I have a friend who is a foster parent. She is a wonderful mother to her own children, and together the entire family recently decided they wanted to open their home and hearts to others in need. Their first child, age 2, was with them for just two months. This little girl soaked up the love, affection, and security provided by my friend, her husband, and their kids every waking moment. I would see her at church, reaching out her arms to be held by one of them almost constantly. It was a joy to see the expressions on each of their faces as their bond grew.
Fast-forward to the day they had to let her go. This little angel hugged and loved on each one individually, not wanting to leave them. The family gave her a photo album of memories and reluctantly said goodbye. The case worker cheerily told them she’d call them next week about the next foster child as they drove away. And now they are in mourning over the precious child they will not likely see again.
My sister-in-law, Marjorie, recently went on a mission trip to Haiti. One point in the trip found her in an orphanage. She was in a room surrounded by children, all of them crying uncontrollably. She used her gift of music and began singing a lullaby to the children. Immediately, all of the children – except one – stopped crying. He was so tiny Marjorie was afraid his bones would break if she picked him up. But she couldn’t stand watching him suffer. So she picked him up. As she sang, his cries ceased as well. The Spirit was in that room, calming and comforting those children. And then, too soon, Marjorie had to leave.
It is so easy to get lost in the need, the hurt, the innocent eyes of children. Overwhelming. How does one wave goodbye to a child who has become a daughter or walk out of a room of crying toddlers? Must we harden our hearts to be able to do this time and time again? Is loving with detachment the only way to get through? Perhaps not.
Maybe God really wants us to dig in, to love with abandon. Perhaps our Savior knows that’s the closest we come to knowing the sacrifice made on our behalf. To let go, to strip away all the layers of self-protection, and to love – agape – strangers who become family. And then to trust, completely trust, that God will be there to hold us and wipe the tears away. To know that our strength will be renewed and our hope restored. Could that be what is asked of us? If we are the hands and feet of God, then those in need will be blessed. And isn’t that enough?