I am going to lay it out there and be real by telling a little about our personal story at the end of this post. But, first I want to talk about this article on foster care and my own recent experience inside the walls of Family Court. On a cold day this October, I tossed my purse into a bucket and watched it ride on an automatic belt through a metal detector. I emptied my pockets. Walking through the detectors, my husband repeatedly set off the alarm and had to remove his belt. We laughed nervously.
Coming up the stairs, we found a stuffy, rectangular room that was packed full of broken families, lining the wooden pews. We sat with our social workers, a dear friend, and our current foster child’s mom. It was awkward. Periodically, a court clerk would come out and call loudly the next person up for their hearing, also shouting out the accused crime. I was struck by the shame one must feel in hearing “John Jones, Domestic Abuse.” Marked. Labeled. All eyes in the room watched for John Jones to come forward. I wanted to shout “You are better than this! You were made for more!” I wanted to grab people by the shoulders, lock eyes and say “I have my own shame and crimes.” Don’t we all? We may not be going before a judge for domestic abuse or child abuse/neglect, but we all have addictions and idols. We may hide behind the glossy exterior of our zip code and financial status, but we are all broken. The voices we hear daily are typically not external ones shouting out our daily “crimes.” Our voices are the ones inside our heads, shouting things like “failure, stupid, idiot.”
The article I linked above says:
Stacks of broken stories filled the room.
We were there to participate in just one.
My thoughts exactly– hearing the deep grief and loss echoing hallways and stairwells in the courthouse, my heart ached.
Because I had poor cell phone coverage and wanted to make sure I hadn’t missed a call from my mom, who was keeping the kids at home, I went outside to the courthouse steps where there was a better signal. As I walked down the steps, an older woman was sitting in a chair inconsolably crying. The paramedics had been called to assist her. My heart grieved as I thought this is not the way it was supposed to be. Before the Fall. Before sin. I prayed for her.
As I was checking my phone on the steps outside, a woman’s voice startled me– a grand mama on a smoke break, commenting on my toenail polish (greenish-blue for those wanting to know– apparently very eye-catching). She said “this is a hard place to be isn’t it?” I showed her my “beloved” tattoo on my foot since we were looking at my toenails. We talked about how we were made for more and we need someone bigger to hold us and carry us through. Tears in her eyes, she told me the judge was ruling that she get custody of her 3 grandchildren. She said her daughter was a good person, but would get depressed and binge drink and neighbors would call her to come get the kids. Over and over. As we talked, a beautiful blond twenty-something girl came out to call this woman back inside. Her daughter. Lord come quickly.
There are too many emotions about my Family Court experience for me to appropriately express. But, the thing is, years ago my husband and I went through an addiction in our marriage. We had our own court dates and serious consequences– a marriage shattered. But really, it was a marriage exposed and an opportunity for the tender mercy of God to transform us. He put us back together, piece by piece. He healed. He redeemed. Yet, we still are not fully together, fully healed. That day won’t come until heaven. It is a hard reality that if either my husband or I had made made different choices in the midst of our circumstances, we could have been in family court facing similar things as the families that filled those pews. As I looked at the faces lining the room, I was struck by the truth:
we are them, and they are us.
We are all broken. We all need a Savior.
And the truth is, I forget. How is this even possible? I forget my redemption story. I forget that I am broken. Again and again, I easily sink back into complacency and self-righteousness. Isn’t that the story of all of us? From the beginning of all time. We forget. Lord Jesus come quickly.
Read more of our redemption story here. And here.
His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.
1 Peter 2:24-25 (The Message)
Melanie and her husband, Kevin, have three biological children and live in Birmingham, Alabama. They have been foster parents for two years. More of their story and journey can be followed at Melanie’s blog Running to the Father.