We heard her before we saw her, a high squeal echoing across the parking lot. It is a universal motherhood truth that if you go any length of time without seeing your child, they will insist on rapidly growing during that period. It’s just a guarantee. The 5 weeks they spent apart turned her little guy into a big boy and she could not believe it!
My favorite thing to do when we bring one of our little house guests back to their family at the end of a hosting is to watch their expression. How does a young mind process the roller coaster they’ve just been on? Leaving everything they’ve known to be normal and comfortable, settling in to our home’s routine not totally understanding where their parent is or what happens next and then finally being reunited with their parents is a lot. The reactions have been varied.
Sometimes a little one’s reaction to our saying goodbye can make walking away very difficult. But when this little cutie cuddled up into his Mommy’s neck and closed his eyes and smiled so big, we knew what we’ve always known. These little loves that come into our home are not meant to stay forever. They belong somewhere. He belongs with his Mommy. We love them hard and let them go. We let them go, but we never stop loving them.
We have spent four years practicing the art of loving well and letting go. Learning the differences between charity and servanthood. Figuring out what it means to walk alongside someone in their time of need instead of assuming we have a quick fix to solve their problems. Mostly we’ve learned how much we don’t know.
When you start serving people in crisis you do a lot of wondering why they don’t just dig themselves out of the hole they are in. As much as you try not to judge, you have all the opinions and all these ideas about how to solve their problems. “Just dig,” you say. That’s what you would do, right?
After some time, you learn that the tools you always had access to, and the training you just assumed everyone had on how to use said tools are not guarantees for everyone else. You assumed we all were born with the same set of tools: including that shovel. So dig. Dig yourself out. But you were wrong. Not only does this momma not have a shovel to dig….she’s never even seen a functioning shovel. So she doesn’t know HOW to dig. You can tell her until you’re blue in the face that she just needs to dig herself out but it’s not going to change anything.
I refuse to do that now. I’ve found it a lot more effective to hush my mouth and listen. When I listen, I learn that it’s nearly impossible to dig yourself out when all you have are your hands and it continues to pour rain so the ground stays wet. And there is no one around to help you up when you slip in the mud. Instead of saying “just dig” I’ve learned to show someone what a functional shovel looks like and tell them that if they need help digging, I’m here. I’ve learned that, instead of being all talk, it’s a lot more effective to just get in there and get a little muddy.
Today we said goodbye. And we don’t know what our little houseguest’s future holds. But we will love him and love his Mommy and walk alongside them as they learn and grow. And make no mistake about it, it will be messy. We will get muddy. But Jesus isn’t scared of a little mess. So I won’t be either.