I’ve learned more about love this year than expected. Not the cheap knock-off bandied about on social media sites or linked to hashtags—but the kind that slices through your heart like a river through rock, smoothing rough edges as it cuts a place for itself, leaving you forever changed.
Love without sacrifice is airy and carefree and like the seeds of a dandelion are easily moved—carried and discarded at the whim of summer’s breeze. The love of which I speak is more like the wind than the dandelion. It can blow gently, bringing relief or with violent gusts threaten to bring the whole house down.
THE THIEF WITHIN
It was late August and dandelions had long since gone to seed when a CPS worker delivered a disoriented little girl to our doorstep. She was as sweet as she was broken and everything within me wanted to love her and see her restored. What I knew of her story was unsettling but it was the unknowns that stole my sleep. I wept every night that first week she was with us. We knew the State’s goal was reunification and until meeting her, it was ours too. But now I couldn’t imagine her leaving our care. Surely God would make a way for her to stay.
Shortly after her arrival, amidst my plotting and planning a future of my design for us all—the Holy Spirit interrupted me with a passage of scripture—2 Samuel 12.
King David, who had almost everything, desired a woman who belonged to another. He took her anyway and to cover his sin, had her honorable husband murdered. And while the affair had been hidden from the eyes of (most) men—God saw it all—and was grieved.
He sent the prophet Nathan to confront King David with a parable: There was a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had almost everything while the pauper had only a cherished lamb that was like a daughter to him. A traveler came from afar and the rich man, not wanting to spare a sheep from his flocks—took the poor man’s beloved sheep, slaughtering and preparing it for his guest.
David was the rich man. And so was I.
I had it all. A husband, children, eternal security in Christ, resources a-plenty, and yet somehow it wasn’t enough. In my heart I desired more—another woman’s child--her beloved little lamb, who I would steal in the name of love.
I’ll be forever grateful for the interruption of the Holy Spirit that day and the repentance that followed. I would love the child and her mother by Heaven’s standard—not my own. Predictably though, there was more to learn.
A TABLE PREPARED
Some battles can only be fought in prayer and so I vowed to pray for healing, restoration and salvation for my foster daughter’s family. A snake of a thought wound its way around my mind first though—choking the words that would bring life. If you pray for her family, God will heal them and you’ll lose her.
It was only a moment—but it felt as though I was given the choice of different pathways. Would I choose to walk by faith, take up my cross and love without fear or would I deny the banquet of God’s grace to those who so desperately needed to feast at His table --and somehow hope to profit?
Love doesn’t insist on its own way and wouldn’t let me either. Was I not being like Jonah? The prophet who initially refused to deliver a message of judgement to an enemy nation which he knew would lead to repentance and later raged when it did.
Loving like this was becoming costly, painful…and transformative.
LIFE IN THE WILDERNESS
Caring for this child took our whole family and after we established a new routine a deep weariness set in. The emotional highs and spiritual insights seemed to fade into the background of monotony. Frustration and hopelessness loomed in the corners of our days and like the Psalmist I cried out to the Lord in despair.
The God of Love heard my prayers and brought relief—not by removing our burden but by expanding its borders. And the peace that surpasses comprehension was our shield.
Now our ministry wasn’t only to the child but to her mother. And in this I marveled at the unfathomable love of God. He had intervened on behalf of the child—but now he was going to rescue her mother and he was sending me.
This could have been difficult—but it wasn’t. The love that had been granted me overflowed in her direction. I wouldn’t be her judge as I had already encountered the darkness of my own heart—and had received first mercy and then grace as power. She deserved the same. There was something else too. I needed her to be who her daughter believed she was.
So I would help her.
AN UNEXPECTED FRIENDSHIP
We wrote letters first then emails and finally texts and phone calls. We were kind to each other at required meetings (an oddity in the foster world). We shared Thanksgiving dinner together too. We bonded during medical and educational meetings for the daughter we shared and in the span of a year moved from strangers to something like family.
I invited her to my church—now our church and we worship together. She and I even travelled to a retreat, bunking up in a cabin on a lake, talking over coffee, pouring over scripture and laughing about the antics of the little girl who brought us together.
It’s been a tough year for everyone—and the love of God has sustained us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
This past year I’ve become well acquainted with my frailties and strengths as the hardest battles I’ve faced in foster care are not with the child or system—but the war within. My will was not done. I was restricted, uncertain and obligated in a way I hadn’t been before.
Jesus says in Mark 8:34 that if anyone would follow him, they must first deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him. In a commencement speech at Boyce College called Sacred Schizophrenia, John Piper said to be a follower of Jesus Christ is to be a denier of self; therefore, there is a part of you who needs to be denied and a part that does the denying.
I had been like covetous David and spoiled Jonah--when Lord, would I be like Jesus?
In a sad room stained with dark conversations—my foster daughter’s mother and I sat beside each other in a meeting where State officials would decide the fate of the child we both loved.
And there, in that place the gentle breeze that had been blowing all along began to pick up speed as the power and presence of the Spirit of God opened my eyes to the wonder of it all…
My heart cracked open as I recalled praying for restoration of mother and child—and fighting to do so. How by grace, I sought to preserve her legacy with her daughter before she even knew if I was trustworthy. I thought about the enormous toll caring for her child had taken on my own children—my husband, my marriage. And the pain of loss, there was but one child and two mothers—it too came crashing down, washing over me in a flood of tears.
And yet it was the miracle I longed for.
“Not my will--but Yours be done.” Heaven’s standard, not my own.
And there was the second miracle experienced that day. I was both broken and made whole. Sorrowful yet rejoicing. Emptied of love and still overflowing. Me looking a bit more like Him.
What can I say about Christlike love? It is ever patient and humble. It brings honor to its beloved and is slow to anger. It’s never boastful but delights in truth. It always protects and trusts, hopes and perseveres. Love never fails.
A love like this can even work miracles.
"Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before you. "