On the Other Side

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The world of foster care can feel like a terrifying, turbulent ocean -- the type of waters that one only desires to know from a distance. However, like the first disciples of Jesus, we are called to venture out into deeper, unknown waters. On our own personal journey as foster parents, my husband and I have definitely been led to that stormy place.

Our first placement was a beautiful baby girl. I will refer to her here as “Sissa” (her nickname). When we were matched with Sissa, we were told of the high probability that she would return to her birth parents. During the beginning months with her, my heart was so very confused. It would be dishonest of me if I said that I didn't have a hope to be her forever mommy. However, her parents did not resemble the typical story I had heard about with so many other little ones. They showed up for every visit, waited eagerly for her, and did everything that was asked of them. A couple months into us caring for her, her parents had one of their first hearings which would determine whether or not the county was justified in removing their child from their home. The ruling was not in their favor, and they were not granted permission to take her home that day. They did, however, have a visit scheduled for that evening.

That night when I drove to the county building where I would drop off Sissa for her visit, I didn’t have our other three children with me. I was alone. In that moment, I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to drop Sissa off in a very different way than I had previously done. Often I would drop her off in a location at the main building that would allow me to stay in the car with the kids, and the visitation social worker would come to get her. Doing it this way meant that there is no interaction with the birth parents. It makes it a lot easier when you have a bunch of little kids in the car. No need to unbuckle, corral, and buckle back into the car. It also doesn't allow for lengthy conversations with the birth parents, which was a welcomed buffer for my fearful heart.

So when I sensed  the Spirit prompting me to walk Sissa in on such a heavy day, you could say I was more than a little nervous. Not only was I motivated to ask them about their court hearing while waiting for the visitation social worker, but I felt the push to pray with them. I asked them if they would be open to me praying with them after they had responded about the day’s events. They were open to it, so we huddled in the lobby of the DFCS (Department of Family and Children’s Services), which just seemed super crazy to me! In our prayer, I asked God that we would be united and on the same team, that we would all give Sissa the best possible life that we could, and above all always keep her best interests in mind.

My hope of being her forever mommy would quickly fade into the distance. Walls came down between us, walls that had once given me a false sense of comfort but had ultimately never seemed to cast out the fear in my heart. The fear that it had to be “biological parents versus foster parents” was removed that day; now, we were united in our love for this precious little one. That day, God asked me to step into the mess and the pain a little further. It was extremely difficult to be obedient, but through that obedience God poured out a healing balm on our hearts that became the bond of love between our two families.

Sissa is now happily reunited with her family. Her time with us and on this fostering journey continues to challenge me and the walls of safety I often choose to hide behind. I sometimes think that those on the other side of our walls may not understand that we are cowering in fear of the unknown. The walls we put up can offend, oppress, and keep us from the very thing we all really desire: love. But there is something very good to be found on the other side of the walls we build up. It is often messy, but with Christ, bridges can be built to connect us and establish a greater empathy in us for one another. Whether you have walls or perhaps unchartered waters in front of you, I encourage you to take a leap forward because there is something so much sweeter than safety to be had on the other side of your fears.

Jessica Pattison