Tuesday, December 25, 2012

For Sabo on Christmas Eve

I shield Caden as we run to the van, he giggles and points at the sky. Yup buddy, I tell him through a smile, it's raining. Christmas Eve morning, and the gray rain that alternates misting and pouring feels all-encompassing as we drive through the pale light to get last-minute groceries and hopefully avoid crowds. I turn the radio off, the only sounds Caden's babbling from the backseat, rain pounding on metal roof, balding tires tenaciously gripping wet highway. The windshield wipers work over-time, but cant keep up with the deluge. I squint to see through my flooded window. Low-hanging-clouds shroud skyscrapers and all the world varies shades of gray.

The weather matches my mood, and the rivulets running down my cheeks match those running down the windows. I avoid the impulse to turn and take the long way home, knowing I will only find rain pounding empty pavement where he would normally be standing. Tears have come easily the last few days as I think of him sitting alone in jail this Christmas.

We were at camp when we hear that his detention hearing will be the next morning. Adam rises early and rushes back to Atlanta, driving four hours round-trip and getting snagged in traffic, arriving ten minutes after the day in court is scheduled to begin. Ten minutes too late and he is the first one called, so Adam never sees him. No one else is there either, his family deciding afresh that it's better to wash their hands of him. So he shuffles in orange jumpsuit and shackles before a sea of empty benches, a mixture of disappointment and triumphant vindication filling his just-turned-fifteen-year-old heart. I can almost hear him bragging to the guards: you see, I told you no one would be there. I have to take care of myself.

They have scheduled a DFCS hearing for two days after Christmas, and my heart wrenches to think of him spending Christmas alone in a cell, pondering his alone-ness, remembering how no one fought for him or wanted him. I feel crushed, disheartened, like it is too late, hopeless.

Somehow I’ve forgotten, even on the eve of His birthday celebration, that Jesus loves showing up in the most unexpected places. That He could even show up in the cell of an angry teenage boy. He reminds me though, gently and patiently teaching me this lesson again and again. He reminds me when I meet Him in the quiet night by Caden’s bedside while I watch his tiny heart beat through open chest. When I find Him in a tiny room that nine people call home, filled with candlelight and stacks upon stacks of dirty clothes. When He enrobes Himself in flesh and enters the world with groaning and pain and blood amidst manure and flies, wrapped like a tiny perfect burrito in a messy manger meant only for feeding animals, not for housing a King.

Tonight, we added an extra leaf to the table and family from both sides, plus our neighborhood family of kiddos, gathered around and ate ham and sweet potatoes and macaroni and cheese. We opened presents, and laughed and ate until it hurt. Now, everyone has helped clean up (a Christmas miracle!) while I put the babies to bed. Adam drives the kiddos home, and here I sit: cross-legged in front of the Christmas tree, candles casting flickering light and smelling of vanilla and balsam fir. I’m wrapped in rare quiet. A peaceful night. But still my heart weeps an ache that leaks out in salty drops sitting pregnant on wrinkles that daily deepen around my eyes.

I breathe a deep shuddering breath, the kind I would imagine Mary breathed after a contraction. A fragile relief that the wave is over, fraught with the knowledge that it will not be long before the next tightening of birthing pain begins. Because that is exactly how I feel. Relief at the knowledge that Jesus has come. This hesitant, yet somehow sure-footed, knowledge that the broken pieces are the very ones that will bring us face-to-face with Christ. The broken pieces like the babies who I glimpsed while delivering baskets to the cicu, the ones that reminded me of Caden and the days surrounding his surgery with such aching clarity I could scarcely breathe. Or the teenaged boy barely brushing past adolescence, the one who believes he faces jail, and a future stretched-out in front of him, utterly alone. The neighborhood kids who pop in for Christmas-eve dinner around our table, because their own don’t have much to offer. Children gunned down in their classrooms. Drug dealers and prostitutes trolling our corner. Teenage girls arrested for prostitution. Broken shards of a desperate world.

Shards that pierce my heart tonight, until it contracts afresh with the knowledge that Christ has come. Hope thrills. And relief floods me, but it is relief fraught with the knowledge that even a baby-Savior-King is not the end of the story. He is coming back to wipe every tear, to mend the broken shards into something whole and complete. And until then, we wait with the same expectant breath that the whole world breathed over 2000 years ago. Our King has come, and He is coming again.
Rejoice. Emmanuel has come. Jesus lives with us, enrobed in flesh, and now enthroned on high. And He has not just come to live with me while I sit on my cozy couch in front of the Christmas tree. He has come, maybe even more so, to live with Sabo, who will spend Christmas eve in a jail cell. With the babies who lay helpless with hearts bared in the cicu. With my neighbors, with the kiddos. With the broken-hearted, and those who stare at empty seats around their Christmas dinner tonight. So the God who chose a stable as the holy birthplace of the Prince of Peace, this God can choose a jail cell to enter the life of a boy I love as desperately as if I had birthed him myself.

Emmanuel. God with us. With all of us. Rejoice.


  1. As I got woke up at 3:55 this morning py the police banging down my neighbors door and a lady screaming I know now it was so I could read this and find comfort through your words. I love you beautiful friend! I am praying for our boys (and kids)!

  2. As I got woke up at 3:55 this morning py the police banging down my neighbors door and a lady screaming I know now it was so I could read this and find comfort through your words. I love you beautiful friend! I am praying for our boys (and kids)!

  3. Becca, your words are beautiful and so true. Praying for you, your family, your ministry, and especially Sabo.

  4. This is the only blog I'm reading tonight. The only one. xo

  5. Oh, Becca. This made my heart for Sabo.

  6. Praying for your boy. My heart aches for you, for him. I love you.

  7. As you know, and so beautifully expressed, and Carla knows -- it is so very possible to love a child not born to you as your own. And to know that you may never be able to reach them or care for them as you want to. All you can do is pray for them and let them know that they are loved - by us mere mortals and by God. I will be praying for Sabo.


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