In which I attempt to love my enemy


Dark days, Foster care / Thursday, January 24th, 2019

How do you respond when someone steps between you and your dearest hopes? When for the rest of your day, or your month – or for the remainder of your years – life will be different because of them?

What if YOU ruin things for someone else? What if your gain is their loss in every way?

How do you work closely with people you distrust, for days and months on end? What if your generosity is enabling them to keep failing? Or, God forbid, to succeed? Or can it be that loving service what is asked of you, no matter what others choose to do with it?

These are the questions that run in my mind.


Our fostering situation goes from hard to harder. Eight weeks ago, we believed we were adopting two children; today, we are on the fast track to reunifying them with their birth family. There is a fatal wound in our bellies, and every day the knife twists a little. One day we are given the court date for the children’s return home. Another day we get the intense visit schedule until then, and see how little they will be ours. The children’s acting-out behaviors intensify in this transition phase. Our relationships with bio family members dance herky-jerk between the bearable and the unbearable.

I remember well all the glorious things I’ve written about teamplaying with bio families. I still believe in them. And NEWSFLASH: They don’t always work.

A thousand little slights, distrusts, dismissals, lies, leave me furious and grappling with my role. They are taking this, taking that, taking more, taking, taking. I am losing in a big way, and I go on losing. I can fight this, I think. I can ask for my rights, I can require courtesy, I can get my own back. THIS IS NOT FAIR.

And then I hear words in my mind. But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

In this new-kingdom scene, it looks like the grabby-grabby fighting meanie-pants people WIN.

AND WE LET THEM.

How, Lord, how?

I kneel by my bed and cry. I can feel a physical lump in my throat from how much this way hurts, how hard it is to choose, and how much I hate my enemies: these women whose hopes and interests are in direct conflict with my own, and who don’t play nice to get there.

My stomach knots before visits, because I will see them. I will have to smile and share and teamplay and what if I do it all wrong? What if I can’t keep it up? But once I arrive, I find I can. I can be a big girl and do the right thing and be pleasant-if-bumbling and say words that I mean but do not feel.

I think if I was a better Christian, maybe I could feel peace instead of distress and horror. Maybe I could feel compassion and tenderness, and joy in another’s success at my expense. But I don’t – I struggle, I hurt, I panic.

The Lord makes miracles for me on a regular basis. Best, the miracle of forgiveness when I act selfishly. The miracle of smiling toward a face I wish I’d never see again. The miracle of holding back my tears until later. The miracle of offering WIC food to help my rival through the month, since it is for the children and they are spending more time with her, and she can’t cash the checks while the children are placed with me.

Some days, Jesus creates the miracle of real connection after all this time, rare and precious moments when someone else lays down her armor and reaches for relationship. Often, I am shut out, embittered and hurting and vengeful.

I can do all the right things, I tell the Lord. If you want, I can go buy more clothes instead of asking for ours back; you have given us enough money for that. I can let the favorite little dress go. I can help her increase into the mommy role, in a dozen trivial ways, while I decrease. I can even praise my enemy’s progress (it is real progress), warmly to herself and faithfully to the supervisors behind her back. Thank you for this grace.

But oh Lord, please. When you look into my soul and see the heartbreak and the anger and the hatred, I beg that you do not see a hypocrite and a liar. Jesus, I feel choked by my own interests. In my heart, hiding beneath the good deeds, is the desperate desire for her to crash and burn. Deep underneath I am just. like. her., seeking only my own, and I cannot purge it away. Look on me. Look on me, Lord, and see a woman trying her best to live how you want me to live.

When I rise from my knees, I do not feel peace. I feel wrenched out and wrung tight. I feel crusty with drying tears. I feel touchy and irritable with small demands.

But I can go cook our dinner. And – so faulty, so duplicitous – I can do the next good thing.

36 Replies to “In which I attempt to love my enemy”

  1. Last night I dreamed about the little girl we thought we were going to adopt. I dreamed that she was rosy and happy in my arms, and oh how I loved her! Then I woke up, and it wasn’t true. She has been gone almost four months now, to parents I don’t trust.

    The knife is permanently stuck between my ribs, twisting cruelly lest I forget. Lord have mercy on us all!

  2. Many many PRAYERS!!! That deep pain, sleepless nights and crying yourself to sleep, pleading for Jesus to protect the child. Pleading for the child to grow up for Jesus. Grieving the not knowing what all the dear child will face. I’ve been there. But I can say I totally understand all your pain, as God miraculously gave the child to us as our very own. And he never left after all. My heart and prayers are with you as you face all this and keep turning it over to Jesus. As you continue to be a wife and mother through it all and allow Jesus to shine through your deepest pain. HUGS and prayers and tears.

  3. That was to say I CAN’T say I totally understand all your pain as God worked a miracle and my pain turned to joy. Hang in!!! Many PRAYERS

  4. Oh Shari….just know I have been there..and still wrestle with all these feelings..our lives are forever changed…love you girl…keep doing the next good thing…Joanna

  5. Oh Shari, that sounds sooooo hard! May God give you much strength and grace to be a true Christian witness in the midst of the pain. And it sounds like He is! We’ve never been in the exact same situation, but I could write pages about some of the hard things we have dealt with and are dealing with in foster care! My attitude can really need adjusting sometimes!!!!!!!! So many challenges! Your words ring so true! Keep on doing the right thing, and I pray you will be richly blessed!

  6. “I think if I was a better Christian, maybe I could feel peace instead of distress and horror.” Maybe if Christ would’ve been a better Christian he would have felt peace instead of sweating drops of blood. The Way of life is the way of death, and anguish is both human and divine. Only in the darkest places of my imagination can I imagine your grief.

  7. Shari (and Ryan),

    Don’t you suppose there was some measure of Jesus not “feeling” like doing the right thing when it came to His sacrifice? I know His was on a different level in a way, but it was a sacrifice, and yours is a sacrifice.

    God did not look on Jesus as a hypocrite when Jesus begged for the sacrifice to be taken away. Jesus did not want to suffer. He did not want to leave his family, his disciples, his best friend. He didn’t want to die.

    But He did.

    And the doing, the obedience, that’s what has given him a name above every name.

    Just keep on obeying. That’s faith. God always honors faith. And that faith brings Him glory.

    And keep telling the Lord. I know He understands your pain. He loves you and your family and your little ones.

    Blessings.

  8. My words are inadequate for your pain but I want you to know you are heard and not judged. You are so brave to share. These words break my heart, but I believe in what you are doing. I have said goodbye to a son and watched him go into a very difficult situation, though I was never promised a different outcome. I can imagine this kind of anguish. God be gracious to you and carry you.

  9. I try to imagine what that scenario would be like…I can imagine but I cannot know the depths. When I pray THAT prayer-you know the one-“May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”…I wonder how many times His will IS actually done. How often satan’s will is done instead. Because we are all so prone to seeking ME first. Sigh. Because there is sin in others that smacks us in the stomach. When it comes to our children (as these are to you) we have potential for the greatest hurt in the whole wide world. This I know from personal experience! Parenting is vulnerable and then some. I am sorry for your pain. I am so sorry. May you find grace to crawl to God for His grace to help you to suffer well. To want to suffer well.

  10. I am so sorry, Shari. Recently I read that the people who say the Lord won’t give you more than you an bear are wrong! He DOES give us more than we can bear, but then He walks beside us and gives us the grace to take each step. May you feel His grace through this awful time.
    Although our foster journey is quite different than yours… I must admit that yesterday my frustrations had both my husband and I regretting we had ever agreed to this journey. Oh to go back to the blissful life that didn’t involve other people dictating what you do with a child under your care. OH! to go back to working with only our own Christian school teachers!!! oh, to go back to innocence…

  11. So much real grief. So much overwhelming loss. He knows, He knows, He knows. ? It is so hard for me to read your posts, because I get it. And we fought for our kids and won. So I feel bad, too. But for months we did exactly what you are doing. Yes, there is a time when emotional pain becomes physical. There are days I would pop a Tylenol because my heart hurt so much. I think of you and cry for you and pray for you so often. ?

    1. Lisa, your story stays in the back of my mind and gives me hope.

      There is a time to fight on behalf of children! I really believe that. It’s just not now, for us, when real progress is being made by the birth family and our support/ ability to honor them is more crucial than ever. Owwww.

  12. Ripping your very heart fibers, I am so sorry Shari!!!
    I do not believe you are being a hypocrite.
    Feelings are never to be in the driver seat..
    That doesn’t mean we don’t do the right thing. …..
    Know our tears fall for your loss!!!
    And may every hug and prayer stay with those precious children!
    May Jesus bring them back around to Him and may your heart
    receive today an outpouring of grace in this very difficult walk!
    I don’t think you would be normal if you didn’t hurt through this…….
    small comfort I know.
    Listening to a sermon this morning while making pie dough,

    We all have a bucket of pain, …………
    Well, it does seem yours is really full right now.
    So sorry!!!!

  13. And for being able to do the next thing, we give thanks. May the love, faith, prayers of so many who care for you strengthen your spirit and your familly’s minds and hearts for this suffering. God is with you and with your enemies. May His light and redemption conquer all. Thank you for writing so honestly from within the suffering.

  14. ? i get it. God does too. Thankfully And I will will simply stop there this time.

    My big girl is up in your area right now. She is the one that had to talk at the school ☺️

  15. Shari my mom heart is totally breaking for you and I can’t even imagine what you are going through. I’ve watched my friend my friend say goodbye to so many foster children. Children who I myself would grow to love and I would get angry with the birth parents because I knew they wouldn’t raise them to love Jesus.

    I don’t know what else to say except to say, God hasn’t left you abandoned you. He is right there by your side. Your feelings are normal and are to be expected. If you have a chance, put on some hymn music and play it loud. It won’t take away the pain but your mind will be on something else. And it’s okay to tell the Lord how you are feeling. Even if you have to do it several times a day. I too, disagree with the idea that God never gives us more than we can bear. But He does walk us through our situation.
    I will be praying for you.

  16. I see you walking in accord and in obedience to the way of Jesus through this deep and dark valley.

    You are a woman of strong faith whether or not you feel it right now.

    I love you and admire you and feel plenty of anger myself about your circumstances.

  17. Thought of you/this today when I read Psalms 22:14, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd…. ” Verse 24 “For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.”
    Lifting you and yours up to the Throne of Grace, to the One who doesn’t despise or turn away from our wrestling and heartache!

  18. “So faulty, so duplicitous- I can do the next good thing.” Been there, done that. But, really, how can a mom, not do, “the next good thing”? Even in the midst of horrible, “the next good thing” needs done. I rest in this thought, that some how, God is giving me the wherewithal to do “the next good thing.” He could just let me crash & burn in public & that might crack my holier than thou, mennonite facade. Thanks for sharing these hard times with your readers. God bless you & yours today. Amen

  19. It’s the horrid times when no words/verses even come close to touching the deep gut pain when our cuss words become the deepest form of worship! So keep yelling at Him…He’s strong enough to handle it! And it’s the only thing that will keep you “smiling” in public! Love you….you’re fighting well! ❤️

  20. May the grace of the Father be close to you and I pray you’ll feel His presence giving you divine strength. I’ve never been in your shoes but I’ve walked w a dear friend who has given up child after child to bio parents in hopes of gaining a family of her own. I’ve watched the pain and tearing out of hearts as they are parted. Then I walked a journey beside bio parents wanting desperately to have their own children back but foster parents kept twisting lies to make sure it didn’t happen. Oh the grief of that heartbroken mother…. so much because she was an illegal immigrant and barely knew English let alone her rights as a bio mother in America…been next to both sides, praying desperately for truth to prevail, and the outcome is SO unfair!!! I know it’s something healed only by Divine Power… and am ever so thankful for the Promise that we are never alone, He’s always there! Bless you for honesty, it’s not hypocritical, He hears and sees and collects all your tears in a bottle, He says.

  21. The week that my brother left us and went home to Jesus, a wise, grandfatherly pastor from South Africa called my Mama. He gave her some advice. He said, “You may grieve as long and as hard and as loudly and as ugly as you need to. But always, always go into the Father’s presence to grieve. Crawl up on his lap, and there you may cry or scream or pound your fists; He can handle it. But do it WITH Him. And each time you come away from that “round” of grief, you will be further along in your journey of healing. Grieving without him, produces just more pain. But grieving with him, brings healing.” Both she and I have found this to be deep, solid wisdom. I offer it to you … and my heart bleeds with yours. Loss, and these tangled, messy situations just plain hurt.

  22. ….”The LORD replied, my precious, precious child, I Love you and I would never leave you! During your times of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

  23. I have never fostered children. But I know just how this feels.
    My grandchildren…..a divorce, a daughter in law who just desires to live life for herself. I’ve done all the foster parent things and then had to let them go back. Now our son has custody but, still I foster mom the kids some (less now) . But I stand back and have to watch the alienation, the lies etc and know, there is nothing I can do but love and forgive.
    Yes, sometimes, it is a robotic thing I do while my heart catches up with it. I wonder if it ever will entirely?

    Praying for you in all of this. It is such an agonizing thing to watch a child you have cared for as your own go back to….

  24. Not as a foster parent, but how I have felt this in different ways. You so beautifully put into words the struggle. A thought ….Maybe just maybe as courage is not the absence of fear, perhaps love is not the absence of hate, but choosing to do the loving thing when our heart wants to hate.

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