Our van bumped right into that familiar spot, and I wasn't prepared. I wasn't prepared for any of it. I thought I was, but I wasn't. This time I wasn't scanning the sea of little brown faces and eyes for my boy, because he was right beside me. This time it was different - there were more shops than there were 15 months ago - but the difference this time was that I was looking at all of this through his eyes. And I took it all in, my eyes hungry for another glimpse of his life, and I swallowed it down bitter and stinging, because the truth is it was ugly and unfair and incomprehensible to the life I live and my other three children live back at home.
The dusty road meets the shops. They call it the post office district, because across from the little tented shops, where the street boys sleep, live, and gather to beg and sell gum and kleenex and tooth sticks or shine some shoes, is a tall building - the post office. It is busy and bustling and this time I saw that it is sad and heavy. People are drowning in the reality of poverty and dieing.
My heart lurched and twisted as I ducked out of the van, and I stared into the dark eyes of boy after boy after boy. Boys who were no bigger than my Scotty and boys that were almost men, all wearing rags - probably cast off from Americans who were appeasing some of their guilt by sending their used clothing to poor Africa - that hung on much too slim, dirty, smelly, scarred and beaten frames. Some had eyes so hard and cold that I shivered inside wondering what had happened to them, some were like my Habi was just 15 months ago - with hallow, dark eyes that shimmered with a ray of hope. I believe it can only be Jesus that keeps hope alive and flickering in any of those boy's eyes.
Anger quickly gripped my heart, and I tried to push it away. Anger is not what I expected to feel, but as we shopped and walked through the little district, and as I watched Habi shout greetings to friends and bump shoulders in an Ethiopian hug, I grew hot and angry inside.
Why did I have the luxury of being born in America? I am not any different than any of the boys except for the plush zip code I was born into.
Why is it that just because these boys were born here do they have to suffer unimaginable things?
Why? Why? Why? If God is so just and so loving, which I know deep down that He is, than why?
I walked through the shops blinded by my hot tears, my heart racing out an angry beat. I could hardly breathe as boy after boy came up to me, palm open wide asking me for food or money or anything that would sustain them and carry them to the next day or even hour. I felt empty and worthless as their faces swirled around me. I cannot help them all. I can't, and it makes me burn with anger. It makes me burn with anger for the years of frivolous spending - those COACH bags that I thought were so meaningful and needed - how that money might have changed and even saved a child's life, the Starbucks coffees, which I still indulge in, they could pay for three meals for a child. Selfish. I am so selfish. How can I, who believes the gospel, just fall asleep every night in luxury, when these children sleep on cement and many will die never knowing the love of Jesus through His people and go to hell?
I caught the eyes of my boy. His eyes spoke a thousand words, and his heart read mine, and I closed my eyes and we turned away from one another. It was too much to take in together.
There was and is a whole community of homeless street boys just drowning in the life they were born into, and as I looked at them, I realized in the depth of my heart that God had only called me to make one my son.
And I was angry.
It hurts to do nothing. It hurts to feel useless when so many are crying out for help.
I love my Habi. I love my Habi just as if I had birthed him myself. He is mine. My heart knew it the moment our eyes found each other, but my heart also knows that he was not any more special than any of those other children out begging and starving to death on the street. Habi wasn't any more deserving of a family and a home and unconditional love than any of those other children.
And yet, God chose him for me.
But, just because those other boys are not chosen to be my sons, does that mean that I come back and pillow myself in the comfortable and not do anything for them? Who says that I should just leave the rest for someone else? Who says it is someone else's responsibility, and I have done "my share"? That tastes bitter on my tongue.
But I close my eyes at night, with my Habi safely tucked in a door down from mine, his belly full, his life safe, and I see the sea of brown faces. I have not forgotten. God will not allow me to forget the others.
One more. Can't I help one more? And one more?
Isn't His grace enough for one more? Isn't that what dieing to self, and taking up our cross looks like? Like reaching out for one more? Why didn't He give me one more? Why did I cover my eyes and sob into my arms inside the van? Why did I hide myself from connecting with one more?
I want to be like Jesus. I want my life to reflect the gospel.
There are so many more. So many more.
And I am angry, and it hurts, and I am pleading with God for justice.
Those boys could have been me, or my children. I could have been born into the middle of poverty in Ethiopia.
Except for God's grace.
And that is where I am landing - this is somehow all God's grace. Wonderful and confusing and perfect.
I'm still trying to figure out what that grace looks like and means for Habi, these boys and me.
Because I can't forget.
One of them lives with me now, and is my SON.
I can never forget.
If all is truly grace, than what am I to do with that grace. Surely it does not stop here.