Learning To Love

I wasn’t sure I should write this or even if I could write it. There are others more equipped with deep wisdom and understanding. And after all, any time the hearts and souls of vulnerable individuals are at stake, taking a humble, learning stance is always preferable. I am still in the midst of growing in understanding. So far I have only discovered I really don’t have answers or wisdom or understanding. And yet, I can’t shake what I have seen and experienced.

My parents began fostering when I was a young teenager. In reality, foster care and adoption were a part of my life before I could understand what it really meant. What did it really mean? It means loss. Through various atrocities and brokenness, the loss is the foundation, intertwined with grief and trauma.

While my parents were the foster parents, all of their children became a part of the endeavor.  As we got older, we were fingerprinted and had background checks. We learned CPR, how to change a trach, what counties had better social service operations, how important occupational therapy is, how to hook up a g-tube, how to sit in a courtroom, what to do for sensory disorders, how to communicate in the midst of various developmental delays, and the list could be much longer. We were a foster family.

In the middle of all of the therapy appointments and supervised visits and doctor’s appointments we got to really see each child. We saw the behavioral issues caused by abuse and neglect. We saw the insecurities arise from trauma. We saw the walls they built around them due to their grief.  We saw their heart and how the world had broken it. I remember their faces, their eyes, the insecurities. I see them still. I know their stories and I can match the stories with the faces. But their stories are not for me to tell. It is not right for me to display their insides like museum pieces for others to gaze and opine.

But I can tell my side and their stories have shaped me. Their loss became mine. I was never abused or neglected or removed from my home or experienced the same losses. My loss is different. I had the unique opportunity to look in the faces of children and see the world’s brokenness. And in their eyes I learned of the broken systems that care nothing for the hearts and minds of the little ones. I wanted so much to save them all. I wanted to scoop them up in my arms and make their pain go away. I wanted to save the world. But I couldn’t. I can’t.

I can love.

This love is not the natural kind. It is the really hard kind. The kind that hopes when it’s impossible. The kind that fights when there are no resources. The kind that demands tears of sorrow. The kind that won’t look away. The kind that won’t let go.  I wasn’t good at it then and I am still not good at it. Self-preservation requires us to run from things that hurt us. But true love always hurts.

After a particularly heartbreaking turn of events, I had someone ask me why I don’t just walk away. I responded that I couldn’t. They pressed even more and said I really could. But I can’t. I can’t walk away from a person who I love just because it is hard. So I stayed.

Sometimes it is difficult to remember all of the trauma and all of the pain. Sometimes I wish I never had to experience the heartbreak. Maybe it would have been easier to be a teenager who was more concerned about teenager things instead of how a four year old was progressing in speech therapy and how an unsupervised visit would set him back. I am glad I was present. I am glad I was able to glimpse the heart of God. The God who stays, who is present, who loves even when it hurts.

Just look at Jesus.

Rhea Carter
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