I have drafted this post in my head several times in the last few months, especially in the past few weeks. But every time I sit down to put my thoughts into words and pen them on paper, I can’t. I fall short every single time of being able to express my heart adequately. A heart that wholeheartedly loves and cherishes a child who has called my home her own for the last 21 months. But also from a heart that aches for her mother, a woman who has caused my faith to stretch in unimaginable ways, and my love for the lost and hurting to reach a level that doesn’t make sense.
I’ll never forget the first time I met her. Our foster daughter had been living with us for almost six months before I shook her hand and looked her in the eyes. Eyes that…well…pierced my soul. I will never forget the emptiness I saw in her that day. She was hurting. Her life was in a hopeless state. I could see her heart was broken. Actually, shattered. And her mind seemed to be controlled by the pains of her past that I just couldn’t understand because I had never faced them.
I remember our foster daughter taking her five tiny fingers wrapped in mine and letting them fall to her side as she sat next to her Momma and colored. My husband and I just stood in the corner, watching from a distance as we waited for our case number to be called. I wasn’t jealous. I didn’t sense the need to try to compete. I surprisingly didn’t have feelings of anger or thoughts that she didn’t deserve her. But I must admit before I saw her for the first time that day, I did. In my eyes, she was the sinner, and I was the saint. She was the one undeserving of being her mother.
But on that day, while walking up the steps to the courthouse, I asked the Lord to help me see her the way He saw her. I didn’t want to see her the way the investigators painted her. I didn’t want to look at her the way her past and present spoke of her. I didn’t want to see her as the sinner I had written her off to be. I didn’t want to condemn her for the poor choices she has made. Or label her as a bad mom, sister, daughter, or friend. I wanted to see her the way He saw her.
I wanted to see her through the eyes of grace.
Because friends, who am I to judge? Her life could have easily been mine. I could have been the one seeking the love my soul craved from men who didn’t care about me. I could have been the one chasing friends who were chasing the world and the emptiness that worldly pleasures so often bring. It could have been me sitting in the courtroom with my children taken away, broken, and lost…but it isn’t. And I believe it’s because I had parents who weren’t afraid to put their foot down. And friends who genuinely cared about my life. But most of all, I believe it’s because I fell in love with a man named Jesus 15 years ago. A man this woman has probably never met, but I pray every night she comes to know.
Because I have hope to believe that if she meets Him? If she sees her worth in Him? If she understands the love, He has for her? She would be set free from the chains that hold her down. The chains of depression. The chains of hopelessness. The chains of meaningless drugs and alcohol and friends who influence her in ways that keep her captive. And the chains that keep her from being the Momma this precious little girl desperately needs her to be…
This is why I often look away when a friend, family member, or even stranger says to me, “I hope you get to keep her forever.” Because while I would love to raise this beautiful five-year-old little girl who has captivated our hearts with the sweetest giggle, cutest smile, and softest blonde curls, I hate the notion and even the idea that if I do get to keep her, and if she does take on my last name, it will be because her Momma failed. She lost, and I somehow won. And so, my heart is often pulled in two different directions as war rages within my soul. Because truth be told, I really don’t want to win. I don’t want her to fail. I don’t want to see her continue to live the life of brokenness. A life full of heartache that has been damaged and destroyed. Instead, I want to see her living in the fullness that Jesus mercifully died to give her. A life that is happy and healthy. Restored and redeemed. Blessed and full of joy.
Don’t get me wrong, this prayer I pray isn’t easy. It is not always done in love or without tears. They are not always spoken without fear and doubt. Because let’s face it, as a former child abuse caseworker, I know first hand the grim statistics and the harsh reality of those who return to their old ways and nestle back into their bad habits. But friends, I can’t help but choose to believe nothing is too hard for the Lord (Gen. 18:14) and that He desires, loves, and even craves to make the broken whole. And that He specializes in taking our “uglies” and making them beautiful again.
Jeremiah 18:4-6 is such a beautiful image of this. It shows God sitting at the potter’s wheel, looking down at the flawed piece of pottery, and refusing to toss it. Refusing to overlook it and write it off as worthless, damaged, and without hope of ever being useful. Instead, God, the potter, makes another jar using all the same clay and cracks to make something new. There is no junk pile or flaws. Only the beautiful art His mighty, yet delicate fingers creatively restored.
I also can’t help but think of Saul. He was on the road to Damascus, ready to kill the disciples. He was on a mission to stop the message of the gospel and destroy anyone who tried to get in his way. But while on that road, God stepped in. And Saul, who later became known as the Apostle Paul and wrote 13 books of the New Testament, fell in love with a Man that he once ran from. A Man that he once hated. A Man that supernaturally turned his life around and empowered him to not only heal the sick with just his handkerchief but also raise the dead. And you know, if Jesus can save Him? If He can turn this sinner’s life around, then why can’t He save her? Why can’t she be rescued and delivered? Why can’t her family that is broken and destroyed meet His unfailing love and receive His healing? Why can’t this woman who has been wrecked by the sins of this world be saved by His grace? I have hope to believe she can and faith to believe she will.
For nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:45).
And so this is why I pray our foster daughter returns home; returns to her mother’s arms. Now, hear me out. I don’t want you thinking I am cold and heartless, and every night I bow my head and pray that she no longer be in my home, nestled underneath the blankets I just tucked her in. But I realize that, in a sense, I am. Because when I bow my head every night and pray for her, Momma, I am doing just that. And you know, I am okay with it. I have peace with my prayer. Because ultimately, I know that if she does return to her family, it will be because her Momma’s life has been ravished by the One who has been relentlessly pursuing her. And the chains that have been holding her down for most of her life? Have finally been broken. And the Momma God designed and created her to be for this little girl? And the woman He designed her to be for His Kingdom? Has finally been set free.
Will it be easy to pack our foster daughter’s bags and say good-bye? I don’t even have an answer for that. There aren’t words in my vocabulary to express how painstakingly hard it would be. Or how many tears I would shed. Or the ugly cry groans I would make. Even typing this post was unimaginably hard. But I know that at the end of the day, God will hold me, and He would be just as faithful to mend my broken heart, just as He was faithful to mend her Momma’s. I realize not everyone will have these same feelings, thoughts, or opinions. Nor will they have this same hope for her family, and that is okay. I don’t expect everyone to. But for me and my convictions? I can’t help but hope for the impossible and pray for a miracle. It’s what I do for my life and my family, so why shouldn’t I also do it for hers?
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