I have this photo album that I stick miscellaneous photos in and so there are pictures from when Jason and I were just married and living at the beach all the way through the years up to this past Christmas, which is what I was putting in. Those actually filled the album and so now I need a new one. I digress. When I opened it, it flopped to a spot that has been a tender place for me. Tender like a wound that on the outside looks healed but on the inside still has some work to do. Here laid photos of a little face I’ve had difficulty looking at, for many reasons, over the last 2 years. Maybe you have a hunch at what little face I’m talking about. It’s been just over two years now since we said goodbye to our first and only child we cared for through fostering. I will never forget that day when we had to make one of the most difficult and humbling choices to have her placed with another family. Overwhelmed just doesn’t seem to encompass my state but at that point I felt I wasn’t serving her or my family well. I wanted to hang in there but I didn’t know if I could. I didn’t know what the “right thing” to do was. Hang on or let go. I was unraveling. In the days, weeks, and months to follow I have asked God all sorts of questions.
“Were we not ready?”
“Why that way?”
“What was the purpose?”
“Did we do the right thing?”
“Did we damage her fragile situation more by having her moved?”
“Will we step back into that ministry?”
I have also continued to pray for that little girl. I pray that wherever we failed her, wherever any person has failed her, that God would reveal Himself to her and be her source of hope, healing, and strength.
Being foster parents was hard. Harder than we imagined, in ways we didn’t see coming.
So for a while now, I’ve looked back on those photos and it’s just been a big fat reminder of my inadequacy. Because toward the end, I struggled to even have affectionate feelings for her. That’s hard for me to admit here because that is a wretched feeling. I mean I’ll be honest, there are days I don’t particularly “feel” like being all lovey on my kids but they are my kids. I gave birth to them and because of Gods marvelous design it is natural for me to know beyond a shadow of a doubt I love them, even if I do feel crummy at the moment that I don’t want to hug all over them. With someone else’s child you question yourself. You think “what’s wrong with you, don’t you have a heart?!” And yet you are void of those feelings that make it easier to hug and hold this little child. I cried and prayed and reminded myself over and over that love is a choice, not a feeling. And I would hug her and hold her and sit her in my lap and just trust God would fill the gap. Today, for the first time, I looked at those photos and saw her sweet face and by her smile was reminded that she was a happy little girl and I remembered good times. I was having a moment when I didn’t feel like a complete and utter failure and it was sweet. And then it happened…..regret snuck in again. I thought “What if we had hung in there?” But as I sat there I knew deep down that God was in control, still is, and even through what is difficult He is sovereign.
Wondering “What if?” is a tricky thing. Sometimes it’s good. If applied positively to the future you can dream and aspire and accomplish wonderful things. But sometimes “What if?” leads us to fear, resentment or for me today regret. Regret isn’t all bad, we learn from mistakes right? And a synonym for regret is repentant which is Biblical. “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Psalms 51:17 But regret that is condemning and guilt producing is not where God wants us to stay. Repent, yes. But as you repent and turn don’t forget to move forward. Satan wants regret to steal your joy and the future God longs for you to have in Christ. Don’t let him.
I don’t know what your “What if?” is. I don’t know if it’s inspiring or paralyzing, if it instills fear, anger or regret. The fact is we can not change our past. We can learn from it and we must trust God with both it and the future. Our choices do matter…. and I pray my choices today, (including how I choose to use my past) and tomorrow would reflect greater dependence and trust in a mighty, powerful, all knowing, and loving God. I pray that for you, too.