In the course of my adult life, I have dealt quite a bit with those who have suffered many different types of trauma. Typically, this was in the context of a semi-charismatic prayer group, and the trauma sufferers were men and women who had experienced it as a child. They had a different perspective and a lot of years between who they were when the incidents occurred and who they are now. In all cases, they had at least a relatively good support network and a working knowledge of who Jesus was, and how he did things.
I never expected–some ten years later–to be a foster parent on the way to becoming an adoptive parent of a very active young man who in his short lifetime had likely suffered much–certainly much more than most kids his age. My wife and I did twelve weeks of foster training, and it prepared us for some of the things we’ve encountered.
That doesn’t mean it is easy. But what it has done is to make us wholly dependent on God for wisdom, and comfort, and guidance. I believe it’s human nature to want to feel loved in return when you give love, or when you give anything of yourself. It doesn’t always happen. Luke 6 says this about who we should love: “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.”
I have to remind myself there’s a good chance our boy has not had much experience in a loving home, with a loving family. He probably hasn’t had any experience with discipline out of love. Could be he doesn’t know how to be loved at all; how to accept that love is something he has now, in abundance.
He may have some rudimentary head knowledge of Jesus, but if it doesn’t come out of love, it won’t become heart knowledge at all. So what we have to do is show this young man Jesus in a practical way. We make Jesus real to him by showing he is real to us. We do not hide our imperfections and blemishes–rather, we reveal them in the way of edification.
We do not simply pray for, we also pray with him. We show him what a loving family looks like by loving. My wife and I demonstrate what a healthy and Godly marriage looks like. We discipline because we care, rather than simply punish because we do not. We show affection, and we acknowledge our feelings and their feelings.
We also acknowledge our feelings and our fears and our doubts because they are real and they happen. We acknowledge them from the position of supplicant, because that is what we really all are in the first place. We can talk differences all day, but the truth is that at our cores we are also all the same. Like this young man newly added to our life and family, we are all broken in our own way. Yet we are also repaired in his way, and we need to share that it is a process, and it will take some time, hard as it is to endure.
Everyone knows the story of Moses, fleeing the forces of Pharoah, and parting the Red Sea so his people can escape, and finally be free. Yet do we know the whole story, as described in Exodus? Do we know that Moses, ever obedient to the Lord, was made to set up camp for his people, essentially giving time for Egypt to catch up? God convinces Egypt that the Israelites are lost and wandering: it doesn’t make sense to stop. But then Moses related a message from the Lord, “The Lord, will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14, ESV)
That victory did not come in an instant. And there was still the Red Sea before them, and Pharoah. Rather, the Lord told Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea. The water would take care of the rest.
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14:21-22, NIV)
One of the great miracles related in the Old Testament–the parting of the Red Sea and the escape of the Israelites from bondage.
“all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land.”
It took all night.
Not that God couldn’t have done whatever he needed to in an instant, but he didn’t, because he had something for Israel to learn. For us to learn. For me to learn.
He is God. I am not. There is something to learn in all this going on right now. There is something we can take away, even now.
Loving and expecting returns isn’t really love. Loving because we’ve been loved is. Loving as a verb, loving with all our hearts, even when they seem to feel completely the opposite.
We sure don’t always act like we love Jesus.
I think that what we need to do is stretch our hands out over the Sea. It might take all night, but in the end we will cross.
And we will have all of our family, including our newest, with us.
Because he is God. We are not.