I have learned a lot about God’s love, and about trusting Him these past few months, from knowing a child. I’ll call her Sarah. Sarah grew up in a very vulnerable household, often went hungry and had never been to school. Her mother despaired of her behaviour, because Sarah would run away from home for days at a time. Eventually Sarah’s mother handed her over to Social Welfare, who placed her in our temporary shelter home.
Sarah was like a feral child when she came to us. She screamed incoherently. She attacked other children, broke furniture, stole food, and would not obey any instructions. She had never felt safe, so she tried to control her environment to create her own sense of stability.
I saw a lot of my own heart in this child. Yes, I have not lived through what she has, and I might not have acted out in the same ways as her, but I know that I try in many ways to control my own life in order to give myself a sense of safety. I lash out at others. I try to grasp for what I think I need. I choose my own ways, thinking I know best.
Over a number of months we saw changes in Sarah. She stopped screaming. When she wanted something or felt another child had acted unfairly, she would use words to ask for what she wanted or express her emotions. She began to cry, real tears of sadness, feeling the losses and pain of her past. She calmed down. She began to be helpful to staff and kind to other children. Love had begun to break down her defences. Love which was consistent and unconditional, to the extent we could demonstrate this as staff in our fallen humanity. I felt so deeply reminded of God’s love as I witnessed the change in Sarah. Our love for her was a poor, incomplete reflection of His love. His pursuing, strong, never-giving-up love. His Father love. How much more, then, can His love bring healing and redemption to us in our brokenness?
The end of Sarah’s story with us has been tough. She was due to be placed in an orphanage, known for children running away and ending up on the streets. Sarah had made so much progress with us and I felt desperate at the idea that her story could end up going backwards, but it was not up to us to decide where she moved on to. I prayed that God would intervene, even up until the morning of her departure from us. Miraculously, despite a court order being issued for Sarah’s placement, by the end of that day we were told that she was going to a foster family instead. I felt so grateful that God had intervened on behalf of this very vulnerable child who had no voice about where she would go next. He had stood in the gap for her and provided a family where she would be safe and could continue to heal. But then, a few days later, we were told that she had been removed from the foster family and placed in the orphanage after all.
I felt so angry with God. Why would He seem to answer our prayers for Sarah and then reverse it? Had He ceased to care about her future and welfare? Why was He not listening when I instructed Him on what was best for this child? He needed to pay attention to what I was saying! This was a harder lesson for me. Do I fundamentally still believe that God is indeed compassionate and kind? Yes. Do I believe that He changes His nature? No. So even though I don’t understand why He has allowed this change in Sarah’s circumstances, can I still trust Him to take care of her? Yes…broken-heartedly, disappointedly, uncomprehendingly, yes I can. I have to let her go and believe that she belongs to Him first. And I have to remember that He sees the end from the beginning, and He will never leave her. He loves her much more than we do.