Someday, I need to go to Africa.
My uncle Bill helped start a school in Kenya that I want to visit. More than 480 students attend the school where they get housing, three meals a day, clothing and an education. A large percentage of the children that attend are victims of the AIDS crisis that is ravaging Africa. One couple who are friends with my uncle adopted a young girl there who was born HIV positive. Typically, if there is going to be an adoption of this type, it happens when the child is still a baby. But this little girl had been passed over and spent the first 5 years of her life waiting to be adopted.
When the couple came to speak at my dad’s church, the father said something interesting about the little girl. He said “We kept hoping that she would be disobedient and break the rules.” As a young father, I have to confess this hope has never crossed my mind with my own children. Just this morning when I was leaving the house, my five-year-old was yelling at my seven-year-old for tricking her. My oldest daughter likes to wake up first and will usually Mission Impossible her way downstairs quietly before my youngest daughter wakes up. This morning, because they’re sharing a room with our family in town, L.E. had to take a different route and told McRae, “You should snuggle all your dolls.” Then while McRae enjoyed a sister inspired moment with her dolls, L.E. bolted for the stairs, leaving McRae in her dust.
In general, rule breaking is not something I wish for in our house. It seems like a strange thing for any father to hope for, but the father who adopted the orphan had a reason.
“When we first adopted her, she tried her hardest to be perfect. This little six year old girl was terrified that if she broke the rules she would be kicked out of our family and sent back to the orphanage. For her, breaking the rules would be a sign that she was comfortable and was no longer living in fear.”
I’ve talked about this idea before, but it felt right today because we are on the precipice of a new season of perfect. It’s December 29. In less than 72 hours, we’ll have a chance to make a fresh start in a fresh year. The calendar will declare a do over, a new day in a new month and a new decade to live better and be better and try harder.
I know I can’t be perfect. Past failures have made that crystal clear, but I still try sometimes. I still try to hold my breath and white knuckle my way back into the father’s arms. Creating lists, manically measuring my quiet times, doing the yo-yo diet version of faith. I don’t want to fail. I want to be perfect.
I want to free myself from the mess, clean my act up and string together a good solid month, of good solid living before I return to the God. But I’m not sure that is how God sees my life. In Psalm 103: 3-4, God is described as he “who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with compassion.”
The word I love in that passage is “from.” On the surface it’s a transition word, but the reality is that “from” represents the difference between man and God. In the world, when you fall into a pit, you’re expected to get back out. You dug it yourself, you climb out of it yourself. Get yourself together. Straighten up. Don’t bring me a problem, bring me a solution. In every job you’ve ever had and most of the relationships you’ve been in, this verse would read, “who redeems your life after the pit.”
But in God’s world, He comes to the pit. He redeems us from the pit. Not once we’ve managed to get out of it, but from the middle of it. From the deepest part of the pit. He gets down with us in the pit and rescues us from it. Not after it.
I’m sure that little girl in Kenya has failed at this point, that’s kind of one of the things we all do. But I’m sure that when she shared that failure with her father, he didn’t return her to the orphanage. Why?
Because rescue is a one way trip.
There will be no going back.
Whether she fails a 100 times or a million times, that decision was already made.
For you, for me, for all the imperfect people.