We've been home for one week. One week of caring for Benjamin in an environment that is completely foreign to him. The smells. The sounds. The place. The rituals. The people. While we are eager for him to embrace his new life and we relish those moments of excitement as he discovers what is now his, our primary focus is to surround him with love. We make sure we hug him, kiss him, hold him, answer him, listen to him and tell him that we love him over and over. The message we want him to grasp is that he is loved... unconditionally and forever.
Last night I was making dinner in the kitchen and I heard some scuffling behind me. I turned to discover Benjamin pulling the same bowls we had used for dinner the night before out of the cupboard. He quietly took them to the dining room table and started distributing them amongst the place settings. He then meandered back to the cupboard and pulled out 6 cups. Returning to the table he placed one at each place. With no regard for anyone or anything going on around him, he proceeded to find the silverware drawer and take out the exact same type of utensils we had used the night before (we had used big spoons and forks for spaghetti but given him chopsticks because he prefers them), including a set of chopsticks for himself. I silently watched mesmerized as he then went to the refrigerator, took out the gallon of milk and poured some in each cup. His final task involved tugging on my sleeve, so that I would help him get the napkins, and then distributing those as well. Stepping back he finally made eye contact with me, very clearly waiting for my approval. Feeling an odd mixture of heartache and fascination, I "ooh"-ed and "ah"-ed over his accomplishment. His face beamed as he giggled with pleasure at receiving my praise.
This is not the first time that he has "performed" for our attention or commendation. He has shown us how he dresses himself, folds his clothes, grooms himself and more. I am gripped with a sinking feeling that he feels he must earn our love and concern. He is clearly starving for our affection and concern. Little does he realize, at least not yet, that we love him no matter what. He doesn't have to "do" or "not do" anything to make us love him more. Even when we've had to be firm with him we are making absolutely sure that he knows we love him still and do not withhold our affection from him because he's been "naughty". My heart breaks with weight of this burden he carries... the compulsion to work for our approval.
As I sat this morning reflecting over his behavior I couldn't help but relate to his desperate ploys for love. My whole life has been a long crusade to prove I am lovable and worthy of attention and affection. Despite my head-knowledge of scripture and the nature of Christ, I still feel the need to earn it from both those around me and my God. I am just like Benjamin... trying to perform for my heavenly father... not grasping the fact that he loves me no matter what. I could not earn it, deserve it, lose it or change it. This is the truth of family in the context of the gospel. This is the power of grace.