A little over a year ago I met a special little person. Her story gripped my heart. At the age of five she had already seen so much pain and heartache to last a lifetime. Having been removed from her biological home due to unsafe conditions, she entered the foster care system. For the next couple of years she bounced from one foster home, to the home of distant relatives across the country, to where I finally met her: in the presence of a dear friend of mine.
My friend and her husband had been praying and working the steps of the foster care/adoption system to find a child that they could eventually welcome into their family. At first glance one would be oblivious to the path that the child had traveled to get to this point. That afternoon she danced around chattering on about her day, laughing and running with her new siblings. Yet under the surface bubbled a story of pain, suffering, abandonment, fear, and great sadness.
I watched the young girl pirouette and skip around mesmerized by her positive energy. Like a little fairy she jumped from a low planter wall, but instead of landing flat on her feet she stumbled and landed on her hands and knees scraping the cement sidewalk. My friend and I lurched forward by instinct to render help. Our biological daughters would have cried out in pain, fussed, demanded attention and a Band-Aid. Not this little one.
She quickly stood up, brushed off her knees, clapped her hands together and declared “I am alright. I am fine. I am OK. Everyone gets hurt sometimes.” Before she ran off, I could see the pinpricks of blood on her knee and the swelling of tears teetering in her eyes. She was hurt, not to any severe extent, but enough to qualify a physical or emotional response. I had just observed a literal “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” moment. All the pain, vulnerability, and emotion that teetered on spilling out got sucked back in to her petite frame, gulped down into some safe locked away space. What life experience would condition a five-year old to react this way?
My heart broke.
My heart broke for the girl. My heart broke for anyone who doesn’t feel worthy or safe to express their pain, vulnerabilities, and wounds. God reached down into my heart at that moment and said “look…look again…that is you.” My heart broke for me.
Whether it is the survivor’s guilt I carry, the years of stuffing my emotions away to “be strong” and not show weakness, or the feeling that nearly four years is enough time for my grieving to be over, I have become the queen of “I am fine.” My bootstraps should be worn out by now. I am that little girl.
You might be that child too: afraid of showing your true emotions and pain, in fear of rejection or indifference. Voice silenced because you feel unimportant or undeserving. Plowing through life deadened to disappointment or building up walls to protect a broken heart. Your own pain, hardship, sadness does not compare to that of others. Feeling like you are not worthy, you suck all pain and hurt into a safe locked away place deep inside.
God reaches down into your heart and says “Look…Look again…This is you…Beautifully Broken…Perfectly Imperfect…You are worthy of healing.”
I returned home that day with the experience fresh in my mind and I wrote, Beautifully Broken, a poem of healing and renewal. A poem of hope for the future: my future, the little girl’s future and your future.
A few weeks ago I found myself across the table from my little friend, but this time I was in her presence to celebrate her official adoption day. We celebrated that a safety net had been secured, and that a family had become complete. Most importantly I silently remembered her reaction so many months ago, and I could see her deep wounds starting to heal. Her fear, stress, and anxiety built up from the past was being exposed, and she was learning to express and not lock away her feelings. Such hard hard work, but she is worth it.
We are all worth it.
For those (when I say “those”, I mean ME) who may need a reminder that we are all worthy of healing, here is an encore of the poem. Enjoy.
Scrapped up, bruised and bleeding
Tears just teetering on the edge of overflowing
Everyone gets hurt sometimes
I am fine she says
Brushing off the pain
Holding in the sobs
Covering the scrapped knee
Protecting the wounded elbow
Shielding the aching heart
She bounces back like nothing happened
Her past is forgotten
Memories held at bay by a thin strip of latex
Fears adhered securely underneath
Emotions locked away
Depending on that Band-Aid
To make it all better
Covers, protects and shields temporarily
It does not heal
It is not a cure
The wound scabs
The pain lies in wait
For the next jostle
The next mistake
The next stab
The next fall
The next memory triggered
Of the pain, hurt, anger, worry, fear, grief, frustration
Nothing is forgotten
The wound fails to be resolved
Ripping off the Band-Aid
Embracing the past
Becoming aware of the wounds
Familiar with the heaviness of emotion
Conscious of the pain
Willing to admit defeat
Ready to be vulnerable
Volunteering her heart
Surrendering her soul
Mindful that these trials are
Shaping and strengthening
Repairing and building
Until she emerges