The last week or so has been an adventure. And when I say "adventure" what I really mean is something closer to the pages Dante left on the cutting room floor when he penned Divine Comedy because they were simply too horrifying. (That's a literature joke, but suffice it to say, there's nothing funny about this "comedy.")
Our little three-year-old bundle of joy that a DHS-shaped stork brought to us about six weeks ago has come to some startling realizations recently. For one, she's realized that she is going to be stuck with Hailee and me for a little while. That does things to a child, psychologically, and unfortunately, Hailee has been reaping the effects of that. Our little tart has seemingly decided that since Hailee isn't mommy, and mommy isn't here, she doesn't need to show Hailee anything resembling the sort of respect she would give to mommy.
Nobody ever said fostering would be easy, and we get it. There's a lot of trauma going on for a little mind, and it's hard to understand how to cope. Through consistency and love over time, Hailee and I are convinced that we can see some changes in this little girl.
The second realization is even more horrifying and has far-reaching trouble for Hailee and I. As you know (or are about to find out), there are pretty strict regulations governing the types of discipline that foster parents are allowed to enact. These rules are in place for very good reasons, and Hailee and I agree with them and respect them 100%. I want to make that very clear. But, while these rules go to great length to protect the children, they also implicitly ensure the child has a lot of freedom from consequence.
This a was illustrated clearly to me today when this little angel (no, of course I'm not being sarcastic) decided to be disobedient. In the act of disobedience, and amongst the pleads from Hailee and myself to "Please for the love of all that is good, just obey" she looked up at me with a wordless smile and a sparkle in her eye that screamed "I am going to do whatever I want, and there isn't a single thing you can do about it."
Surely this is a nightmare, right? A three-year-old can't arrive at that conclusion on her own, right? Spoiler: she totally can.
Next I found myself telling Hailee something that I never thought I would say: "Until today, I've never understood how foster parents can give up on a child, but when the child realizes that they have a lot of power in this relationship, now I can see where parents can decide to hang it up."
It would be easy to become fatalistic at this point. Now that she understands we really can't do much to her except take away everything she enjoys (toys, TV, ice cream, etc) and that she can still continue to do what ever she wants, what's the point?
But then I thought about Jesus.
Am I any different? How many times in my life have I looked conviction right in the eye and said, "I am going to do whatever I want, and there isn't a single thing you can do about it."
Scratch that, how many times in the last week have I done exactly that? To paraphrase Romans 7, "I keep on doing the very thing I do not want to do."
I am the most rebellious child. I refuse to obey what Jesus tells me to do. I'm not even sure why, just as I'm sure that our little three-year-old parcel of personality doesn't always understand why she is acting out.
Yet Jesus is patient with me. Jesus is good to me. When I look at him with a contemptuous smirk of rebellion He looks back at me with a smile and waits until I'm done throwing a fit. Sure, He has to discipline me sometimes (okay, a lot) but you know what He's never done?
Much like Rick Astley, Jesus has never given me up. He has adopted me into His family, and there's nothing that can change that.
I can be patient. I can wait her out. But I certainly can't do it on my own. But with Jesus, I can do it. He is the master of patience, my life can testify. If He can be patient with me, then He can teach me to be patient with our little blessing. (Okay, so maybe that one was a little sarcastic.)