I remember when my dad died I went into a a survival mode. Busied myself in those first few hours after he died with making funeral plans and eulogy prep. If I went fast enough the thinking went, I would stay numb to the sudden loss and the tragic/traumatic way that loss happened for me personally.
By that night, we had a dozen or so friends and family in the house essentially sitting sheva with us and my mom gave me my dad's watch. This relatively cheap, unremarkable wristwatch. It had no value or memories tied to it, but it was the bolt that came loose and broke open the dam of everything I was trying to avoid. I lost it. Over a dumb watch. I still have that watch and it reminds me both of my dad and the moment the dam burst for me. It somehow went from ordinary to sacred.
And now we're in our first fostering situation. It has gone surprisingly well. It is simultaneously very difficult. But M. is a good kid who was loved in his previous foster home. And that helps. Every once in awhile though, M. seems to lose it for no reason at all. He melts down with screaming and tears or shuts down with disengagement and attempting to sleep to avoid interaction.
There is nearly two years of stuff beneath the surface that we don't know a ton about. Two years of landmines planted in everyday civilian territory. And one of the primary complexities of foster parenting so far is that we keep setting off these landmines without easily being able to identify why they are going off.
We can have an absolutely great stretch and then one thing, maybe a sound, a smell, a sight, a word, an action, activates the meltdown.
All kids have them. In fact all people have them. They may not always trigger screaming meltdowns, but they set off memories, fears and emotions that often haven't been fully processed or dealt with. Things we don't even know are there.
The challenge of foster parenting is that in some regards, you have to willingly go in and try to set off these landmines so that you can learn what they are so that you can then learn to deactivate them before they blowup and people lose appendages in the aftermath. (OK the metaphor might be breaking down). It's counter-intuitive. Most of the time, I'm thinking, lets avoid the danger or the implosions and try to not set off the triggers. Don't rock the boat.
But allowing M. to store a ton of volatile, undealt-with emotions doesn't seem like good parenting.
And I think there is an AHA moment in this.
God is a really good parent.
Pastor Knut Larson told the story of when his staff would play basketball together every week as a bonding opportunity. It was primarily about physical health and building concepts of team. But watch out if you were the new guy. Things would start innocently enough but then Larson would instruct some of his seasoned staff members to "Bump Him". They weren't malicious, but they fouled him a couple times pretty aggressively without calling the foul. Larson wanted to see what these staff members would do when injustice happened. The theory is you won't really know what a person is made of until you how they respond when they've been bumped a little.
And in God's love for his kids, he allows a good bump now and then in order to see what comes to the surface. The Bible says that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.
Somehow an indictment has been brought forth against God suggesting that if God were really good and loving, there would be no bumping. This seems like a very watered down version of what goodness and love are really about. I'm not saying hurt your kids. I'm suggesting that helicoptering and hovering and overprotecting your children isn't protecting them at all. It's leading to a generation of emotionally immature/unintelligent young adults who end up on the road to depression and anxiety because life isn't working out as perfectly and cleanly as they anticipated. They get bumped. Goodness and love are about being there in meaningful ways when the bumps come along.
Every broken person has bumps and ever bump has a potential story of beauty and redemption.