“It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve
It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have to say the word…
There are so many things I would share with perspective foster parents or those who are curious to learn and understand more of the journey that foster parents walk on a daily basis. One of the biggest things I think I would share would be the act of forgiveness. Which, for us, this has by far been one of the hardest things to come to grips with. I might add that my husband and I are at different places in this area of our lives.
Growing up I was taught to forgive quickly, never to hold a grudge and to move forward. I really knew no other way, because that was HOW we were taught and HOW my parents truly lived. As an adult, I still live by that today and tend to hold little in when it comes to not forgiving. I tend to be less forgiving towards things and diseases rather than people. That was all very true until we began fostering.
Up and to that point, I could forgive and walk away if needed, or I could forgive and move forward. In this journey, that came a little harder. It was, and still is an on-going process. You see the word FORGIVE is a verb… it’s what you do, and it is something (I believe) you have to do daily. You have to choose it, sometimes daily and sometimes by the second…it’s not easy, it messes with your thoughts and questions HOW you could ever offer someone that kind of grace when they have done what they have done.
“It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
Its always angers own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
Its the whisper in your ear saying Set It Free”
The grace we have is not ours that grace comes from the Lord. He extends that beautiful gift to us, not only because we need it, but because we are to offer it as well. I think once we understand that, we are able to extend that gift more freely. Additionally, Matthew 18:18 tells us that what we bind on Earth, we bind in Heaven. So with that thought, it is grace and finding peace that allows us to set it free!
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you erase what has happened, it doesn’t mean that you continue to ‘entertain the circus’ and allow yourself or your children to be continually subject to those actions, but forgiveness allows you to move forward, to see things differently. There is much power in forgiveness, it is actually very freeing. I also believe that while you may not want to ‘entertain the circus’ sometimes you must… against your own will… when you would rather walk away, well, run away!
“It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what its power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you”
In the realm of foster care, there MUST be forgiveness. Not only for yourselves as adults, but to teach your children. When you show them how to forgive, their lives improve. They can ‘clear the bitterness away’ in their own hearts. That can more effectively deal with their past, present and subsequently their future. It doesn’t matter if it is a story of reunification or adoption, forgiveness is a MUST! There comes a point where you have to understand that the biological parents are NOT the enemy, rather they are an opportunity. As a Christian, it is our ‘duty’ to live out our faith. To show mercy, love, give grace, and to offer them everything Jesus would offer us. In essence we show them Jesus, we introduce them to this amazing savior who can right every wrong. Not only do we offer that forgiveness to the biological parents, we teach the children in the process that there is something greater at work. It truly is a powerful thing when the children can witness those positive, forgiving interactions between the foster and biological parents.
It’s not easy, it can take a long time, and it is even cyclical. This song I have been referring to throughout this blog was written about a woman who lost her daughter in a car crash when she and a friend were hit by a drunk driver. The families not only forgave this young man, they asked for a reduction in his sentence and shared Jesus with him. Today Renee (mother of the child) and Eric (driver) tour the country TOGETHER sharing their message about the consequences of drunk driving and beauty of forgiveness.
I am sure that Renee never imagined this journey, nor did she ever imagine the depths and breaths of her forgiveness. I am quite sure that she never imagined an artist taking her tragedy and turning it into a popular Christian song that shares a beautiful message of what can happen when we learn to love the unlovable and reach the unreachable. If she can offer that forgiveness, if she can face the one who caused that unbearable pain every single day, then why can’t we as foster parents, why can’t we as human beings?
“Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible”
I feel that I have finally reached that point in our journey. It took time, it was and is an on-going process. I prayed, analyzed, cried, got angry, screamed, and went through every emotion imaginable. NOT for my own pain, but for what children endure. God broke my heart long ago for children. I believe that’s one of the reasons I became a teacher. I wanted to make a difference in the life of a child. Now as an adult, having fulfilled my ambition to teach, and now our calling into foster care, I feel that same way, to make a difference in the life of a child. I can’t change their past, but I can love them in their present situation and offer them the hope for the future. It’s not perfect, it is often quite messy and at times unpleasant, but I found one thing to be true. You can absolutely hate the sin and not the sinner. And when the time comes and you are standing face to face with that person, you can offer them grace, and show them Jesus. It’s a difficult lesson, but a powerful one and necessary one. There comes a point where being angry isn’t being productive and your energy spent on that anger is damaging more than just yourself.
“I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me”
My final thoughts are simple, and while it’s not full-proof in my own life, and there are several situations that I would love to see changed, I can honestly say, in any situation I am involved in, whether it is family, friends, work, or foster care, I absolutely have come to a place of forgiveness in my life. I hold nothing in any longer and pray daily that in spite of the forgiveness I have chosen, that it may not be reciprocated, and that is fine. We all have fences that are in need of being mended, some choose freely to mend those fences and restore those relationships and others choose to mend those fences and walk away. I never like to walk away, but I understand that sometimes it is necessary. I also believe that even after you have chosen to walk away, there is always opportunity restore those relationships… at least that is how I see it. Jesus wouldn’t turn you away if you chose to come back to him, he would restore that relationship, so why should I be any different!
Matthew 6:14-15 ~ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Song – Forgiveness by Matthew West