One thing Sandra and I have in common is that both of our lives have been touched by foster care and adoption. I think it’s hard to be involved with adoption and the foster program without it changing how you feel about how families are created and what it means to be a family. Here are some of our thoughts in response to the news today:
I got frustrated by counsel given to the girls at camp this year: well-intended guidance for the future, that made them passive in their own futures (waiting for someone to take them to the temple and other things that have now exited my memory). I was already limping; my knee was sprained, but I went to camp anyway (I said I would so did) on crutches. We camp in the mountains nestled among granite boulders and elevation change, getting around was not easy. I couldn’t lead my girls or join them for all their activities. Unable to hike down rock cliff over -looking the lake for to the stargaze, I sat outside the lodge to see what I could from where I was. And sobbed.
How could the heavens be so big and at the same time someone could make it seem like they were any smaller, our possibilities less? God and Heaven are greater than anyone can see. How do I reconcile my faith and the words from leaders that I struggle with? I didn’t get answer, but a confirmation, that yes, they were much bigger, wrapping beyond the mountain skyline and deeper than surface of stars I saw. I wiped my tears on my sweater sleeve and then greeted my fourth level girls as they came up the hillside. Together we headed back to the cabins, they walked easily along as I hobbled.
Later that week, still struggling something resonated up through me, the go ahead with foster care came again. (This wasn’t the first time). Loudly. My husband and I had finished licensing and were waiting for a placement. I know you’re stuck right now, but do this, offer love, move forward, there is something for you there.
It’s been awhile since that moment this summer where my belief in mystery was peaked. I dried those tears and have cried fresh ones as a new foster parent. But mostly I just keep doing. I work at this new venture (in addition to taking on a new part-time job because life doesn’t stop). Yesterday. I reluctantly trudged to check off another foster parenting requirement, a class on the domestic sexual exploitation and trafficking of children. The presenter offered us facts and images I cannot put out of my brain. Things happening not far from my safe backyard. Deviant and disgusting; the things that make you pray there is a just God. My head and heart couldn’t hold all the hurt. I couldn’t touch it.
Then in that darkened presentation room, soothing the baby I’m fostering right now, I saw light, and felt a profound power of good works; religion if you will. The woman presenting and advocates around me (foster parents, social workers, and others employed in this cause) helping the tiny, tiny fraction of children that they can, and I saw greatness that reached beyond our abilities. The spirit said, “This. This is religion. Practicing charity, love, against insurmountable odds and difficulty.” No, no one there shared my faith, but I hoped I would be in heaven with them, I saw them as God saw them: going about, doing good. Practicing the gospel of Christ.
15 And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.
16 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
17 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.
Thinking about the new church policy for the children of same gender couples today, I don’t feel that. And I want so desperately to feel it there. I know some of these families (though not LDS) through the foster care network. They are going about doing good, making a family of children that can’t be at home in their first (and often second, third and fourth) homes. I can’t find fault with that kind of charity, that kind of Godly love, because it’s work, it’s hard. I stand in awe of it. It’s what’s filling me right now. There is so much to do, so many other more urgent matters. Why can’t we practice our religion going to the rescue of others? I’m awestruck at the other faith groups in our area that minister to these kids and those who care for them through gifts of kindness and support. Could we be doing more good as Christ taught?
I don’t want to weigh my time and find my church efforts lacking compared to my other works. I’m having a hard time even wrapping my brain around teaching a lessons and planning activities when I know how much my efforts are also needed elsewhere, and how the spirit has spoken to me to live mine right now. I don’t begin to understand this mystery. I struggle when the Heavens are made to seem smaller than they are. I’m so baffled and hurt.
I’ve been writing this in my head since last night, but it took until this morning to get it down. I needed to do other things more: practicing my religion. Working out my faith holding that baby, kissing his downy head, soothing him when he’s angry; wiring his brain to know love and satiety when he might not have otherwise.
In a little less than an hour, we’re practicing for the Primary program. I was called as the Primary president a few couple of months ago, and I’ve felt so lucky, because every Sunday I get to enter what I feel is a holy space to spend two hours singing about Jesus, sharing stories from His life, and hanging out with eighty of the most eager and adorable children I know. Today, it’s balm to my soul to remember these stories: Christ blessing the children, Christ chastising the men who brought an adulterous woman to Him, Christ teaching about the Good Samaritan. All of these stories are united by a pure, non-judgmental love.
As humans, we’re quick to judge. I know I am; I wish I weren’t. That’s one reason why these stories, so familiar to me, don’t lose their power even when I’ve heard them hundreds of times. They mean something new to me at forty than they did when I was fourteen.
My knee-jerk reaction today is to see an institution to which I’ve consecrated my faith and my life acting in a way that I have a hard time seeing as Christlike. While I’m confused and hurt by the recent changes in policy, I also see this as an opportunity to show forth an outpouring of love— to be more open and aware, to mourn with those that mourn, to ponder and pray and try to understand. Christ was a radical who pushed against the bounds of his culture and society, who didn’t settle for convention, and who redeemed us all.
Today, as we practice, I’m sure I’ll cry when we sing (I always do). And while some of those tears will undoubtedly be from confusion and from sadness at the children’s voices we may miss in future Primary programs, some will also be at the beauty of Christ’s love, and its power to overcome all of our sins, oversights, misunderstandings and unkindnesses to bring us back to Him.