Friday, July 19, 2013

A Prison Preferred

 A grocery outing.  Simple enough.  Restock the pantry.  But for my bride, this is rarely without incident.  In a home with five young active children every errand is an adventure and every excursion is weighed for its necessity.  This junket proved no different.

From the start, behavior was challenging.  A van full of children with energy and looking for a release.  Adding fuel to this combustible are three approaching birthdays where every trip to a store is filled with potential promise, particularly as two of these children have never had a proper birthday party in their short and trauma filled lives.  The trip was hectic, with three of the four children dancing around the cart, running up and down aisles, pining for treats, cereals, toys, etc.  The youngest was placed firmly in the seat of the cart as we have learned long ago that his short legs quickly find trouble when left to wander.  After a marathon gauntlet of "NO, put that back!  NO, we're not getting that.  NO, TAKE THAT OUT OF THE CART!" my bride was ready to check out and proceeded to get into one of the lengthy lines.

It was then she noted that of all of our children the youngest, who is normally a healthy contributor to our chaos, was uncharacteristically quiet.  As spider-sense tingled, instinct kicked in and she began to search our young one.  First his face, then his body, then his... chocolate covered hands?  Her investigation yielded a four year old boy who had stolen his first candy bar and was quietly sitting on his unwrapped pilfering breaking off piece-after-piece unnoticed and putting them into his mouth to melt away when mother wasn't looking.  But no matter how good he was, the evidence on his hands and clothing still indicted.  Obviously shock was a bit of a reaction, along with chastisement and some ire as the candy bar was taken from him and given to the cashier to throw away as my bride apologetically paid for it.  He could not, after all, be permitted to continue enjoying the fruit of his crime. 

My bride then exited the store, loaded the children into the van and then proceeded to load the groceries into the rear of the vehicle.  When she returned to the front of the van after depositing the cart, she found a four-year old boy crying hysterically.  As it turns out, his siblings had convinced him that his crime was, in fact, a severe crime demanding severe punishment and that he would be shortly visited by the police and hauled away to jail.  One of my daughters even taunted "Oh, hear that?  Sounds like the sirens are getting closer - those are for you.  You're going to jail."  Another joined in "You won't like it either, I know what it's like!"  My bride had to console him that he was not, in fact, going to jail, that no one was going to take him, that even though he had done something wrong - the candy bar had been paid for, and that the price and penalty for his crime had been taken care of.  He started to calm with this realization.  Then my bride informed our young one that he would still have to "talk to daddy tonight when he gets home".  With this, our youngest started to wail afresh with renewed outbursts of anguish. 

When my bride recounted the above to me, laughter was the obvious response.  But so was a twinge of sadness in that I questioned what would make a small boy rather go to jail than talk to his father who loves him?  Days later, this has created for me an illustration worthy of self-examination.

How often have I missed it, missed God's calling, missed His direction or directive for my life and known it?  How often has disobedience come into play in my life or maybe it is simply those areas that I feel the tug to relinquish but I hold onto tightly refusing to let go?  How often are we imprisoned by our unwillingness to approach Him with the things that keep us from self-harm, potential developed, created plan perfected?  Have you ever, in your heart, desired your jail, your prison, your lines in the sand over facing the truth and admonitions of "Daddy"?

We can't play games with this Father or His Word for He cuts away falsehoods and requires reaction to truth as stated;

"For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power making it active, operative, energizing, and effective; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and the immortal spirit, and of joints and marrow of the deepest parts of our nature, exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart."
Hebrews 4:12 AMP

Our reaction?  We either come into line with this Word and become changed or we stay imprisoned in ourselves, staying blinded, muted, and dulled for this existence.  God wants to unlock and free every part of His plan for our lives through us which will bring us ultimate purpose, unlocking our fullest potential and bring Him ultimate glory.  It is for this we were created - to be vessels of His love overflowing.  And when we stumble, repentance is a whispered breath away; the path to freedom and restoration.  There may be those telling us that our trespasses are too severe, perhaps we convince ourselves that the stain of our actions have made us permanently unworthy.  There will always be people judging us, condemning others but like my son, we each are privileged to know that our debt has been paid, our crimes have been accounted for, but we still have a responsibility to approach the Father.  If we shy from this, if we attempt our own path of glorification and satisfaction, we are, in effect preferring a prison over a parent.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Cost of a Child

Court; a dreaded word for my bride and I.  It has become a regular visitor on our life's calendar that brings with it frustration, and often tears.  We are foster-parents and court is a necessary part of the journey in healing families and children who have been taken from parents. 

Regardless of the love and nurturing hearts of any foster-family, my bride and I have discovered that we are, in the court's eyes, "care-givers" - nothing more.  It is deemed that attorneys know better what is in the children's best interests, what their needs are and how to best fulfill those needs rather than the ones who live with these children 24 hours a day.  Inestimable hours have been spent in phone conversations with counselors, health professionals, case workers and their supervisors - all on behalf of the children and their welfare.  There exists a polarization of professional opinions and we find ourselves living our own lives by committee fighting for common sense to rule out.  Nothing can be done on behalf of these young ones without a myriad of individual agencies reviewing and voicing input. 

This is is the price for those who would foster-parent or adopt children who have suffered abuse and trauma.

This is also a path we have consciously chosen.  Our greatest reward in this journey, our greatest vindication will be to watch two small children grow to maturity with the knowledge that they are loved, that they possess worth, and that they can accomplish anything they set their minds and wills to.  If we have nothing more than a season to instill this, then we will pray over seed sown and a full harvest in hearts and minds.  Should it become something more permanent, then we will endeavor to raise up the next Godly generation.  Regardless, there is a cost - yet this cost is rarely discussed freely or openly.  Private people endure private pain.  When engaging conversation, so very often our trials and heartaches remain hidden.  After all, who wants to walk around with their emotions on their sleeve even if strength for the next day seems an impossibility?  So adoptive and foster families keep their struggles to themselves.  Many walk with a knowing light in our eyes, often able to relate, but rarely willing to share to the uninitiated.

I tire of the notion that we have to lure, beg or somehow trick people into being interested in orphan care and adoption by avoiding the realities of the journey.  The truth is it will cost you.  It will be difficult.  Yes it will be the most stretching, taxing endeavor you've ever embarked upon.  There are rewards and joys in the journey, but here is the bottom line:  you will not remain unaltered or undamaged.  As you confront stratified systems and the injustices of others, as you witness hell's carnage in small lives you will weep. 

But far, far more importantly - it's God's heart.  It's that simple.  His passion for the fatherless is the only means by which any of us can hope to see His face and avoid damnation with a host of fallen angelic insurrectionists.  His passion for the fatherless is the love that causes Him to pursue you - the fatherless.  Adoption is His cosmic model.  How often have we prayed to emulate His character, his persona in our lives?  For those who have embarked upon this journey to love the fatherless, the will and the heart of the Father have been revealed and fuels the energies and passions.

Further, ponder this:  When you commit yourself to the fatherless, when you foster-parent, when you adopt that child who has witnessed hell, abandonment, uncertain days - you will pay for someone else's misdeeds.  You will pay the price for their crimes against the innocent.  The price may be minor as in night terrors, bed-wetting, clinging, and constant interruptions to sleep for security's sake.  It may be more severe with emotional and psychological disconnect, tantrums, physical or cognitive delays requiring specialists, physicians, counselors, and psychologists.  No matter the severity - you will bear the burden of another's sins. 

Is this fair?  No, it is certainly most unfair and this child has known little of "fair" in their brief years.  But before you despair or back away indicating "not-for-me" you should remember: there is One who paid the ultimate price unfairly.  Like the foster or adoptive parent, the One who paid for these crimes didn't deserve what was placed upon Him.  None-the-less, His payment secured a life and a new start, a second chance...a thousandth chance if needed... for a new family of sons and daughters. 

And it's a broken family, a messed up family.  This "mixed" family has imperfect people of all colors, sizes and demeanors in it.  Some in this family get along with each other and some still have yet to learn the lessons of selfless love.  But each calls upon a Father who loves them infinitely.  His most favoured Son paid dearly for the crimes of others to bring brothers and sisters into the Father's family.  But with a gaze of penetrating compassion the Son looks to us and says:

"If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself, disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests and take up his cross and follow Me, cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also".
Matthew 16:24 AMP

 This is the cost of a child.