God gave me a gift tonight, and I pray you receive it also.
I had a dream this evening. It seemed a causal dream, filled with somewhat familiar faces from my past, in roughly identifiable locations from my contemporary American surroundings. As I progressed through this dream, I rose from a table with friends in a restaurant and began making my way across the room. The environment felt warm, comfortable, and at ease, like that of a well-catered tavern in my hometown. There were pictures on the wall, smells of hearty food, and laughs of family carrying over the heads of a seated crowd.
As I turned down a hallway, a smile could be felt to break on my face as I saw an old college friend approach with an infant in tow and a wife and toddler behind. As friends and their families were so common in this place, I remained within the socially accepted by raising my right hand in a slight waive and nodding. It was then, in the fog of this dream, I sensed the surprisingly-familiar weight of a baby-carrier over my left forearm.
As a parent, I have been amazed at how sensations that would normally be unpleasant or neutrally meaningful take on special small joys because they remind us of our children. That was the feeling in my dream that came over me when the dull, aching pressure of the plastic carrier hanging over my arm began to resonate in my mind. My emotions actually swelled with a slight bit of pride, as I raised the carrier in front of me quickly enough for my passing friend to see that I, too, had been blessed with children. Years’ worth of parenting two boys and anticipation of caring for another son and new daughter in the very near future swelled within my father’s-heart as I turned my eyes downward to view the waiting child.
This was not where I thought this dream was going. My adrenaline pounds and skin goes cold now as I try to write these words. There, in this well-padded, fashion-sensitive American infant-carrier, was a tiny child. In the first instant, I still wanted him to be my child, as I peered more closely. Maybe five or six pounds with a dark-reddish complexion. Shaking with small arms swinging at the air. Fists clenched and eyes squinting as they struggled to produce tears. Mouth wide open, in what appeared to be a gaping yawn.
Hair raised on my neck and eyes widened, as the realization overwhelmed me that the child was at the feverish pitch of a terrified scream, but there was no sound produced, because his vocal chords had exhausted themselves from unsuccessfully attempting with every fiber of his infant frame to get my attention. There I stood, starring into the face of a child screaming with all he had, but not a sound was heard. His face shook violently and skin trembled with each heaving, shallow pant. His arms and legs struggled against the air and cushion, desperately seeking comfort that had not been given. As I leaned in further, the emaciated frame and tear-lacking dehydration became apparent.
Terror struck me dumb. Pride within me wanted to shout to my passing friend and those around me, “This is not my child! I take care of my children!” Panic-stricken, I wanted to show them all pictures of my children from my wallet. I wanted them to see smiling faces of well-feed infants and gleaming joy of running toddlers that had roamed my house. I wanted to prove to them that I was a good Christian man who had lovingly sacrificed to provide all of my children’s needs and desires. “Look at my comfortable house and cars. Look at their mountains of toys,” I wanted to say. But there was this silent, screaming infant still on my arm.
Again my self-conscious revolted within me for understanding from those who had begun to notice my growing distress. “I am a good man! For God’s sake, two of my children are adopted orphans from Ethiopia. Isn’t that sign enough of who I am!?”
I woke up, crippled at my depths by this dream.
I sat up in bed, reeling at what had just run through my mind. I was back in the safety of my room, with my wife quietly sleeping next to me. My chest rose and fell quickly, as my lungs caught pace.
The lack of noise above, reassured me that our two older sons slept at ease one story up. I rose and stood in the hallway, looking into the nursery that had been freshly painted in preparation for bringing our new three-year-old son and four-month-old daughter home from the other side of the world. The adoption process had already been life-changing. It had also been financially grueling and axis-shifting in my faith. Never in my life had I felt my walk with Christ so closely and my dependence and gratefulness towards God so constant. So, what was this dream?
I genuinely searched my heart and the walls with my eyes. “God, what are you trying to tell me with this horrifying dream? I do take care for my children. They are well-fed, well-clothed, and sleeping comfortably. Yes, our two new ones are still a world away, but they will be with us soon and are at least being cared for by good people right now. Where does this screaming, voiceless infant fit into this picture?”
The lightening rod of the Holy Spirit pierced me, as tears began streaming down my face in that dark hallway – “the child had no voice.”
In his violent fight for survival against being ignored by me and those around, he could do nothing to change his pain except to wait for me to realize he was there. Why? How in the world did I miss a starving infant hanging on my arm? I am a devoted father who cares immensely for my children. I am the kind of person who waives with a smile every time I catch the eye of a young child in public. I am an out-of-the-box Christian who adopted internationally. I had gone to a third world country to see the faces of the children roaming the streets and scavenging food. “Why would I, of all people, have a dream about a dying infant who could not be heard?”
He answered me, “Because you are his voice.”
I sank to my knees, crushed by the beautiful pain of this burden. Just as the infant, my body shook and tears streamed as my mouth gaped open without speech. Images of thousands of orphaned children on the streets of Ethiopia poured through my mind. The indescribable ache of longing to bring my two new children home seized my chest. Bitter reality raced through my thoughts of the millions of children alone, dying in terror, voiceless.
In the silence, I asked Him, “What do you want me to do with this?”
His reply has changed everything for me and in me – “You are their voice. They are all my children. Go and call others.”
“Will you join me?”