[note : i drafted this weeks ago, but am just now sharing it here]
her tiny self occupied our house, consumed most of our time, and devoured my emotional energy for 10 days.
this morning i dropped her off at the meeting point, where she would be reunited with her mama, whom she has not seen in seven years. before i had even parked, she was unbuckling her seatbelt, opening the van door, and spilling out into the parking lot without a look back. before i had a chance to get out of the car, she had been swept up in her mama’s arms, her mama’s tears falling into her hair, a smile spread across her face.
hazel, our other foster daughter, and i stood awkwardly by, smiling at the joy that was theirs. she didn’t acknowledge us, would not have said goodbye had we not initiated it.
somehow, this is not surprising. because though she was here for 10 days, she was never actually here. she came in with the entirety of her being focused solely and relentlessly on one goal: to get into her mama’s arms. daily, multiple times a day, she asked the same questions over and over, arguing the answers, begging and pestering, insisting and demanding that we accomplish this goal for her immediately. along the way, she also demanded other things, like mcdonald’s take-out and new clothes and trips to the beach, but she relished none of it. the moment distraction ceased, she returned to her relentless pursuit of getting what she wanted. now.
all of us — my family, her caseworker, her teachers, and even her friend and foster-sister in our home — functioned as tools. there was no affection, no appreciation. we were her assistants, employed to do her bidding. her foster sister was sent to deliver her demands to us, and to get things for her when she was laying in bed on the phone with her mama for hours each day. i was the access point to the telephone, and the gatekeeper for how many times a night she could talk to her caseworker or mother. her caseworker was a machine expected to churn out results at her bidding. she had no concept of the reality that each of us had responsibilities and priorities outside of her comfort or immediate gratification, or that perhaps she was using and abusing us.
she’s only 10 years old, and so i’ve wondered if i’m expecting too much of her, more than her maturity can afford. is this developmentally normal? or normal for kids in a situation like hers? yet, the other kids i’ve met or fostered in this program have not been like this. they have moved in, cozied up, laughed and enjoyed the liminal space they found themselves in. they have not attempted to manage or control things too large for them to carry, things outside their control.
i’m not proud of how i responded to her in the middle of the messiness that she carried. i am not patting myself on the back for how well i loved her, particularly because i saw my heart, and how resentful and angry it was even when i had a smile falsely plastered to my face. i used an impatient tone, often. i avoided her. i mumbled about her under my breath. these are not the things loving foster mothers do. i still can’t quite grasp just how such a tiny and harmless girl could shake me so deeply! it’s a bit unnerving.
but i’m looking at the spiritual parallels here. i’m looking at all the times that i have refused to be present in the here-and-now reality of a life season, or a moment. instead of setting my attention on the gifts accessible right now, i have been so consumed with things future, things too heavy for me to carry, mysteries i cannot comprehend, that i have been unable to seize current joy. how many times have i used others only as a means to an end, rather than allowing my heart to be open to them for all that they are, and for how i might bless them, even as i wait to see how my own story will end.
in other ways, the positive spiritual lesson this little girl teaches me is about looking forward with passion and hopeful expectation for the day when my own Reunion will occur. That brilliant day when i’ll see my Jesus’ face for the first time.