The story begins like so many, it is an ordinary day, late fall I believe, and the phone rings. On the other end of the line is my brother. We don't talk on the phone often, so it is an unexpected call right from the start. He tells me his girlfriend is pregnant with twin girls, and her other children are in foster care, and the babies will be placed in foster care, too...unless they have a different plan. He asks me to adopt these babies. As you can imagine the details are a little blurry, and this is my story, exactly how I remember it. I know I talked to my husband. I know we prayed a lot! I know we decided to say yes. I know we met with my brother and his girlfriend. I know we met with a lawyer. I know we made arrangements to bring home two baby girls. I know my boys were excited. We made arrangements for a Pastor and his wife, in the area where my brother and his girlfriend lived, to bring the girls from the hospital to their home, where we would meet them. We had everything prepared except for two car seats, diapers and formula. We thought we were ready.
The babies were born about two weeks later, a little premature, but healthy, and my brother did indeed take custody of his daughters and bring them home from the hospital to live with him and their mother. These were his daughters, after all.
A couple of weeks later, our family was preparing for an Easter get together and I would see my brother and his daughters for the first time. As I prepared, my emotions were running my show more often than I even realized.
One of those beautiful Spring days just before Easter I was push mowing our front lawn and rehearsing in my mind all the things I was going to tell my brother. And reminding myself of how much I had a right to be angry!! After all, he didn't even call me. We had met with lawyers, and Pastors, and planned, and purchased, I had to explain all this to my boys. He hadn't just hurt me he hurt my children. He left me to call the lawyers, pastor's wife, box up clothes, take down the crib, etc. I was building my case, argument, after argument, and I was going to tell him ALL of it when I saw him at my parent's house for Easter! I convinced myself I had every right to be angry, look what he had done to me! to my family! Yes, yes, I had a right to be angry, and I was hanging tight to that right with every lap I made with the lawn mower that day.
Then I heard God's voice...not an audible voice, but his still small voice in my soul. His Spirit speaking deep into my heart. "You have no rights, you are a slave." I had been attending a ladies Bible study and we had recently studied "being a slave to righteousness." I stopped the mower and went inside to look up the verses. (Romans 6:15-23) I read these verses over a couple of times, before I returned to mowing. It was true, I gave up my rights to follow Christ. I was no longer a slave to my will and emotions, but a slave to his righteousness.
So, I went to my mom & dad's for Easter. I wish I could say I was gracious; I wish I could say I was excited for my brother and his girlfriend and couldn't wait to see the baby girls; I can't say that. What I did was keep my mouth shut! I kept my distance, I was cool and avoided any "real" conversations with my brother (with anyone). I didn't rush in excited to hold my nieces, in fact that day I only held one of them. I only held her, because my brother proudly deposited her into my arms. He had every reason to be proud.
I wish I could say that was it...we lived civilly ever after. But a couple weeks later we received another phone call. I cannot even remember who made that call, I think it was my mom, but I don't really remember. I do remember that the call shattered us all. One of the twins (the same one I held briefly) had died of SIDS. The loss of a tiny life touches us all, so deeply. We gathered a few days later for her funeral. Two things I remember about that funeral. The devastation of the tiny little casket with an even tinier lifeless body in it, and her sister crying in the same room. I also remember putting my arms around my brother and sharing a sincere embrace as I whispered, "I am so sorry for your loss." Because I was.
I praise God to this day that He knew so much better than I what to say and do with my brother. If I had shot off my mouth and voiced all the hurt inside to my brother that Easter weekend, I would have ruined Easter for my family, but most important I could never have been able to wrap my arms around my brother and sincerely, share his grief, and acknowledge his great loss.
I learned forever that God's ways are so much better than mine. I also learned that rights and freedom are not the same thing. I had a right to vent my anger. My brother had a right to take custody of his daughters. But because I listened to God and lay down my perceived rights I was free to love my brother and stand with him on a very sad day in all of our lives. I was free too, of years of guilt that would have followed shooting off my mouth and then losing this tiny life.
I can honestly say that while I still struggle with my "rights" I rarely make decisions based on my rights...I look more honestly, and compassionately at the other persons rights and point of view. I am more free to love others than if I never walked this path. There are lots of wounded hearts in this world and everyone of them needs to heal and be set free.