One of my priorities as I write is to always be truthful. Sometimes the truth is beautiful and charming and inspiring. But other times it’s messy and ugly and…somehow still inspiring when we allow God to wrench it from our grasping fingers and use it the way He wants to.
Here’s fair warning that there’s some truth of the messy variety ahead.
One recent afternoon, my heart sank and my stomach contorted into knots as I surveyed the ugly purplish-red mark on my bawling daughter’s arm. I noticed with chagrin the set of tiny teeth marks confirming the perpetrator’s identity.
It’s moments like these when anger overcomes affection and I realize my love for my foster sons is SOO…NOT…enough.
It’s not strong enough.
It’s not consistent enough.
It’s not unconditional enough.
It’s weak. And faulty. And flawed.
It’s these moments that make me want to laugh (politely, of course) in the faces of those people who address me admiringly for being a foster parent. And those other people who wistfully confide that they wish they could do it, but they don’t think they ever will.
As if I’m different from them. Better somehow.
Well, let’s dispense with that idea.
God didn’t equip me from birth to do this thing He asked me to do. He didn’t give me a stomach that isn’t repulsed by other kids’ vomit or a nose that doesn’t smell the messiest of soiled underwear. And He sure as heck didn’t give me a love that’s overflowing enough to cover all their mistakes but at the same time flimsy enough to painlessly wave goodbye when they’re reunited with their parents.
No. My nature is completely, thoroughly, unreservedly ill-equipped for this.
And in case you’re wondering, I’m realizing that it’s no different with my biological children.
Oh no, carrying a child in my womb for forty weeks didn’t equip me for the selflessness required of mothers. The C-sections I endured didn’t miraculously birth patience in me, and the years of breastfeeding didn’t nourish my stores of wisdom.
The days get long. The sink gets full. The kids get dirty. The tummies get hungry. The nights get brief. The playing gets loud. The arguing gets old. The rooms get messy. The clothes get stained. The mouths get sassy.
But in spite of all this (and maybe even because of it), I can see clearly that the problem isn’t with any of the kids.
They’re just being kids. Doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. They’re awaiting my diligent training and faithful instruction. They’ll do better when they know better, but for now, this is where they are.
The problem is…me.
Because even though I’m a daughter of the Most High God, bought with a price, dearly loved, pursued by Him and special to Him…I’m still me.
Weak. Faulty. And flawed.
So how can my love be anything else?
The only way I can love foster children or biological children or church children or anyone else under the sun is by letting God’s love flow through me.
That sounds delightful, doesn’t it? But what does it mean? Because if it’s just pretty fluff and not something I can count as true today and live out in my life tomorrow, then what’s the point?
Here’s what I’m learning:
For God’s love to flow through me, all I have to do is stay connected to the Source.
That’s it. When I’m connected to the Source, the rest takes care of itself.
Jesus said it like this:
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.John 15:5
Does the branch have to work to bear fruit? No. Does it have to strive and strain? Of course not. Bearing fruit will happen naturally as long as the branch is connected to the vine.
What if the branch breaks away from the vine? Well, in that case, all the striving and straining in the world won’t bring forth fruit.
And in much the same way, God’s love can channel through me when I’m closely connected to Him.
So when my temper is growing short and my patience is wearing thin, it’s a sure sign that I’m disconnected from the One who called me to love in the first place.
He called me. And He will equip me. Not in an all-at-once-here’s-all-you’ll-ever-need kind of way. It’s really more like a here’s-today’s-portion-and-you-have-to-come-back-for-more-tomorrow kind of way.
And I sort of think one reason He does this is to make sure I’ll come back tomorrow. (He likes me that much.)
But that’s a post for another day.