In our families, really small incidents can become really big incidents. And when we have really big incidents, hurtful words can come spewing out of mouths, anger can rise, and feelings can get hurt. We know this happens in all families (and if it doesn't happen in yours, then all the power to you!), but in foster and adoptive families, it can be a little more complicated. When you don't have attachment with your child from birth, conflicts can create fear responses, which can cause behaviors that children from hard places learned in order to survive the situations they had to endure before now. They have lived what feels like three big lives of hardship inside their one small life.
So often when one of these incidents happens, I get really confused and frustrated because my goal is resolution. But, my version of "resolution" is the kind that is sealed and wrapped with a bow on top. It's the kind of resolution that ends with kind words and hugs. But resolution doesn't always look like this. In fact, it usually does not look like that. Resolution is more like a fed-ex box that arrives at your house with tattered corners, tape in the wrong places, bent and frayed from a long journey.
It makes sense that I would be frustrated when my goal is so far from reality. I may need to take a class on some realistic goal-setting, but in the meantime, I have to figure out how to live in my present moment. I have to accept the reality of what conflict-resolution looks like in my home.
Yesterday, I almost made a post on Instagram about reaching out to hold my daughter's hand with this picture holding my daughter's hand in the car.
I was going to write something about reaching out and touching our children with a hand-hold, a warm hug, a sweet note of encouragement. I really didn't have time to write the post, and I was thinking of going into more detail on a blog post later. But instead, I had a chance to actually live out the post I was going to write.
After a conflict without the resolution that I wanted, I was angry. I didn't exactly respond in a kind tone because I knew that a kind tone wasn't really possible in that moment. So I waited. I waited for God to quiet my heart and remember His love and compassion for me. I waited for Him to remind me how he pursued me and delivered me from my desire for perfection and my need to fix everything. The remembering didn't come quickly, but it came. As I cleaned up the living room, I prayed. My prayers these days come from desperation, confusion, and unmet expectations. I believe that God meets me in the rage-cleaning prayers just as much as He met me in my journal-filled prayers from times past.
As I was taking something to my room, I pet my dog, Thistle, on the ears and said hello. She was sitting at the feet of one of my children who had chosen some behaviors that were contributing to my anger. I could've just said hello to Thistle and moved right along. Every fiber of my being wanted to ignore this child in their hurtful behavior. My heart was hurting. Honestly, I had every right to pass by. But instead, I reached out my hand to touch the knee of a child who was experiencing so much more than just the pain of a small incident, but the pain of past hardship. In that moment, I chose to extend light and love in the middle of a dark situation. My desire was to look out for me, for my desires, for my heart. But in that moment, Christ-in-me reached out in a very small act of kindness and selflessness that paved the road to trust, connection, and ultimately redemption. And that changed the trajectory of our night, and it will change the trajectory of our lives if we keep laying it all down, giving it all back to the God who has the power to heal and fix and make things right.
When I am able to think clearly after one of these incidents happen, I try to think back to Jesus. The Cross was God's way of making things right. God had every right to pass by, to be harsh, to enact justice. And He did enact justice, but in a way that cost Him instead of costing us. In the middle of our very real darkness, God sent the Only True Light. The night that Jesus went to the Cross, He asked God if there was any other way to save the world. He didn't want to die. But in that moment, Christ reached out in a very grand act of kindness and selflessness that paved the way to redemption. And His sacrifice changed the trajectory of the world; it changed the trajectory of our lives.
This knowledge of the Cross and Jesus' sacrifice re-informs the way I view "incidents."
I can hold her hand, even when it's hard, because Jesus held mine first.
I can play on the trampoline, even when my patience is gone, because Jesus extended His grace to me first.
I can gently reach out to touch his knee, even when I don't want to, because Jesus reached out in love to me first.
Jesus didn't call us to just follow Him. He said to His disciples:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-26)
Before we follow, we deny ourselves.
We take up our cross.
And then we follow Him.
I've been struggling so much this week with finding hope in our home because I want so desperately to hear hope, to see it, to feel it tangibly. And instead, I keep getting "incidents." It's almost like I am believing that I can only experience life when the losing is over, when we have more normal days, when the beat-downs subside.
We don't die to ourselves one day and then emerge into glorious life the next. We don't die a pretty death and then wake up to our "best life."
No, we experience the depth of His life
as we die,
as we lose,
as we have the worst day in the history of the universe,
as we go on a walk so that we don't blow up,
as we retreat to our bathroom for a good cry,
as we feel the beat-down and the anxiety.
Even though it doesn't feel like it sometimes, this is where the Life is.
If hope only existed in the outcome of what happens after the hard, how would we ever get there? No, Hope and Life is available to us right here, in the middle of the dying.