Only Love Can Break Your Heart

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“We’ll never do foster care. Never.”  

That’s what my husband, Adam, and I said about the emotionally risky role of fostering before we were married. We were just starting to dream up our life together and there were many conversations about adoption. It was on both our minds and hearts and had always been in our individual life plans. There was one conversation in particular when we let each other know that we could never do foster care — adoption, yes, but never fostering. The temporary nature of it would be too much for our hearts to handle. We needed the guarantee of adoption. 

Fast-forward nine years and many different conversations, and we found ourselves sitting in classes to become foster parents. By then we had decided we would only take foster-to-adopt children. This criteria comes with an “almost guarantee” that the child will be free for adoption and thus, belong to us forever. We continued to keep the safety of our own hearts a priority.

We filled out the paperwork with criteria of the ideal children that would compliment how our family was currently operating. We said we were open, but when our hearts were checked, there was fear. The reality of life changing and our hearts being on the line was really scary. We waited for a few weeks in our “safety box,” but we felt Jesus asking us to trust him in a bigger way. So, Adam and I made an agreement to say yes. To trust that any phone call we received to place a child with us would be an invitation to trust Jesus and his plan for our lives. To trust Him with the unknowns of our family. To trust Him with the safety of our boys (ages 1 and 5). To trust Him with our hearts...with our boys' hearts.  

“…EVERY CHILD COMES INTO FOSTER CARE IS COMING FROM A PLACE OF LOSS, AND WE WERE NOW A PART OF THAT STORY.”

The phone rang. We said yes and they said yes. We went to the hospital to meet our little guy. We took turns feeding him there through the night to learn his special needs, and we instantly fell in love. And it was a whirlwind. There was too much to do and too much excitement to feel the weight at first. But we knew the sadness would come. Every child comes into foster care comes from a place of loss, and we were now a part of that story. 

Then we saw his parent’s faces in pictures from the NICU, and their suffering became a reality. The moments we were cherishing with this baby were moments of agony and loss for them. We cried…a lot. And we weren’t expecting it. We were expecting to rescue hurting children, not hurting parents. Our mission changed, and our hearts changed. And, somehow, we loved them too.

Almost a month later and the first visit with his parents had come. And it turns out, a month is long enough to bond with a child and to waver on the thoughts you had before they were tied to any emotions. My prayers started to contradict each other. I prayed he would be ours forever and I prayed that his parents would be freed from their bondage to sin through Jesus. I didn't know how they could both exist, but I prayed God would work it out. 

As I sat in the lobby of Children's Services with knots in my stomach, they walked in. I saw his mom and she saw me. Both of our eyes filled with tears. I could see instantly that she loved him. And in that moment I saw the innocence in her face even though I knew her story on paper. I saw a young mom who longed for her baby, who didn't quite know how to be a loving mom because no one had been one to her. And Jesus took me out of the picture. He let me see her the way He sees her. I forgot I wanted him to be ours. And as I handed our sweet boy to her, the words just came out of my mouth, "Here's your mommy!" As she walked away, I wept tears of joy. That moment, where God allowed me to forget about me, was the most alive I've ever felt. 

“WE HAVE FOUND THAT FOLLOWING JESUS INTO THE MOST PAINFUL, MESSY PARTS OF THIS WORLD IS THE SAFEST PLACE TO BE.” 

So, here we are, coming up on six months of loving this baby boy like our own, and loving his parents. And it never looks like we think it will or even should. But we feel like we are getting glimpses into Jesus’s heart like we’ve never seen before. Our hearts are literally hurting and weeping for sins that were so far from our lives just months ago.

If there’s anything worth risking my heart for — this child, these children, these broken parents with broken childhoods of their own — they are worth my heart breaking. They were worth Jesus’s life! They are certainly worth the sacrifice of our comfort. 

So from here on out, we live in this place that is so uncertain, with our hearts wide open to brokenness in order to experience the fullness of God’s plans. And though the hurt already hurts more than we imagined, and the breaking of our hearts is so real, we wouldn’t be anywhere else. We have found that following Jesus into the most painful, messy parts of this world is the safest place to be.