Throughout the process of finding monsters and getting our eyes stabbed out, we found a microscope suddenly turned on us. Sure we had traversed through the months of classes and interviews to be certified in the first place, but this was different. This attention was due to an accusation. We were guilty until proven innocent and the bad guys, and others could easily capitalize on the situation, to the detriment of our foster daughter.
Under the lens of Are-You-Good-Enough-Still and Non-Abusive, we quickly ran out of defensiveness. We had always been open, extroverted people; the only difference was that we were open, extroverted, defeated people who could not seem to give anyone enough information. We found ourselves in the middle of an asinine scenario that seemed limitless in its sequential absurdity. Every measure of safety and clarity that we attempted to achieve throughout the investigation was eventually shredded. And with them our hopes, short of utter miracle, of having or even seeing her again.
It became insulting to have a parade of people through our door, observing our loss, finding no concerns to justify the loss, giving their personal vote of favor and yet assert no corrective measures to the allegation and ensuing removal of previously-not-traumatized baby girl. It was hard to have surprises around every corner—to pursue truth and realize that after diligently pursuing each avenue, there was no place for it.
In this instance we could not dispense justice.
In this instance God was not making a way for us to be saved in the way we wanted to be saved.
These were scary things to realize and drove us to new places in our mind, heart, and faith. Somewhere, amidst the intense sorrow and disappointment, a germ of redemption began. Sometimes unwelcomed, definitely unnatural. Somewhere in the mess laid a costly compassion for the defeated.
I hear the disgust when people speak of those who are presently beggars or addicts, or practicing a way of life that is bothersome. I have marveled as one observing a foreign and terrible land the crimes against “society” that mental illness mixed with despair have led people to commit. I see the quick posts on Facebook that perpetuate the otherness of the Other, saying that people get what they deserve, or should go to hell based on a singular headline of their life.
This whole tragedy pushed us one step closer to all of those “other” hell-bent people—one step closer to the suffering and those who know injustice and grief best. I believe Jesus is in their camp.
The dawn of justice never came in our night with the monsters. So I felt the allure of an addiction, if only one was easily accessible. I sensed the breath of insanity or crazy-making narcism as I sunk into the pain. My mediocre sense of safety in the world and its systems, and my sense of an ability to stir up justice both nosedived steeply. It seemed that the only reasonable thing to do was to avoid life, and couched in that very real urge to escape was a whisper of gentleness—a motivation to bestow grace on those who had found ways to avoid life using methods that formerly seemed distasteful or far off.
I could see the people who are in a cycle of dependency or chronic complaining in new light. I could consider with more warmth the people who have become lost in their anger, the people who have endured so much grief that causing other people grief seems like a perfect way to dispense justice. I recognized anew the people who feel the world owes them a great deal. I thought of the mothers who have had children kidnapped, who never had any inkling of assurance that their child is well. I thought of the mothers who lost children to death, who could not defend them from the illness or accident that befell the human being to whom they were most connected. I thought about the mothers who lost or surrendered their children to other families or to abortion, because of their own bondage to addiction, entrapment in a certain life and a lack of resources and resiliency to recover.
All of these folks, all of the mothers, have suffered a great deal. Their story can be traced back to a time that they were not characterized as the loser of life or by a loss itself. There was a time when they were not the ones you avoided eye-contact with.
We grew closer to this tribe through our harrowing Night. We grew closer to the laments and insistence, misery and humility of Job’s story. And just as in his speeches Job began to represent more suffering than he himself had experienced—just as he began to speak with and for the Other and has since been a hero of the margins, we too can pray new prayers and cry new notes because of the lows we know now. We can pray at night for the parents who are going to bed without their children. For the children who are unprotected. For the homes with a hole in the middle of them. For the lost and wandering who have suffered irreversible injustice. We can see these people better for our loss.
Even though it insulted our hearts and every human instinct we developed as parents, the pain gave way to new humanity. It birthed something other than itself, which is another way of saying redemption found a way. It was the start of a trajectory of suffering. A meaning through sorrow. A connection after rejection.
Just like the book of Job seems far too long, our battle and defeat carried on a long time. Of course the grief sustained much farther. My chest may never lose the weight of a missing baby. But inside, my heart has somehow grown through the tearing and this I must hold on to for tomorrow.