February 22, 2017
The foster placement had been a hard one. Really hard. He had many complicated medical issues that required surgeries and procedures and appointments and specialists. His development was significantly delayed, which was frustrating for us and for him, and which required countless therapy sessions. He had very few social skills and he (literally!) pushed me away when I tried to get close to him or pick him up. He was aggressive towards the other children in our home.
And to top it off, his mother disliked me. Almost daily she would find fault with the care her son was receiving, constantly complaining to the social worker about me. It was disheartening, to say the least.
It was hard, and I wanted to quit. In fact, I had asked to quit! Several times I had requested that his social worker and case manager please, please find another home for him. Surely there was someone else who could love him. Someone who had more time, energy, patience, and resources to give that child the care and nurturing and attention that he so desperately needed.
And yet, he was still here. Apparently there was no one else. Apparently I needed a lesson in perseverance. And faith.
Then one day, as I was driving him to the social services office for a visit with his mother, I was pleading with God to please provide another family for him. And if not, then please can He show me that there is somehow, in some way, an eternal value to this insanity? A divine purpose?
After leaving the little guy in the dingy play room with his mother, the social worker monitoring through the 1-way mirror, I noticed the mother’s boyfriend just outside, smoking a cigarette. I had met him several times before, so I knew exactly who he was. He was furious that he wasn’t being allowed to participate in the visit because of a failed drug test. As I listened, he then began talking about his life and some of the horrible things that he has experienced – albeit, most of them through his own irresponsibility and poor choices, but still.
With uncharacteristic boldness, I felt compelled to say, “You know, you don’t have to live with this guilt. You can be forgiven. Right now, right where we stand, God is ready to forgive you if you will only ask him.” Honestly, I don’t remember how the conversation ended. I was just so thankful that God had answered my prayer: He had given me that little glimpse into the life of a broken man. Perhaps, after all, there was some eternal value to the insanity!
Oh, but that wasn’t the end of the story. A few weeks later, as I was leaving the social services office again, after having dropped off my foster child – who was still with me – for his visit, I ran into the mom’s boyfriend again. Still outside with his cigarette, still angry that he wasn’t allowed inside for the visit, and still ready to talk.
Only this time, it was much more serious. He had been convicted of a crime, and in just a few days he would begin a two-year prison sentence. What was I supposed to say? What could a nice church girl from suburbia possibly say to a drug addict about to be incarcerated?
So I stuttered the only thing that came to mind: “Uh, are you nervous?”
As it turns out, he was not nervous, exactly, but he was prepared to be lonely. He knew this, unfortunately, because he had been in prison before. The last time, he was there for five years, and not one person – no family member or relative or friend or neighbor or co-worker – not one person came to visit him. He was, in every way, abandoned and forgotten.
So with less uncharacteristic boldness this time, I reminded him, “But God will be with you. He will be right there with you every minute of every day.”
“You know?” he said, as if suddenly remembering. “My mama used to tell me the same thing when I was growing up. She was a Christian like you. She spent her whole life praying for me. She passed away while I was in prison.”
(Note from a mama’s heart: the end of your life doesn’t mean the end of the story. Even years later, life may lead your grown child down unexpected paths where he meets other believers who will remind him of the Truth. The end of your life doesn’t mean the end of your influence. Your prayers may yet be answered!)
“How can I pray for you,” I asked him. I truly felt out of my element! But pray? I don’t need a counseling degree or theological training to do that!
He thought for a moment and then said, “You can pray for my faith. I ain’t got nothing!”
Faith? Of course I would pray for his faith! What more important thing could there possibly be to pray for?! “Would it be okay if I prayed with you right here? Now?” And he said yes. So right there on the sidewalk outside of the social services office, with people walking in and out of the building, I put my hand on his arm, he bowed his head, and we prayed.
It was a beautiful, priceless moment! A moment that far outweighed the thousands of chaotic and stressful and difficult moments with that foster child! A moment that reminded me, as clearly as a beacon, that there is eternal value in the middle of the mess! If mom’s boyfriend becomes a child of God, my brother in Christ, it will have all been worth it! If he ends up sharing the love of Christ with his family, and leading them as a godly husband and father, of course it will have all been worth it!
And then there was this . . . standing right there in the middle of us, a silent witness to the entire exchange, was my son. My 7-year old son who usually has school on weekday mornings but just happened to be with me that day because his classes were cancelled. Coincidence? More like a God-thing! It’s amazing to have the opportunity to share God’s love with a person who so desperately needs it, and it is even more amazing to do it alongside your son! Your impressionable son who is trying to make sense of the world around him, and who now has lots and lots of questions about sin and forgiveness and faith. Truly, it was a glimpse into God’s divine hand, even orchestrating the details for my son to be with me that day.
A difficult foster child. A birth mother who hated me. A discouraged foster mom. A simple prayer. An ordinary day. An extraordinary moment!
Worth it? Absolutely!