Text: Isaiah 15:1-9, Isaiah 16:1-14, Isaiah 17:1-14, Psalm 68:19, Luke 21:25-28
Early on in the arduous adoption journey of my daughter Missy (who’s HIV-positive) from Haiti, I met with another adoptive mom who’d already brought her HIV-positive child home from a different Third World country. While swapping “war stories” of adoption heartbreak over coffee, she told me she sometimes finds herself wishing she had HIV, too. I assumed she meant she’d be more than willing to suffer with the virus if that meant her baby wouldn’t have to—kind of a quid pro quo penitential parenting kind of thing. Or maybe she was just being overly emotional and hyperbolic, as mamas often are when it comes to our children.
Several years later, I stood sobbing in the customs line at Miami International Airport, overwhelmed by the glorious reality that Missy was finally (officially!) my daughter. It had been two long, roller-coaster years of slogging through seemingly endless paperwork in the maddeningly slow Haitian welfare system. For twenty-four months, I’d worried about her physical and emotional health from two thousand miles away.
Just a few days after bringing her home, we found ourselves at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. I held Missy in my arms as she screamed in terror, contorting her tiny body throughout the first of what will likely be a lifetime of blood draws. That’s when I really understood what my friend meant.
I sat on the edge of the pleather chair in the phlebotomist’s office, rocking my precious, panicky daughter, whispering in her ear, “It’s going to be okay, baby. This is going to sting for a second, but it’ll be over quickly. I’m so sorry, honey. Mwen se konsa regrèt.” But I wasn’t able to quiet her terrified shrieks or calm her violent twisting because she’d been traumatized by some barbaric medical procedures as a toddler being treated in Port Au Prince. And though she called me her Mama Blan (white mama), she didn’t completely trust me yet.
That’s when I thought, Now, I get it. Now I understand what my friend meant when she said she wished she had HIV like her child. Because in these moments I’d do just about anything to be able to connect with Missy on every level, to comfort her from a place of true empathy.
I’d gladly suffer anything to ensure my little girl would never feel alone, no matter what the situation.
Missy may have been conceived in my heart instead of my womb, but let me tell you something: Every. Single. Thing. that concerns her concerns me. I am wildly passionate about her welfare. And God the Father is infinitely more concerned about His children—even the rebellious ones who rebuff His mercy like the Moabites did. Because while the chapters we’ve been reading in Isaiah clearly depict God’s coming judgment of the wicked, they also clearly depict His mourning over their unrepentant future:
My heart cries out over Moab.
- Isaiah 15:5
In his profound commentary on Isaiah, Alec Motyer writes that God “weeps as he smites.” Our Creator Redeemer is not one of those dads who disciplines first and thinks later. He is a perfect parent, and His harshest correction and discipline are always, always braided with compassion.
This makes me feel especially safe and secure as His child, but it also challenges me to sow increasingly more love and kindness into the biblical truisms I seek to show and tell. By the grace of God, may we all be the type of people who weep rather than celebrate when our Heavenly Father disciplines another image-bearer. May our soft sides be far more frayed with use than our hard sides. And may we not have to wait for our self-made altars to crumble before we look to our loving, compassionate, merciful Maker (Isaiah 17:7).
Lisa Harper is a master storyteller with a masters of Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary. She’s lauded as an engaging, hilarious communicator as well as an authentic and substantive Bible teacher. She’s been in vocational ministry for 30 years and has written 15 books and Bible study curriculums but says her greatest accomplishment by far is that of becoming Missy’s (her adopted daughter from Haiti) mama! They live on a hilly farmette south of Nashville, Tennessee, where they enjoy eating copious amounts of chips, queso, and guacamole.