June 8, 2013
While I'm Waiting
I glance at my watch, wondering what they are doing right about now. In an effort to keep my hands and mind busy, I nervously start a load of laundry, clean out a kitchen drawer, answer a few e-mails. I look at my watch again, and can hardly believe that only a few minutes have passed since I last checked. Why does time seem to move so slowly when I’m waiting?
The parents of my littlest one have a court hearing scheduled today, and as any foster mother knows, court hearings can be a Big Deal. A home can be running like a well-oiled machine, the children all settled in and thriving, the daily routines predictable and comfortable. Then, when the sun rises on the appointed calendar day, life as we know it hangs in the balance. With a judge’s authoritative decision, with a simple stroke of a pen, children’s lives can take a different path. Families can be forever changed.
Sometimes, in some situations, I can predict fairly accurately what the judge is going to decide. Whenever parents go to court in a protective custody case, they are given specific goals that they need to accomplish if they want to have their children back. However, instead of following the court orders and working to accomplish those goals, they spend months and months making excuses. If I hadn’t heard them with my own ears, I would hardly believe that grown adults have said these things . . .
“Parenting class? I don’t need no parenting class!”
“It wasn’t my fault that I missed that job interview (the one that the social worker set up for me). My alarm clock never went off.”
“I tried to take a drug test. I even set up the appointment and went. I just couldn’t go in that cup.”
“I couldn’t use the free transportation voucher to get to my child’s doctor’s appointment, because I gave it to my boyfriend.”
Or my personal favorite: “I didn’t know I needed to show up for my court hearing; no one told me I had to go.”
When parents consistently make these kinds of excuses, I’m pretty confident that their child will be staying with me for a few more months. At least until the next court hearing.
Today, however, I really have no idea what the outcome of the hearing will be. On paper, anyway, these parents have done everything that the court has asked them to do over the past six months. They’ve taken the required parenting classes. They have purchased a crib and a car seat. And they have consistently attended scheduled visits and doctor’s appointments with their child. However, on closer inspection, there are some “cracks” in the picture. A few shortcomings that have the social workers concerned.
Which isn’t surprising, really. When you scrutinize someone else’s life under a microscope, of course you are going to find some flaws. Sometimes I wonder what social workers would find if they looked at my home and family that closely.
Are these parents’ weaknesses serious enough to delay their child’s return home? Or will the judge overlook their deficiencies and decide that their parenting skills are adequate? It’s impossible to guess.
I check the time again, wondering if they are still in court, or if they have finished. Will the social worker call me right away? Surely the judge has made a decision by now, but I haven’t heard a word. As I continue to wait, and as I struggle to rein in my runaway thoughts, I realize that no matter what the judge decides today, I will need to rely completely on the Lord. Either way, I am going to be required to exercise just a little more faith.
If this little guy stays with me, I will need Yahweh-Jireh, The God Who Provides. As the days and weeks turn into months, and if it’s like other placements, possibly even years, I will need the endurance that only He can provide. Caring for a child with multiple needs can be exhausting, the days literal whirlwinds of appointments, therapies, engaging in activities to stimulate his developing mind, looking for every opportunity to coax a valuable calorie into his tiny, reluctant tummy. How can I continue expending my energy like this into someone else’s child? It’s overwhelming to think about the long, busy days ahead. Indeed, as I strive to meet this child’s many needs, I will need to depend entirely on the Lord’s strength, trusting Him to provide for my needs.
On the other hand, if this precious child leaves today, how will my heart possibly endure it? There are still so many things I would love to see him do, so many milestones that I envision for him. It’s not like “practice makes perfect” when it comes to saying good-bye. Each time a child leaves, it is heart-breaking, my emotions barely able to accept it. If this little one returns home to his parents today, I know that I will need God’s grace to fill the void that is left behind. I will trust Him to be Yahweh-Rapha, The God Who Heals, gently touching my broken heart with His loving hand, and making it whole again.
And what about this little guy? If he leaves, will he get the care and attention that he so desperately needs? Will they know his favorite song, which baby food he prefers, what his different cries mean? No matter where he goes and who is caring for him, ultimately I will need to remember El Roi, that God Sees. This little guy that I love with all my heart will never be out of God’s sight, not even for one moment.
Ugh! My restless, overactive thoughts are frantically racing around, imagining all of the “what ifs” of the case, second-guessing every possible perspective and scenario. Lord, please calm my anxiety and fill my mind with Your perfect peace. Help me to remember that regardless of the outcome in court today, You are Yahweh-Shalom, the Lord of Peace, and You are never more than a breath away.
I don’t like waiting. I prefer to be doing, to be actively working towards goals, checking off to-do lists, having little bit of control over what happens in my life. But today, God has called me to wait. To wait for His perfect timing. To entrust this child once again into His powerful, sovereign, loving hands, and to, hopefully, allow my faith to grow just a little bit more. And so, although I don’t like it, although it goes against my very nature, I will learn to trust. I will patiently wait.
Epilogue: The phone finally rang in the early evening, well past closing time at the office. I finally heard the news I had been waiting all day to hear: This little guy will be staying for a few more months. Until the next court hearing, when once again I will be waiting.