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.