Solitude and Community
Open Your Bible
Psalm 46:10, Lamentations 3:25-28, Mark 6:30-32, Matthew 11:25-30, Hebrews 10:23-25, Psalm 133:1, Matthew 18:20, Romans 12:4-5, Romans 12:15-19
I didn’t adopt because I wanted to make orphans miserable. But in the bumpy jostle of daily family life, between Don’t wake the baby! and Everyone get in bed!, I feel like I’m failing. We pursued adoption because we wanted to help—we wanted to make the world a better place, to shine the light of the gospel. But I didn’t know I would need to shine the light of the gospel at 5am, every day, for so many years. In the process, my flashlight has grown dull and weak.
Every day, my husband and I feel the pendulum swing between the tension of Christ’s invitation to “come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while,” and His admonition to “meet together” in fellowship (Mark 6:31; Hebrews 10:25). After one too many family activities ending in disaster, we’ve learned to let our wounds heal in private and decline the next dinner invitation.
Adoptive parenting has been the most difficult task of my life. It’s been astonishingly isolating, because from the outside, we look like an adorable, bustling, young family. But underneath, I’m clenching my teeth, waiting for the shoe to drop and the next terrible thing to happen. During this season, we’ve felt the tension of pulling out of community activities, playdates, dinners, and visits with family. And I fear that folks won’t understand we are dealing with more than just a case of the wiggles.
But in pulling away from community, we miss out on the real, loving, encouragement and affirmation we need from our people. We imagine disapproval in their eyes and judgment on their brows. Again and again, I have wanted to hide our messy family life because I am sure no one will understand.
One May day just a few years ago, my very, very cute adopted son was singing—with perfect pitch—a Christmas song, while I stood in the checkout line at Goodwill. He has a face like a chipmunk and a voice like a chorister, and he knows it. He’d been singing that song for weeks, and now he was shining his face around to draw the attention and approval of the other adults standing nearby. His endless fishing for applause from strangers touches on my fear that he’s still not quite settled on us as his parents; he’s still interviewing for the position.
Although we can never erase the brokenness that led to his birth parents’ inability to raise him, we are the parents that God has given him. In spite of my commitment to love him, his singing was exhausting and painful at the end of a draining day—on top of six wearying years. For me, his song felt like a jarring syncopation, rattling out the death of my dreams. I asked him to stop singing.
At my left elbow, a woman snorted and leaned away from me. “That sweet little boy wasn’t hurting anything. You should know better than to stop him from singing!” she admonished, shaking her head and looking away. I felt my tired shoulders slump lower, even more resolved to hide our troubled story.
And we have found relief and safety in solitude. We’ve been able to rally our forces and find heart for the next fight. But pulling away from community robs us of its gifts, and neglecting solitude robs us of its replenishing powers.
So we live in the in-between tension of the two. We live like a child on a swing, swaying out a little further and retreating a little further, learning to trust our community and learning to accept the peace of solitude.The further we venture out, the deeper we need to retreat afterward. We don’t have an easy solution, but I am sure about which direction to look for hope. “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus says (Matthew 11:28). But in this in-between, our hearts are broken every single day. We are rejected and we are befriended. We are lonely and we are loved.