After five years of volunteering with my friends at ECHO, it would be honest to say that I am so often filled with despair and hope, back and forth, as I have come to know a reality and a world that has never been my own. Every parent’s struggle, every situation of the caregivers or foster parents and every child is different. Each and every story is unique to the people involved, each heartbreaking in its own way.
And if I continue to be honest I have on many occasions found myself asking God “Where are You in all these situations…what chance do these kids have…will things work out for anybody involved…what can I even really do about it?” I have learned heart wrenching phrases I never knew like failure to thrive, TPR (termination of parental rights) and failed adoption. I have seen hope and heartache. I have sung a childhood song with a little girl who could only speak in grunts only months before. Her future is uncertain with a relative unprepared to take in a large group of siblings. I have met SO many grandparents raising grandkids and many are just struggling. It is hard work. I have met very young adults taking in younger siblings because they are the only family that can pass a background check. I have met a mother unable to care for her own life much less her small children talk to me endlessly about her struggle to find housing, a fiancé in a jail and how much she loves her kids. I have heard foster parents encourage each other as they struggle through situations medically and emotionally they were not expecting with some of the children in their care.
I know, I know, it sounds all doom and gloom and normally, I consider myself an optimist. Just bear with me and hold on another minute.
Personally, I have never been good at directions. I remember the first test I struggled with in elementary school dealt with a geography map in 3rd grade. I suppose I inherited the struggle honestly from my mom and the two of us together could likely get lost in a paper bag. Before smart phones and GPS, my dad would carefully unfold his perfectly kept maps and write numbered, detailed directions for me.
I didn’t take to GPS or smartphones initially; I didn’t trust them for some weird reason. My husband described to me the wonder of the Global Positioning System and the amazing use of satellites that make it all possible. Objects far removed from us, way out in space that can pinpoint our location, know where we need to go and give us step by step instructions on how to get there. Now our devices can even detect traffic, roadblocks, and hazards in advance and warn us. It is pretty impressive and so useful; especially to someone like me who can lose my way and perspective so easily.
Spiritually speaking, it is so often the same. I can’t see past the wrong turn I have made or the traffic I am stuck in and I need GPS – God’s Positioning System. (See what I did there.) He is not literally in space like a satellite but His perspective is way beyond my own. He can see where I am and He already knows where I need to go or should have gone. I can wait for those words…”recalculating” and pay attention to the warnings about what is coming ahead. The directions might not make sense but that is because I cannot always see what is ahead and I fight the battle to do it my own way. He has the trip planned out for us all so this has to be true for everyone. He can see where everyone is, where they need to be and the best way to get there.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a very popular Scripture, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” However, this promise was spoken to a people about to begin 70 years of captivity, not people in an ideal situation. He explains how it will turn around; that God’s people would call out, pray, earnestly seek and find God and be brought back. It isn’t the promise of an easy life or solutions… but the promise of a God who can always redeem, can always recalculate and lead back. It is real life, filled with both despair and eternal Hope.
What does it all have to do with my encounters at ECHO? Well, I can’t fix any of it and I don’t know why so many kids have to start their journeys in life in terrible situations. I might always struggle with that one. I don’t know how the parents ended up in the wrong area or if they will be able to find their way out. I don’t know if the caregivers have the strength and wisdom for the journey ahead. I just don’t know but I can trust that He does. God has gone to such great lengths to redeem us that I can’t believe that their stories are devoid of hope and healing. Ultimately no matter how the stories end up, everyone involved, especially the kids, will NEED the healing love only their heavenly Father can give.
And as the Body of Christ, it is our responsibility to be sensitive enough to know when we are called to reach out His arms in love, in assistance and guidance – no one is on their own exclusive journey. Our paths were meant to cross with others and if we don’t listen and obey, then we might miss our role in helping a child, a parent, a family find their way back to Him. Recalculating for someone’s life might take a lot longer if we miss our opportunity because we were busy, reluctant, or unwilling.
I’m looking in from the outside, watching the stories unfold, offering prayers and love and support and trying to pay attention to the directions along the way.