Over eighteen months ago this little dark haired wonder entered our lives, changing all of us irreversibly. This seems such an eternity past that I cannot reckon time without Austin in our lives. In part because of the roll of the calendar. Mostly because of the war that has been waged to reclaim, restore, and build up a child who has endured horrors in this life that cannot be mentioned nor should they be in this forum. Leaving it at "abuse" and "neglect" is palatable but does not do justice to what we have been able to uncover of Austin's first few years. Through it all, the miracle is that his disarming smile is still intact. Slightly crooked, defined by deep dimples, affecting his whole being. This boy's smile and the love of life in his eyes is infectious. Very often if one falls victim to one of these grins, they are soon to be further launched upon by hugs and an invitation to play.
This journey with our "A-man", as he likes to be called, has been far from all-laughter and hugs. In fact, We have often questioned ourselves, our adequacy as parents to this amazing child. He is quick, intelligent, crafty, so very funny, and exudes personality and life to all around who will receive it. He craves affection and loves to be loved. But in the journey, healing has had to occur and this has frequently coincided with many tears as we have had to explore and delve into nightmarish past abuse. Traumas from birth to three years of age still present themselves in an inability to cope with emotions, frustrations with simple or easily overlooked issues, irrational fears, nightmares, and an unwillingness to communicate. Unlocking the puzzle that is his mind has been one of the single most difficult undertakings we have ever engaged in, but in the process trust has been built. Trust that in exposure to his parents, there is no harm, that they love him unconditionally.
The results? Doctors have been astounded. Social workers marvel. Teachers beam with pride at his improvements. Therapists take delight in seeing a difference being made. The "ceilings" that were initially placed on him were left behind long ago - no child should be capped. Give the mind freedom, the tools, and encouragement needed and it will soar. A transformation has occurred and a butterfly has flown.
When I consider my little boy, if I look I can still see "deficiencies". I can still see faults. He still throws occasional tantrums. His speech is difficult to interpret if you are not around him regularly. In recent testing he is still cognitively playing "catch-up" from the effects of the traumas he has endured in his brief life. He still occasionally falls, with a will that sometimes moves faster than feet do. Regardless, my bride and I believe in a God of wholeness and restoration.
But I also see something else. I see a picture of each of us in my little boy. By the World's standards, Austin came to us "damaged goods" with a whole lot of baggage. In fact, had we not adopted him, the likelihood is that he would have ended up institutionalized until an adult because no one is really looking for that challenging 4 year old, emotionally damaged, cognitively/speech/physically delayed child when picking their perfect adoption. The agencies couldn't place him. In many regards, people would look at what Austin was and label him "broken beyond repair".
How often have you felt "broken beyond repair"? How many of us have been emotionally damaged by others? Hurt, abused. How many of us have been pushed around on the playground of life, pushed down, stepped on? How many have been betrayed, taken advantage and hurt time and time again by those we thought were supposed to have our back, be our protector? How many of us simply have too much personal baggage, sin, past-deeds we've committed that we're too ashamed to bring to the light even though the weight of carrying it all crushes us.
We too have a Father, one who sees our broken and challenged state. Only this one loves us infinitely more than Austin's father ever could. This one went much further. He gave up his most cherished son in exchange for us. He went to the furthest lengths, not just to provide respite and protection, but to restore, and make whole everyone who would come to Him, to adopt each one of us as family members into His household (which is majestic as evidenced by simply by looking at the wonders of the night sky). We will see the fullness of this in His presence, but the beginning of that work starts here. He loves each of us tenderly and will never stop working to bring forth our best in us - unlocking our maximum potential.
You see, He doesn't believe in "ceilings" either. Because He knows us far more intimately than we know ourselves and where we are tempted to give in and quit, he exhorts us and encourages us to press on in Him because He knows the glory and blessings that await. He knows our true potential for greatness - every single one of us. He knows the transformative work that He is doing in us. Though we very rarely see the end result until it is upon us we will from time to time find ourselves lost in thought, pondering just how far He has removed us from our past, our weights, our baggage. We find ourselves marveling at the distance covered and the ground gained and in those moments, we note that we too have wings for flight.
Laughter. "Austin...let's go get dressed for school!"