Today’s the release day of Lisa Harper’s new study, The Gospel of Mark! We can’t wait to see how this study reaches women as it leads them closer to the Jesus we’re aching for. The following is an excerpt from the study. To see more, including a sample chapter, click here.
The single most difficult thing Missy and I dealt with during the first few months we got to live under the same roof as mother and daughter wasn’t her HIV+ status. It wasn’t the frequent trips to the hospital or learning how and remembering to dispense her twice-daily dose of three different medications. It wasn’t even my futile, scalp-torturing attempts to learn how to micro-braid her gorgeous Haitian hair. The most difficult, sometimes heart-wrenching, aspect of our first nose-to-nose season was learning to communicate.
On my five visits to Haiti during the adoption process, we’d managed to sort of understand each other with a few common words of Creole and English coupled with facial expressions and charades. I wasn’t fully prepared for the frustration, anger, and heartache that would result from our communication gap once I finally got to bring her home to Tennessee.
The harsh reality of our communication gap became glaringly apparent just one night after we arrived at the Nashville airport from Port au Prince and waded into a celebratory sea of balloons and banners. I’d gotten her changed into pajamas and settled into her special pink and white Pottery Barn bedding and was singing a lullaby to help her go to sleep.
In the beginning Missy had a very hard time falling asleep. Adoption researchers and counselors say this is quite common. The busyness of daylight hours tends to medicate a newly adopted child’s anxiety, but their deepest fears often rise to the surface when nighttime comes. Instead of becoming drowsy or even shushing me because my singing voice has been accused of being less than melodic, however, Missy got more and more agitated. So I picked her up and did several other things experts had advised me to do to demonstrate to her that she was safe and secure. But again, my actions only seemed to make things worse.
Finally, after more than an hour of her growing increasingly fearful and me vainly trying to sooth her, I went and got the Creole dictionary from the bookshelf and attempted to ask her if she was in pain. The second I began trying to articulate that foreign phrase her head snapped toward me, her brown eyes focused on mine with laser-like intensity, and she began talking as fast as she could.
A torrent of unfamiliar words poured from her mouth. After a minute or two, when she could tell by my expression that I didn’t understand, she put both of her baby brown hands on the side of my face and began to speak very intently, with even more passion and volume.
Eventually I replied in English, “I’m so sorry baby, but I don’t understand what you’re saying.” At which point she dropped her hands to her side, looked away from me with hopeless resignation, and began to sob uncontrollably.
All I could do was repeat one of the few Creole phrases I’d memorized, “Mwen regret sa. Mwen regret sa. Mwen regret sa.” I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. My little girl cried herself to sleep her second night in Nashville. When her breathing finally settled into the rhythm of slumber, I walked out into the living room, sank into the couch, and cried until I didn’t have any tears left either.
I felt like the precious daughter I’d longed for since I was a young woman and fought for through an arduous two-year adoption journey had tried to give me her heart, and I didn’t have the hands to receive it. She threw a relational lifesaver in my direction with every ounce of her four-and-a-half-year-old might, and I missed it.
What followed were some long, heart-wrenching hours. My own dark night of the soul. And it’s one of the main reasons one seemingly insignificant verse in Mark 4—which I’d read hundreds of times before without really noticing—now packs such an emotional wallop for me.
And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? (Mark 4:13, ESV)
I think Jesus was trying to give them God’s heart, and they didn’t have hands to receive it. The situation not only reminds me of that horrible evening when I fumbled Missy’s feelings, it reminds me of Paul’s sober confession in 1 Corinthians.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV).
Paul’s divinely inspired and mercifully executed physical blinding on the road to Damascus enabled him to have clear spiritual vision. He realized that as created beings we will never be able to perfectly comprehend our Creator. Not while we’re hobbled by humanity in our sin-damaged environment anyway.
Not many experiences have been more precious than the moments of real connection Missy and I shared in the days and weeks after that terrible night of total incomprehension. I will never forget the first time we were lying next to each other in her narrow twin bed and she pointed to the shadows flickering across the ceiling and asked, “Iz at?” I quickly figured out she meant, “What is that?”
After I explained what it was, I thought I was going to levitate through the roof with joy when she chirped, “Dat’s a SHA-DOE!” It was kind of like that famous water scene in the Helen Keller movie when Anne Sullivan swings open the door of Helen’s dark prison.
I must admit, it grieved me when she stopped using her darling Creole-English hybrid phrase, “Oui ma’am” and replaced it with the accurate Southern girl affirmation, “Yes ma’am.” But for the most part, the ah-ha look that lights up Missy’s face fuels both of us with hopeful energy each time she learns a new English word or concept.
Missy’s initial tiny steps of comprehension led to longer and longer leaps where she’d point to one thing after another asking, “Iz at?” “Iz at?” Then she’d giggle gleefully when she was able to correctly parrot my response.
But enough about my baby’s burgeoning intellectual feats. Back to the valuable jewels we can mine from this awesome Bible passage. The delight of each new facet of knowing Jesus satisfies our souls in a way nothing else can. Because even more than Missy and I were made to be mother and daughter, you and I were made for deep connection with our Creator Redeemer!
Just like Missy and I keep wading into deeper and deeper parent/peanut waters, those spiritual ah-ha moments—when we actually grasp one of His promises or apply a scriptural principle to our lives—will lead us to pursue our Savior with more and more passion. Quite frankly, I believe when we taste even a tiny morsel of the communion with the God we were created for, we’ll be ravenous for more!
Enjoying a deeper connection with our Redeemer is why I’m also learning to appreciate the plow—whatever instrument God uses to keep the soil of our soul aerated and accessible to spiritual seeds—even when it hurts. And it will. Because when the steel of God’s Word catches on a root of bitterness or becomes stuck on a stone of rebellion in our hearts, the dislodging process will be painful.
God’s plow will likely leave a deep gash in our personal landscape. But it will also tender us toward His Spirit and help loosen our love for Him and others that we may not have even realized we were withholding. If you’ve put your hope and faith in Jesus Christ, the seed of the gospel will absolutely result in good fruit growing in your life. However, the size of our fruit depends on the softness of the soil. So how about it?