The book of choice for the trip to Hong Kong is Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. It was recommended by our pastor, Jon Dupin, in a recent tweet via Brentwood Church. From the title, it sounds like something that might be good to challenge my thoughts and feelings as Todd and I trek to Hong Kong.
Only a few chapters into the book, she develops a definition of ‘bittersweet:’
The practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gusty, earthy.
While I am so beyond the emotion of excitement about finally meeting Joel and bringing him home to Lynchburg, it is still bittersweet. I don’t know what life will Joel will bring. Down syndrome. Suspected autism spectrum disorder. Communication and language barriers. Sibling rivalry and acceptance. Western culture and life.
I believe however, that God is making all things new! Christ overcame death and that pattern is apparent all through life: life from death, water from stone, redemption from failure, connection from alienation. With this in mind, I live with hope and courage in the face of suffering and bitterness because I know that God has redeemed, not just rescued, me.
Niequist shares an analogy about the idea of a bittersweet life. Think of yourself at the beach, standing in the ocean, and the wave behind you is building tall. Do you stand there resolute and terrified, waiting to be smacked in the face with the full force of the water? Or, do you instead let go, surrender to the pull, and float through or over the wave? What is it about the times in life when we fully embrace what is heading our way instead of fighting it or just withstanding it?
I am utterly convinced that Joel, and Jasmine, were not just orphans needing a family. They are part of God’s plan and God has asked us to trust in Him, have peace in Him, and above all, glorify Him through the changes that are to come. No more running away from this world that is changing all the time, at every moment.
My prayer today is that I unclench my fists, unlock my knees and the door of my heart, remember to breath, and ride the waves as they come. But for now, it’s time for all you can eat pancakes and free wifi at the online.cafe.bar.grill in the Detroit airport (Terminal A, if you’re ever here).
Up next…the 15 hour flight to Hong Kong.