walked through my door, in too-big shoes, her hair wild, her eyes anxious. A case worker followed her in and unloaded a cardboard box, two garbage bags and a glittery purple tote of clothes, paperwork, diapers, odds and ends. A wee banshee just over one year, wide-legged stance, set of lungs like you’ve never encountered, here to stay with us until further notice.

This was not in the plan.

After months of prayer and consideration, my husband and I had decided to pursue adoption again. Though we’d considered foster care in the past, we’d decided it wasn’t where God was calling us, so we’d cautiously begun taking steps towards adoption. I’d begun researching agencies, gathering information, plotting out application processes. We were holding loosely to the idea of a second child and tightly to Jesus. You learn to do this when you’ve lost four children in a broken womb.

On Maundy Thursday, the night Jesus broke bread and poured wine and explained to His followers the heart of eucharisteo, Cam and I had done similarly: we’d worshiped in silence, we’d broken bread, we’d discussed what being broken and poured out would look like for our family. We’d sensed God lifting a veil of silence that had lain quietly, gently over us for months. We were approaching Easter with its air of earnest expectation with our own sense of expectation. God was about to move. There was life coming. The dead of winter was going to give way to sweet-smelling blooms and new life and I just knew we were about to get that deep, deep breath we needed and longed for. Because King Jesus is about reversing the values of this world and about working resurrection life in and through His children, right?

But although His silence to me in recent months had not been unkind, it was not the death I thought it was.

I have told Jesus I want Him to have His way in me. I have told Him I want to know Christ, to share in His suffering, to be conformed to His death. In my better moments, I have asked Him to make me still and small by whatever means.

And I have died a million deaths this spring, as He has done His work in me.

I thought that being still and small was going to be about peace and quiet, about having a sweet contentedness in my home and family. But still and small as defined by my King has meant a daily crushing of my pride, my sense of self, my capability. I have never felt so small as I have in this past month. I have never felt so stilled – so afflicted – so incapable and weary as I have in the last four weeks.

This is not some noble confession of “I can’t, but Christ can”, though that is a true statement.

This is an angst-ridden, tear-stained, short-of-breath pleading: Jesus, are you really producing an eternal weight of glory? Is this a light and momentary affliction? Because it feels much more than that. It feels much harder than that. You have taken me out of silence and into the crushing weight of Your sanctification and You have caused me to work so far outside my comfort zone I can hardly breathe.

I find myself asking if it’s really God at work or if the daily death is the result of an inability to listen. I find myself asking why friends I adore are not crushed under the same weight and question my worth, my value…how is it that I would be so small?

I have found nothing in me that is capable of working for the Lord. Nothing in me capable of accomplishing the daily tasks required of being a foster parent. And if there is nothing in me with such capability, then there can only be one Person at work: a Holy God, intent upon moving in and through my utterly broken, utterly ridiculous, completely small self, despite my great flaws and inabilities.

I have a hard time seeing this as a noble work, as a calling. We have friends who do labor similarly, under a strong compelling from the Lord, who are filled with a holy compassion for foster care. And it is a baffling thing to me that the same God who calls others to this work has assigned it to us as well. We are not equipped or compelled. And yet it has become our obedience of faith in this season. An obedience of faith that has required us to sacrifice things we do feel called to and gifted to do, in exchange for this great unknown, this “light affliction”.

This momentary, light affliction is producing an eternal weight of glory. It must be, it must be – or the work cannot even be done. We look not at what is seen (my inability, my weakness, my daily shortness-of-breath,), but at what is unseen (it is always a godly option to love those in need, we know we are being about the Father’s business, that this is the “fellowship of suffering” we have asked for).

If Christ is about my holiness, I can think of no better way for Him to work that in my life than by this daily crushing. I confess I thought it would be different. I feel at times as though He tricked me into obeying by appealing to my sense of justice and righteousness, though I know He is no trickster. The years of life I have lived with Indwelling Love do not allow me to wonder if He is at work or if He will accomplish His work in me – I have seen and known Him to be faithful and kind, true to His word and compassionate in my weakness. And in these days, I find Him to be present in this obedience by virtue of the fact that I have not actually failed miserably to love and provide for this tiny extra person in our home indefinitely, though I feel like I am easily the worst at this. The worst.

I struggle to hear those who speak with the excitement and conviction of people being refreshed and called to great things in the Lord. Those who are the recipients of new life and new graces that are physically and spiritually refreshing to them. I am envious of that lightness of being, for those whose winter gave way to spring. This is not the story God is writing for us in these days. I cannot speak to some refreshing sense of new life right now. Here there is only the quotidian mystery of God’s mercy, supplied daily towards the faithful completion of this obedience.

Perhaps you have been here? No great revelation, no great sense of joy. Just the terrible, quiet burden of obedience toward the daily tasks and the current calling. The fight to believe that you are being about the Father’s business, when all temporal signs indicate nothing is happening. The weariness of sharing in His sufferings in ways you had not anticipated, with simply a long wait before you. The desire of your heart being deferred over and again, for reasons the Father does not choose to reveal.

Just know that it’s okay. It is okay if someone else's life-giving calling is your daily dying to self. It is okay if what brings another person joy seems to be to you simply an exercise of obedience. It is okay if what God asks you to do seems ill-fitting. You can still do it. And I’m with you – being pressed under the weight of glory being worked out in the unseen and eternal. Waiting, Job-like, to see the hand of God move again, to tremble when His voice thunders through the mountains again, to burn when His mighty fire rushes past. Waiting to weep with relief when the still, small voice says, Well done. Now, go rest.

 

"Behold, I go forward but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns on the right, I cannot see Him. "But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. "My foot has held fast to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside. "I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. "But He is unique and who can turn Him? And what His soul desires, that He does. "For He performs what is appointed for me, And many such decrees are with Him. "Therefore, I would be dismayed at His presence; When I consider, I am terrified of Him. "It is God who has made my heart faint, And the Almighty who has dismayed me, But I am not silenced by the darkness, Nor deep gloom which covers me…”

- Job 23:8-17