I was at the local splash pad with a dear friend and her four children when I noticed our sweet summer superhero staring.
My friend was holding her 2-year-old daughter in her arms, cuddling her and playing with her, as we watched our other children frolic in the fountains before us.
And DJ couldn’t keep his eyes off of them.
For several minutes, he stared at this mother-daughter pair, confused but smiling, until finally, he looked at me, uttered something in Chinese … and then lifted his arms.
This 10-year-old boy, who has never had a mother in his life and only learned how to hug in the last two weeks, wanted to be HELD.
Without hesitation, I scooped up this angel, who weighs more than half my body weight, and held him the very best I could. He just wrapped his arms awkwardly around my neck and laughed hysterically. I held our sweet superhero close, taking in every second, and fought back both tears of joy and tears of rage that this boy has been waiting a DECADE to be HELD.
These three weeks with our superhero-in-no-more-waiting, they have been some of the most amazing of our year. Watching DJ experience so many of the things we consider a normal part of childhood for the very first time has given all of us a new perspective. And it’s challenged all five of us to view the world through the innocent and enthusiastic and awestruck eyes of a CHILD.
But even as my heart has grown 17 sizes watching our superhero experience the joy of grocery rocket carts and the stickiness of summer s’mores for the very first time, it’s also broken every time we’ve discovered a new first … one a child shouldn’t have to wait an entire decade to experience.
Receiving a hug.
Knowing the joy of FAMILY.
This week, both Super-Spouse and our extended family had the opportunity to meet this boy we love so much for the very first time. And seeing DJ encounter the love and affection and attention of host daddy and cousin and aunt and grandparent figures was overwhelming.
For the first time in his life, DJ experienced the wrestling matches and trampoline jumps and tickle fests and hard play of a FATHER — a man he calls “Shu Shu” (uncle) and who he walks around the house calling and looking for every morning after that man leaves for work.
For the first time in his life, DJ experienced the shoulder rides and piggy backs of “cousins” — of these wonderful people who, without blinking, came into our home and adopted this superhero as part of the Cuthrell chaos package. Who organized 400-balloon water fights and embraced our superhero’s new-found love of being held and jumped into the 80-pound lugging game without questions about why I would carry around a 10-year-old when he can surely walk on his own.
And for the first time in his life, DJ experienced the doting of grandparents and uncles and aunties, who visited from long distances to leap over ocean waves and spoil him with playtime and Pop Rocks. Who have loved this boy as if he’s been part of our family their entire life long.
My insides shout for JOY as I watch this boy THRIVE in the context of family — JUMP INTO it and EMBRACE it and ENJOY it for all its worth. And they explode with gratitude for our entire extended family, who has gone so far out of their way to love our superhero SO VERY WELL.
But seeing how much our superhero has MISSED in his life is almost too much. It’s almost unbearable. And I grieve over the LOSS he’s so wrongly experienced.
Why has this amazing boy waited 10 YEARS for a relative to hold him?
Why has he waited 10 YEARS for grandparents to cook for him and dress in queen and knight costumes for him and take him to farm stand ice cream?
Why has the world been able to steal AN ENTIRE DECADE from his precious, valuable and deserving life? Why have these years of innocence and joy and FAMILY been robbed from him as he’s sat in an orphanage for 10 LONG YEARS … just waiting for someone to make him part of THEIRS?
It all seems so cruel and so very, very unfair. And it brings out a rage in me I didn’t even know I had.
But then in my anger and frustration, God, in His beautiful way, reminds me that He is God and I am not.
That He has been a Father to the fatherless longer than I have been begging Him to find a father for this child.
That He is in the BUSINESS of restoring broken things and making all things new.
And that He has already provided a family, an amazing family, who is praying for this sweet boy every. Single. Day. That this boy won’t be going back to an orphanage for life. He’ll be going back just long enough for his forever family to complete their paperwork and fly to China to make him their son forever.
What the world has robbed from DJ, God is ALREADY in the process of restoring.
This boy no longer has to wonder about the beauty and the chaos and the imperfections and the craziness of family. He’s gotten a taste of that here (God bless him). And he no longer has to wonder if he’ll ever get to experience it again. Although he doesn’t know yet, he’ll know soon that a forever family is just DYING to call him their own.
No choice, no decision, no circumstance, no enemy can keep DJ away from the plans God has to prosper him and not to harm him, to give him a HOPE and A FUTURE. Our God is BIGGER than DJ’s circumstances, BIGGER than his past.
And just as WE have held him for maybe the first time in his life, we know that GOD will hold him in HIS big, strong arms … until He transfers DJ’s care from the arms of paid workers to the hands of FAMILY who would pay ANYTHING to hold this boy FOREVER.
“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten …” ~ Joel 2:25