If you’d have asked me at any point over the past four months about the worth of my foster daughter’s biological mother, I would have told you that she is loved beyond reason, valued, prayed for, worthy, and forgiven. Without a shadow of a doubt, I would have said that, and I would have meant it.
At least, I thought I would’ve meant it.
The funny thing is, you can believe something on the surface all you want, but you’ll never really know if you feel it all the way down to your bones until it’s put into practice.
This past weekend, I spent three whole days with my foster daughter’s biological mom. I see her every week at visits, obviously, but I’ve never spent more than a couple hours with her. I talk about her with her daughter every single day, encouraging forgiveness and understanding, and I pray for her every night, but I’ve never had to put my words into practice the way I did this weekend.
We went to a three-day women’s retreat together with my church. I had the opportunity to serve her and love on her for several days, but it was a million times harder than I ever thought it would be. The week leading up to our departure for this trip, I started to feel frustrated.
I thought, “Can I really spend that much time with her without things getting hard or awkward?”
And then I thought, “Do I really have the heart to serve her, even if she’s unappreciative?”
And then my thoughts morphed into, “Don’t I serve her enough every day by taking care of her child?”
Ooooooh. There’s that bitterness I didn’t know was in there. I thought I was above her. At some point over the past four months, I’d decided that her choices and circumstances made her unworthy of my grace.
I thought she needed redemption more than me. I thought she was less likely to fall at God’s feet than I was. I thought she needed more forgiveness, understanding, teaching, and guidance than me.
Whew. How wrong I was.
It took me about the first five hours of the retreat to realize that I was the one who needed forgiveness. I’d grown arrogant. I’d decided that my actions made me more worthy of the sacrifice of others.
(I know this whole story will sound different to those of you who aren’t Christ followers, but please bear with me. I don’t mean to alienate anyone. I just want to share the moment of clarity I had, and there are nuggets of truth in it for everyone, regardless of faith.)
By the end of the first day at this retreat, I WANTED to serve her. I wanted to learn more about her and hear her heart. I wanted her to feel how much God loved her.
By the end of the second day, we both fell to our knees on the floor of the church and praised God together. And in that moment of praise, God showed me that this woman’s position in life DID make her less, but that was exactly what He wanted. He wanted her to be less so that HE could be more.
He had given her a beautiful opportunity to NEED Him, but I had come to a place where I only wanted Him. I no longer needed him (so I thought) so I picked and chose when I called on him.
Her complete and utter dependence on the Lord in that moment made HER closer to God than I was, and that humbled me tremendously. I wanted to feel that, too.
We both prayed for forgiveness and humility that night. We prayed for guidance. We prayed for the reunification of her family. We thanked God for keeping her children safe while she was healing.
Before that night was over, she told me (and the foster mom of her other child) that, “God had to take her children away for them to get to know Jesus.” And as the thought sunk in a little deeper, her brows furrowed as she said, “And I think He had to take my children away for ME to know Jesus.”
I’ve never been so humbled in all my life. She bared her soul in front of me and allowed me to see her greatest regret. She also had the courage to feel hopeful and thankful, and she shared that with me, too.
In a situation where she could’ve felt bitter toward me, she accepted me with a graciousness that I’ve never shown her. She was Jesus to me in that moment.
That night as she laid in her cabin bunk, she started having violent nightmares, so I crawled into bed with her. We slept in a twin-sized bed together, and I’ve never felt so close to Jesus. I saw her daughter in her. I saw Jesus in her. I saw hope and healing and grace.
At the end of the weekend, when she was given a microphone to tell a crowd of 160 women what she’d gained from the weekend, she said, “I want to thank the foster moms of my kids for taking care of them while I couldn’t.”
SHE is courage. SHE is hard work. SHE is humility. SHE is dependence on God.
And when we returned to our home church after the retreat was over, she scooped MY BIOLOGICAL DAUGHTER up into her arms and held her. Yes, she held her own daughter too, which was beautiful in itself, but she held my daughter, too.
She has accepted us as her daughter’s family when she didn’t have to, and she has done it in a way that goes far beyond what is necessary.
I know without a doubt that God saw this moment and smiled as widely as I did.
This mama still has a long way to go to reach recovery, but I feel a renewed sense of hope for her. I want MORE for her than I ever did. I believe in her because she has God on her side now, and I will do more to SHOW her that I believe in her.
She is my equal on this Earth and in Heaven and in the life of her daughter.