Ashes Into Beauty

We’re not at the finish line yet, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel of this fostering journey we’ve been on for the last year and a half. (Quick recap: we have two foster girls, just turned 4 and 3, been with us for almost 18 months, the dad has been trying to get them back.)

The girls’ dad called a few weeks ago and said he can’t do it. He can’t make enough money, can’t figure out – or pay for – daycare, doesn’t have his own place to live, has no car, doesn’t have enough gas money for the dilapidated van he shares with his cousin – he just can’t do it. Of course, this opinion has been subject to change. Understandable, given such a monumental decision.
A couple weeks after that, we met with the parents (who are no longer together) and the social workers to update the case plan. The social workers told the parents they are asking the court to change the goal of this case from “return to parent” to adoption.
While they realistically knew this was coming, the tears trickling down the mom’s face were a stark reminder of how gut-wrenching it must be to be told your children are not going to be yours anymore, to know that the weekly time you spend with them is only just confusing their little hearts because you’re basically asking them to break an 18-month bond they’ve formed with this other family you don’t even really know. You know that much of your failure as a mother stems from your mother’s own failure, from your own years bouncing around foster care, from the messed-up relationship you still have with your cancer-stricken, dope-smoking mom.
Her pain is real. His pain is real. They both have changed, have come a long ways from where they were a year and a half ago. But it’s not enough and now they’re out of time.
The court agrees. Out of the seeming chaos that is the juvenile court system in our county, one incontrovertible fact emerged last week: the goal of this case was officially changed to adoption. Now we wait for a date for the hearing that will legally terminate the birth parents’ rights.
There are several months still to go, but it’s looking more and more like we might actually be able to adopt these two little girls who have wiggled their way into our hearts and lives.
You would think we would feel elated. This is what we wanted. This is what we’ve been striving and praying for, what this has all been about, what you’ve followed this experience for.
And sure, there’s a deep level of joy that will surface more and more over time. But right now, the dominant emotion is sadness.
I remember the look on the girls’ dad’s face at a previous court date, when he thought it might all be over. Deep sadness, pain, hurt, confusion, longing and disgust at himself. It was all there, written against the backdrop of two little girls.
That’s the face I see when I think about his girls getting taken away – literally taken away – by the state. They will no longer be his daughters. They’ll have his blood, but they won’t have his last name.  With regard to the law, he won’t exist in relation to them.
He loves them deeply. He wants to be around them. He wants them to know their dad. He wants to raise them, wants to be there for them.
But he can’t. He can’t do it because he messed up repeatedly, because the momentary affections of this world held greater allure for him than the eternal affections of God and the needs of his daughters.
We celebrate adoption, and we should. It’s an amazing thing, that a family can take in and love children born outside their own bloodline. It’s as close a picture to God’s redeeming love as we’re going to find on earth.
But for every joyful adoption celebration, there’s a flip side that’s dark and cold and lonely and awful. Something terrible had to happen for a boy not to be with his parents. Something heart-rending had to take place for a girl not to know her mother. Death, disease, drugs, depression, despair – take your pick. You can sum it up in a word: sin.
The longer I live, the more I long for Christ to redeem this world broken by sin. The girls’ dad is broken because he’s facing the consequences of his actions. That can’t be undone. But, I want to tell him – have told him, will tell him – there is hope. You’re 24. Your whole life is ahead of you. You can become a man. You can fall in love and get married and have more little girls and love them the right way. That won’t replace these girls, but it will give you hope.
So take heart, young man. Come out of the shadows and into the light. Breathe the clean morning air. Taste mercies anew. Turn ashes into beauty. Turn mourning into dancing. Turn tragedy into triumph.
But you can’t do it alone. You’re at the end of yourself, and there’s nowhere to go. Look up. Look to the One who made you, who sustains you, who is taking care of your girls even now.  Find forgiveness. Find redemption.
We’ll take care of your girls. We’ll love them and raise them and hold them and one day, God-willing, we’ll walk them down the aisle. And maybe in eternity, in that distant future when the already meets the not-yet, you’ll recognize them and get to know them again and they’ll understand how much you truly love them. That’s our prayer. Make it yours too.