Pulling up a seat in the smoking section

Parents are responsible for their kids. A kid's behaviors often reflect their home lives. The kid must've learned these behaviors at home. 

I've heard these claims spoken by daycare providers, teachers, parents, and (gasp) these are beliefs I once held. ...Then I became a parent to two kids who experienced physical and psychological trauma during pivotal developmental years.

Suddenly, these statements no longer felt true. Even though my kids have been adopted for three and almost two years, they still struggle (and will always struggle) with trauma. Often they still feel threatened in situations that an outsider would not perceive as threatening. Sometimes they still eat as if food may not grace our dinner table again. Many times they still melt down when they receive even the tiniest of consequences. Are these behaviors a reflection of our home lives? I don't think so. Our home is far from perfect, but generally speaking, my husband and I work hard to maintain a consistent and loving home where curiosity is encouraged, mistakes can be learned from, a home where our kids can be kids with room to play and explore. We try to help our kids identify big feelings, and we give them tools to help them work through these. But, as is the habit of trauma, sometimes our kids' pasts seep through the cracks in their lives that we have desperately tried to repair.

Yesterday, my phone rang at 10:30 AM; it was my kids' principal. She replayed an outburst my son had in his classroom; he was unable to be redirected and had to spend the rest of the morning in the principal's office. I hung up the phone feeling overwhelmed and mortified about my son's behaviors. In fact, my first response was to email J's teacher to apologize for his behaviors. I spent the rest of the day beneath a dark cloud of shame.
Not a real cloud of shame, but it's pretty damn close. 

My brain knows that J's outburst was likely from a perceived threat and not an act of defiance, but I couldn't convince my heart and gut to agree with my brain. I felt responsible for my son's behavior. I wasn't home enough, I yell too much, I don't hug him enough. I worried about what the teacher thought of our home life, what J's classmates would tell their parents about the scenario, and what those parents would think of us. I was in a downward spiral of shame when I finally texted one of my best friends who also is a foster-adoptive mama and is familiar with parenting kids from hard places. I asked her when I would stop feeling so ashamed for my kids' behaviors. My friend is wise and kind and calm. She talked to me about losing my reputation to reach others...she reminded me that my reputation is eternal, and directed me to a sermon she recently heard on Luke 15: Love Can Unbind Us from Pastor Myron Pierce. 

If you haven't read Luke 15, you really should. It's my favorite picture of Jesus because he turns religion upside down. In the first two verses we learn that Jesus is openly fraternizing with tax collectors and "other notorious sinners," and the religious leaders clutch their pearls and generally LOSE THEIR DAMN MINDS about it. They complain and whine because these people are not righteous enough and clean enough to be spoken to by someone associated with the church. Jesus hits them with the parable of the lost sheep and explains that he will leave 99 "found" sheep to chase after 1 lost sheep. But he doesn't stop there. He continues to explain that he won't wag his index finger in disapproval at this sheep. No! He will throw a big freaking party with the best wine to celebrate the 1 who was rescued. This is Jesus: constantly pursuing the un-welcomed, constantly risking his reputation to love others so they may be unbound from whatever binds them.

Pastor Pierce concludes his sermon with a call to action for followers of Christ:
"May we be willing to sit in the smoking section and come out smelling like smoke for the sake of those who are in desperate need to be un-bound" ("Love Can Unbind Us")
There are still parts of my son (and daughter) that are bound by trauma. When both of my kids moved in, I agreed to walk beside them, to be vulnerable to rumors and funny looks and isolation in order for them to be un-bound in Christ's love.

As are most things in life, this act of sitting in the smoking section and coming out smelling like smoke is easier said than done. It is hard to let go of my reputation and to shrug off the old beliefs I once held because I care an awful lot about what other people think of me. Maybe you can relate. Perhaps you have felt called to love and serve a marginalized group of people but you worry about what others might think if they see you breaking bread with someone from a lower social class or a different culture than yours. Maybe you feel led to move to an "undesirable" part of town but you worry that others will call you irresponsible or say you're putting your family in danger. Maybe you feel pulled to trade your comfort so that others may be more comfortable and you fear folks will call you crazy. Whatever it is, I hope you have the courage to do it. It won't be easy, and people will criticize you, and your reputation will likely be damaged, but remember: you were also once bound by something and set free by Christ's radical and unwavering love.

No comments: