When I talk about Safe Families, specifically when hoping to generate interest in getting others involved, I so badly want to share stories with happy endings. It is my gut feeling that, if I could wrap all our stories of experience up in a bow, people would jump on the opportunity to join this ministry. We like things neat and pretty don’t we? Isn’t it way more fun to labor when you can look at “your work” and see a job well done? The problem with that is that this is not “our work.” It is God’s. And His work usually doesn’t come wrapped in a pretty bow. It’s usually messy. Like, nailed to a cross messy.
Not neat and pretty.
The truth is, that even if one of our Safe Families Moms finds a job, gets hired by people willing to give her a chance and then gets out of the shelter, that it is not a Happily Ever After story. That apartment? It’s in a scary part of town, y’all. And she’s a single mom who works late and lives alone with her children and she will be vulnerable to that harsh environment indefinitely. The childcare she can afford? It means her kids diapers aren’t changed all day and they spend the entire day in front of the t.v. The stuff she has seen? You don’t even want to know.
The truth is, that while you may be able to take a day off or find a friend to babysit if your little one is running a fever, she can’t. And her line of work means that she will get fired for not making it in. She is one bad day away from unemployment. She will feel replaceable and like she is always right on the cusp of ending back up at the shelter. She will work longer and harder than most of us and still come up short at the end of the month. That insecurity of basic need will bleed into her ability to form healthy relationships and into her ability to trust. Her stubborn pride built up by her survival instinct to only count on herself will hold her back over and over and it will kill you.
The truth is, you will push harder than you’ve ever had to, trying to hold on to a friendship with a Mom that has never had anyone reliable in her life before. You will say over and over again “I’m here.” And sometimes she will believe you. But most of the time she will be waiting for you to fail or give up on her. She will believe that all you see her as is a project to fix and that if you can’t fix her, you’ll move on. And at first that will offend you. But then it will break you. Because in your life, relationships are second nature. And in her life they are non-existent. You will call and text for weeks before she breaks down and decides to tell you what’s going on. When you are pretty sure you are bordering on harassing her, she will say thank you for not giving up. Because in the real world, texting every day with no response is being a stalker. But in crisis world, it’s just a necessary tool to communicate.
The truth is, it’s pointless to get involved in this work looking for any certain result. There is no formula or equation to solve the problem. This is not about solving at all. We walk alongside. We embrace the mess and the brokenness and trust Jesus with the rest. Gathering it all up and then laying it at his feet instead of trying to sort it out ourselves. In a great majority of the lives that become intertwined with mine through Safe Families, I may not get the pleasure of seeing a Happily Ever After. The Happy Ending may not come until Heaven does.
The truth is that I have come to embrace all of this. That, in my personal life, it is refining me. By nature, I am a perfectionist. A planner. I want to know all of the details and how everything is going to work out. None of those things work well with crisis. And so I have become more calm, learning to go with the flow. Every day I am accepting the truth that perfection is the most insane thing to pursue. There is only One who is perfect. And it is silly to think we could ever know all of the details. God holds every moment in His hands and He is the only one who knows what is in our tomorrows. This planner? She could get a call at any moment that there is a baby to pick up. Today could be a quiet day, and tomorrow my world could be rocked with another family. Their story will instantly become part of mine. There is no planning for it. I will no longer allow myself to be anxious for tomorrow or too eager to see what is next. I will spend my days taking one step at a time behind my Father, following wherever He leads.
And the truth is I am so thankful for this process. So thankful for this ministry. I had hoped to change lives but my life has instead been changed. And I don’t even care about pretty bows and Happily Ever Afters anymore.
Until the next blog…be blessed!