May 18, 2009

Loving the Unloveable

They couldn’t have children of their own so our friends, Alex and Tracy* decided to become foster parents. They initially opened their home to one boy and over the years fostered several more. Each child came from a background filled with addiction, crime, instability, abuse and a definite lack of parental love. Despite the odds stacked against the boys’ long-term success and challenges that most certainly lay ahead, Alex and Tracy decided to stick with it. Eventually they were able to adopt one of the boys. In time they became legal guardians for at least one of the others.

Our friends are a loving, easy-going, no-nonsense couple and I always thought, if anyone could turn those young lives around, they could. Yet, Alex and Tracy’s love—both tender and tough—could not overcome the pull of the boys’ pasts. As young adults, each one left behind a trail of destruction. Now, as “legal” adults, they continue to do so.

Over the years when Alex and Tracy’s friends shared parenting stories of potty training, school plays, soccer games and college applications, they countered with tales of countless meetings with principals, social workers and psychologists; trips to juvenile court and jail; and calls from faraway police departments who’d located one of their runaway charges. This couple has been lied to, stolen from and grossly disrespected by the very children they’ve invested so much in and sacrificed so much for.

And I only know part of the story.

Their adopted son, now in his early 20s, has been in jail several times, has fathered at least two children out of wedlock, refuses to accept authority and can’t hold down a job.

Presently the one young man who seemed like he actually might overcome his history is HIV-positive, living who-knows-where, doing whatever it takes to support his crystal meth habit.

This past winter—just before Christmas—another of their foster kids turned up on Alex and Tracy’s doorstep looking for help. They agreed to shelter him, but with conditions. Together they formulated a plan for him to get his GED through an Army program, then join the military. He agreed—even admitting that he needed to change his life.

He followed the rules and studied. On test day, he left the house with the test fee in hand, returning much later, tired but reportedly satisfied with his effort. Alex and Tracy eagerly awaited the results. And waited. And waited. After several weeks, Alex called to check on the delay. It turns out the boy never actually appeared at the testing center that day. Once the truth started to come out, he disappeared again, but not before taking two of the few things of value Alex and Tracy own.

When my husband Dan relayed this latest story to me, we both marveled at our friends’ selflessness, their dedication, and their willingness to get involved (and stay involved) in these very messy (and seemingly hopeless) situations.

But, even from the best Christian perspective I could muster I still raised the question, “They put so much in and get so little back. I wonder why they keep at it.”

Dan nodded in agreement and added, “At what point do you close the door and say ‘No. Enough. I quit.’?”

I pondered his question, hoping for an insight, but none came—even when I wondered what Jesus would do. There are no easy answers. I’m not even sure there are any right ones.

You might have prodigal children and can relate to our friends’ story. Perhaps you are the prodigal who knows you’ve messed up badly.

There is no guarantee how our children will behave or how our families will receive us. Sometimes we expect condemnation, yet receive forgiveness. Other times we reach out with sincerity and are met with rejection, scorn or betrayal. Your situations may push the limits of human love to the breaking point.

Thank God we have a Father who is bigger than all that. Thank God there is no sin we commit that He won’t forgive. Thank God that we can never stray too far outside the limits of God’s amazing, healing and restorative grace. And thank God He gives us the power to overcome.

No matter where we are, how big our sin or how much we hurt, Jesus does not reject us. He stands at the door of our hearts waiting for us to invite Him in. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

The story continues for our friends. Only God knows what the future brings for them or their “lost boys.” But there is a glimmer of hope—in their grandson. (Remember the child fathered out-of-wedlock by their son?) Alex and Tracy are involved in this little boy’s life. Maybe the change they’ve been waiting to see will be realized with this child. As Alex said, “He’s a great little guy. I saw his report card from kindergarten and I couldn’t believe the wonderful things the teacher said about him. We were so used to such bad report cards. It was the first positive one we’d ever seen.”

Human love may not be strong enough to break through the strongholds in the “lost boys” lives, but heavenly love is. And God still has a plan to prosper them, not harm them, and give them hope for a future. (Jer. 29:11) Maybe one day a church, street ministry or prison ministry will deliver the message of hope and they’ll receive the key that will unlock their future.

Pray for them and all our lost children.

“But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:32)

*Names have been changed


Peggy said...

God always has life and all in it under His control. There is never a reason that we understand, why or how things happen.
Remember how God's chosen people displeased God after their slavery in Egypt? How God let them wander in the desert for fourty years? How He finally led them across the Jordan to the Promised Land.
To God time is measured differently, and we have to be patient with His decisions for us and those we love and care for.
Your friends are remarkable people, and my prayers are for their continued patience and love.
Their lives have purpose, even when they don't feel or see it.
May God continue to give them grace and peace, and thank you for showing us all that being a Christian doesn't always mean happy, wonderful days and years.
Blessings and Love....Peggy

Lori said...

I was especially touched by your words, “They put so much in and get so little back. I wonder why they keep at it.”

I bet God can relate to that. Sometimes, He puts so much into us and often times we give Him back so little. But Praise God that He doesn't give up on us, much like your friends who have never given up on their children.

Thanks for the words of inspiration to all of us today. May we keep your friends, as well as all parents who never give up, in our prayers.



Kelly said...

God has given me a gift of loving the unlovable. Just this past week I was betrayed in the most painful way by one of them. I often ask I quit, when is enough, enough. Jesus loved me inspite of me, and at 33, I gave my life to Christ. I wasn't so unlovable that Christ couldn't reach me, and as long as there is a breath in someone...God can reach them too. So, I keep loving, and I leave the rest to my Heavenly Father.

Love Much,


Sue J. said...

I have friends with two children, one biological and one adopted. Both grew up in the same house, same church, schools, etc. The one who was adopted was clearly the more challenging to raise, and they, too, did as your friends in making the rounds of special services, etc. The church embraced this boy; mentors came forward.

Yet, when he turned 18, he could not sustain that which was "good" and took his own path. His parents loved, but yet took the "tough love" route, as he was an adult and needed to accept and handle his own consequences. They would write (even to jail), but....

You really ponder 'love' when your read stories like your friends', because it is so far-reaching--if we love as Jesus loved. That kind of selflessness is not easily seen nor reached without a lot of sacrifice. Your friends are living testimonies of Jesus love.

Thank you for your thoughtful and honest sharing today! Hope goes way beyond what we see....

Sassy Granny ... said...

This really touched me. Not only did it resonate as evidence of God's own love for us, but it convicted me of the many selfish acts in my own life, if for no other reason than my NOT reaching out more often, or further.

Prodigals. I was one ... not in any extreme way, but certainly in the rebellion of soul that marked my youth. I also raised some. And while they reached adulthood intact (or quite well), the being lost can be as miserable in the good life as along the low ground.

I pray for your friends, and for the children in their path. May all roads lead to the Father, for it is in Him that we are truly found.

Thank you for this lovely, though heart-breaking post!


Terri Tiffany said...

Your friends have a gift and they are using it for good. Despite the payback. And that's what touched me in this story:)

Saleslady371 said...

This post is just what I need right now. Thanks so much!

Carmen Gamble said...

Incredible story! Very well written. A few of our aunts have taken in foster kids for many, many years. It truly is thankless work, and it takes a special kind of person to keep at it. It isn't over until it's never know what God will do with these troubled souls.

Pierre said...

Your friends' endless love and pursuit of their children sounds like a great description of the Father's love for all of us, so persistent and consistent. I'm so thankful He didn't give up on me.

Cheryl Barker said...

"For nothing is impossible with God." (Luke 1:37)

How I pray that these young men will surrender to Jesus and turn their lives around... What a blessing that little grandson must be...

Julie Gillies said...

Interesting post, Kelli.

There are spiritual components at work within those kids; generational strongholds that can only be broken by personal relationship with Christ and then renouncing their agreement with the enemy. It's a personal decision for the kids (now adults) involved. Even though your friends gave their all, God still allows us one frequently dangerous thing: CHOICE.

God bless your friends for their desire to help hurting kids. May He bless their efforts and intervene in their hearts and lives!

Kellie said...

As I have gotten older and had a few years to see christians "work out" their salvation, I have come to realize that perseverance is the mark of great maturity in Christ.

So many times I have walked away from situations MUCH less involved than the story of Alex and Tracy with my hands in up in defeat. What an encouragement their story is!

They are not like Jobs wife, who in the face of hardship encouraged her husband to "curse God and die", instead they are living out Christ-likeness--by serving and loving those who reject the life they are given.

Excellent post.

Irritable Mother said...

What a great story, and reminder of God's amazing grace. I know HE has not given up on those boys, and no matter where they are - they are not too far for HIM to reach them.
Father, You know those boys. You created them and You love them. I'm asking You to be relentless in Your pursuit of them!
Amen and amen.

Melanie said...

I was hoping there would be a glimmer of light at the end of the story. There was.

Dan said...

I've known "Alex and Tracy" since college, which in my case was...well, kind of a long time ago. They are perhaps the most Christian non-Christians I've ever met, living Jesus' ministry of outreach out loud.
When they realized that biological children were not in their future, they could have chosen at least ten easier ways into parenthood than they did, but this is who they are. And, believe me - this story is only one of so many that I've forgotten the details of most of them.
When "Alex" told me this story recently, he finished, there was a long pause and he turned and asked me - mostly to change subjects - "So, how's your family?" I thought about it for a second, turned to him and just said, "Relatively speaking...?"
We both got a good laugh out of that, but it was also the end of the discussion. And that, I think, was the point. Relatively speaking, I've got it easy. Relatively speaking, my "kid problems" are pretty darned manageable. Relatively speaking, God blesses our family abundantly.
Meanwhile, pray for my friends, their sons and their grandkids, won't you?

Rosezilla said...

I wandered over from somewhere, Sassy Granny I think, and I'm glad I did. I'm really encouraged by your well-spoken words and witness. My heart goes out to these parents. We had a foster boy only for a little while, and wow, it was hard. I couldn't help thinking this is exactly how we treat God our Father. He puts, well, EVERYTHING in and we are so pathetic sometimes. Yet He never gives up on us. But these parents have planted some powerful seeds, which others will water, and God gives the increase.