It felt as though all the blood had drained from my body and I was on the urge of falling into a deep abyss. My weakened legs kept carrying me as Darwin and I walked along the seemingly endless dirt path leading away from our home, but I felt as though all strength — any ounce of fight inside of me — had left when I heard his answer to my simple question.
I had spent the day working on administration for the Ranch, writing thank-you letters, running errands, and buying groceries. Darwin had taken the kids to the city for their monthly ‘parental visit’ time that the government’s child protective agency requires. Typically it is a two-hour time slot of sitting and waiting without any real hope of a familial visit. After all, in their time under the government’s care, their mother has not visited them once after having abandoned them in a hotel over two years ago.
As Darwin and the kids entered our gate upon their return from their day in the city, I greeted each of the kids with a hug and a kiss on the forehead as Darwin went quickly to our bathroom to get cleaned up because he and I had received a special invitation to dinner at his cousin’s home that evening and needed to leave promptly.
After having showered and changed, Darwin and I began walking hand-in-hand from our home along the two-kilometer stretch to the highway. I asked very casually how the required visit time went with the children that day, and he answered — as if I had asked him his favorite color or what he ate for breakfast –“Their dad came.”
I felt as though my world had collapsed, as though I had a thousand questions to ask all at once, but my legs kept moving and somehow I kept breathing as I listened, as if through a heavy fog, to Darwin’s words —
Their biological father, who had not visited them in recent times and whom we did not expect to have any contact with, showed up on ‘parental visit day’ at the government’s child protective care office and talked with his three children for about an hour and a half, saying that he plans on visiting them every month and that he is going to work as hard as he can to ‘get them out of here.’ Diana, the eldest, protested her father’s proposition with a deep sincerity, saying she is content with us and does not want to leave…
Darwin gave me more details about the visit, but my mind wandered to the unthinkable, the unanswerable…
But we were planning on starting the oficial adoption process this May…and by law we cannot do that if they are receiving parental visits…right? At least that is what I had been told. What if their father does take them right back into all of the emotional damage that they came from? Although for us it would be devastating to lose them, the long-term damage they would suffer would be far worse than our loss. But there is redemption for everyone, and no one is outside of God’s reach, so He could change their father of whom I have heard so many abusive stories…right? What are we – a family or… Keep walking, Jenn…
As one dead leg slung itself in front of the other, carrying me toward the highway, my sunglasses under the red-hot sky hid my tear-filled eyes as I thought I cannot afford to have an emotional breakdown now, right before – or worse, during – this big dinner with Darwin’s cousin and his family.
As Darwin and I sat in silence waiting for the dinner to start, he looked at me, the despair in my heart portrayed on my pale face, and said, “Nearly a year ago you told me something that deeply impacted me…”
And I thought I know what he is going to do.
And sure enough he gently reached for my limp hands and joined them together, palms up, cupping my my hands in his. He said, “You told me that this is how you hold everything, in your open, cupped hands, because nothing is yours. Jennifer, nothing is ours. We are only administrators in God’s Kingdom.”
My dulled mind travelled to the memory of what I had written in my journal roughly a year ago…
February 11, 2013: Yesterday as I sat perched on a mossy rock in the chest-deep waters of the river I lowered my cupped hands into the water, raising them up to study the small pool that remained cradled in my joined palms. Many times over the past few years I have used the phrase ´holding all things in cupped hands´ metaphorically to describe wanting to care for what God has given me — relationships, opportunities — without seeking control. Yesterday in the river I stared intently, almost obsessively, at the still pool in my hands for a few brief moments before abruptly clenching my fists. The water which I was holding, of course, took an immediate exit through my greedy fingers. Then, almost as an experiment to see what the results are when we grasp at water, at life — when we cling too tightly, too clumsily to what God has given us — I began grabbing handfuls of water and trying — unsuccessfully, of course — to clench the water, to keep it as mine, and each time I was left with the same result: nothing. I then tried the opposite approach — holding the river´s cool water on flat, uninviting hands. Rather than trying to rapaciously own the water I approached it indifferently, caring little whether it slid off my stiff palms, out of my life. Inevitably each time the water disappeared from my hands as it had no safe crevice to rest in. I then returned to my original position, marveling at my ability to maintain water in my carefully cupped hands, thinking how no other approach would work — I could try poking the water, slapping it, balancing it on my fingertips, crossing or twisting my hands, splaying my fingers, but each time I would be left with nothing. I will hold all that the Lord has given me with cupped, open hands.
I sat there, still in a fog, using what little strength I had to suppress the tears welling up in my eyes as he and I remained there for several minutes, staring at our empty, cupped hands. I imagined Diana, Gleny, and Jason – alas, not only them but everything and everyone in my life – sitting in my carefully cupped hands, looking up at me. Then I thought, no, not like that, and began imagining them running and dancing about on the slopes of my palms. I then began to see them – the small, imaginary children skipping about on my cupped palms – jumping outward from my thumbs, away from me, or being taken from my hands or voluntarily walking out of them. I began to feel an odd mixture of peace, sorrow, and understanding. Darwin’s words, which were initially my own so many months ago, bounced slowly around the corners of my tired mind, “Nothing is ours…” and I prayed then and am praying now that the Lord may allow those words to settle and bear fruit in the depths of my soul — that I may never clasp my hands greedily or fool myself into thinking I have power, control, or ownership over anyone or anything, including my own life. I will make the resolution once more, this time with a deeper understanding of its weight: I will hold all things in cupped, open hands.