How do you even begin to have the capacity to respond and have anything to give to them?
They have nothing yet they laugh and sing under bright stars and night's sky, begging it to pour out rain and covering so crops can grow and endless thirst can be quenched. And then it happens, a great rescue. One drop, two drops and a downpour ensues. Sounds I'd never heard and will never forget, worship, chanting of dancing and gratitude around a campfire in a circle. He's faithful to bring the rain, in their darkest hour. Rains of hope and promise.
In the years and life that followed, that memory tucked away came back so quickly. The phone call that once again interrupted my comfortable pace. I see that number calling and I know what comes on the other side, a desperate plea to bring this little one in. She's so many months old, she needs some breathing treatments, can you take her? Yes of course we will take her.
I run around only to miss their school events, quickly cancel the afternoon's commitments, arrange carpools and rush home.
Lord Jesus be with me.
Holy Spirit fall heavy on this place.
What can I control? What can I organize and clean, gather, purchase?
Pour a cup of coffee and wait as the call comes to give word the police are going in for her, your yes gets her out of that house and out of that hell. Before I know it, that state department car is in my driveway. I see through the window there's more to the story, there always is. A tube running into her nostrils because she doesn't breathe on her own. Tanks of oxygen for reserve. A machine hooked up to her heart to sound off alarms when her little body doesn't work as it should. A worn 24 pack soda box packed full of her endless medications. An empty, old Cheetos sack holding filthy clothes. And a breathing treatment machine. I can smell her before she gets in the door. Neglect on a level my mind can't comprehend.
I can't get a deep breath in as I undress her and all I can say over and over is she's too small. I realize she came into this world too early but she's too small, her body tells a story too. Sign stacks of paper work and download an overload of information on medical equipment. I'm in over my head and I know it. I'm in over my head and I didn't agree to this.
She hardly cries, she can't take a bottle because a mouth doesn't work when it's rarely given the chance to practice and she drifts off to sleep. She knows well her cry gets her nowhere and sleep pacifies the hunger pains and passes the time. She's waiting to die, she's suffering in silence and it's made clear to her she is worth nothing. I sit in my living room and catch my breath.
And I heard it, the whisper of the Holy Spirit to take her to a hospital. Now. I make a few phone calls appearing foolish and irrational, overreactive and I fumble for the medical equipment company phone number, I need to untangle wires and tubes to reattach them to portable units and get her there. I don't even know her last name but I know she needs rescue. The waiting room is packed and the staff never sees them, they see us and they move fast. Their faces tell me what their ink is writing on charts. She's starving. Failure to thrive, unkept, uncared for, neglected and tossed aside. A swarm of nurses and doctors, asking questions, they're calm and swift. With every answer to a question, measurement, and exam, they move faster and with specificity. Hours have passed and her tiny body lays in a crib, silver bars going up and nurses hustling with monitors going off, IVs going in, blood being drawn, catheters, all extracting the information they must have so that she lives, because she will be here for a long time. A feeding tube goes in, dropped into a belly that hasn't been fed as it should.
I pace the room, make phone calls and demands. She will leave this place some day but it can't be with me. Lord Jesus I need a drop, no...I need a downpour. I need movement and breakthrough. I need a hope that's not a last resort but a true anchor of expectancy to carry me so I can carry her.
Child services, listen to me and listen well. She needs more than I can give her, she needs a brave foster mama who knows this world of tubes and wires running in and out of little bodies.
One drop. They find someone willing, she's brave and courageous. She comes forward, out of the foster care family woodwork and says she will be that person, that mama.
Exhale and walk back into the room and I hear a new voice coming. I hear a mama storming down the hall, I've learned to know what a mama is like when you take her baby from her. Bursting into the room, hostility and defensiveness proceed her. Ranting and raving about stuff that makes no sense and no difference. Tough talk to a little body laying there fighting. Nervous pacing and rambling. She knows no different. Her mama and her mama's mama know this scene all too well. Their own babies taken and never brought back. More ranting and helpless shame and anger unleashed. I step out into the hall and tell these college age nurses, like I'm talking to myself years ago in that desert heat, I know policy says she can't walk out of here with this baby but you better get ready. Because in a moment policy goes out the window and harsh reality takes over, be ready. Oh sweet Jesus she just can't, come again and be her Deliverer. More phone calls, case workers you hustle even harder because this baby needs you to, her life depends on it. They agree. Two drops.
Downpour. The rains of rescue and hope ensue.
I see that mama swirling in emotions I'll never comprehend and all I can do is put my hand on her and tell her to go over there and talk sweet to that little body. Go over there and be near to her and be great because she needs you to be great. But she just doesn't know how, she's never seen it. And I know it's time to leave but how? How do you turn around and walk away? Nothing in you says you can put one foot in front of the other but again He whispers that it's time to walk away. So you drive home and you slip into your dark, sleeping house. You scoop up those sleeping babies and weep. The next morning you watch them chew and swallow food and you fight back tears at the table because how could anyone ever do anything different for their children?
The hard places you go hurt deep.
Into the darkness you wade. We all do. We all step into waters deeper and darker than we're made to handle. We were made for rescue, for desperation for Jesus Christ. That in the midst of a battle drenched in blood and death, the rescue is coming. A hope that doesn't disappoint and a Warrior who is mighty to save and when we ask, let's us into a hard place we will never forget. We take His hand and we walk on waves that were meant to drown deep. Places where the enemy has reigned and then He comes in for rescue and takes what is lost and discarded and brings beauty for ashes, oil of gladness for mourning and hope for despair. Places that wait for our yes to bring about how good He truly is. A tiny glimpse into the heart of a Father who grieves and so graciously allows us to share in that. The ability to feel and absorb the rains coming, drenched in His hope and promise because hope deferred makes the heart sick but steadfast trust in the promise gives us the victory every time.
So tonight we will tuck in our babies and try to make sense of it all. We will weep in silence as our sword has been laid down for her, as she lay in that hospital bed. She will live. By the grace of God and His merciful rescue, she will leave that hospital one day and in the years to come I pray someone will tell her the story of her rescue. He is good and He is Rescuer.
But as I walk back downstairs after goodnight routines the question burns in my heart...
How many more need rescuing and how many more don't ever get out?
Jesus, take my thoughts captive and please bring us into the darkness again soon. Because soon that phone will ring and again You will show Yourself mighty in battle and we will stand in awe.
You're worthy, worthy and deserving of all the praise, and glory and the honor, beautiful Rescuer and Deliverer.
There's a root of our ancestor Jesse,
breathing through the earth and growing tree tall,
tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope.
Oh may the God of HOPE fill you up with JOY, fill you up with PEACE,
so that your believing lives filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit will brim over with HOPE. Romans 15:13