Four years into this and he finally feels safe enough to take a nap.
And I'm sitting in the silence bawling like a baby because it's not fair. Because it shouldn't be this way. For any child. But it is, oh it is. The complexities of the human heart and mind know no bounds. We can be safe for years before we believe that we are. Maybe some of us never really do.
I don't know what it's like to work so hard to believe that things like love and trust are real. I'll never have any idea. But I do know what it's like to carry tension in your body everywhere you go, to feel your heart race when you step out in public, to live in hyper vigilance in your own home. I don't have to work hard at all to believe that secondary trauma is real.
I don't know what it's like to have my earliest life experiences mold my brain around fear. My first weeks and months on this earth were filled with comfort, care, and nurture.
But I know he hasn't been the only one that's scared.
I know I've locked myself behind the closet door, sobbing in the dark to a God who I know is there but who won't answer me. Telling Him He made a mistake; that I'm not who He thought I was. That I can't do this, I can't parent this child. I am too broken, too sinful, too full of rage, too untrustworthy.
When I say I have been as broken as anyone, when I say I'm just as sinful, just as messed up, please know that this is not false modesty. It's not even humility. Humility would be detailing all of the times I willfully chose not to meet my tormented baby inside his pain because it was just too hard and I was just too tired. But those details are still safely barricaded behind what's left of my pride.
Hopefully someday the barricade will burn. If I know anything about the Consuming Fire, I'm thinking it will.
You've heard of the "fight or flight" stress response, the part of our brain that triggers an instinctive reaction to seek safety from an outside threat, whether by withdrawal or by aggression. Your brain and mine would default to it if we were to be mugged. My son's defaults to it when he walks into Kroger, or when he can't seem to fit in to social mores, or when it's time to take a nap.
All God's children gots their problems but some of us suffer a heck of a lot more than others of us. It doesn't seem fair, but what do we know of fair? There is Good News to be heard, and the Good News is this: the Kingdom of God is for the broken, the hurting, the suffering - these are the ones who get in first. The rest of us get in clinging to their coattails. And that seems fair to me.
I've spent my whole life trying to catch a glimpse of what this Kingdom looks like with skin on; long before I could even understand it and long after, when you would've thought I was running from it. I've looked for this Good News in 24 hour prayer rooms, on inner city American streets, and in volcano-ravaged villages in Indonesia. But until this little boy cracked me, it was always "us" and "them"- no matter how much I wanted it to be otherwise. I've never been more thankful for anything than I am for the pieces of me that chipped and scattered and are blowing all over Texas. Good riddance to some very bad rubbish. Because now when I look at your face, whoever you are, I can see a bit of myself there too. The Kingdom of God will invite us in together. Never alone.
I don't know what it will be for you. Maybe it will be a little boy with a gap in his teeth and love in his scared little heart. Maybe it will, but probably not. Probably God has a different story for you, and it will be beautiful and it will be ugly and it will be fun and it will be terrible and it will break you to pieces and it will be everything you ever wanted but didn't know to ask for. There is a Kingdom of God for you to see too, loved one. May you never stop seeking to find it.
*All photos by Kathryn Krueger Photography