A few words from a judge ended our time with the toddler yesterday afternoon. The little boy that had been my shopping buddy, who I had packed lunch notes for and who I had prayed with every night for the last five months walked into a courthouse with me and walked out with his family. Before he left, he gave me a hug and offered me a skittle.
Last night Jim and I sat on the couch and looked around at the rug, still askew from the morning’s play time. Books and toys littered the floor. His laundry is still in the hamper, and his sippy cup is in the dishwasher. A child who arrived at our door with a only a T-shirt, a blanket and a teddy bear has left his fingerprints everywhere. Literally and figuratively.
This was the moment we had been dreading since we became foster parents almost two years ago. The arrival of a child in a home — even under the difficult circumstances of a court order — brings life and joy. The temporary aspect of it and the inevitable departure was what everyone asked us about. We really didn’t know how to answer people’s concerned questions of “won’t you get attached?” or “won’t you miss him when he leaves?” It loomed large in our minds as we tried to imagine it ourselves. But now it’s no longer an unknown.
Now we know that yes, we miss him. Yes, we got attached. Yes, it was hard — gut-wrenching, actually — to drive away with an empty carseat. But, as I’m finding his dirty socks in my purse (not sure how that happened) and half-eaten snacks in the fridge, I realize that getting attached without concern for the future has given us an opportunity to understand God’s love and mercy anew.
When Christ was asked “who is my neighbor?” (Lk 10:29) He responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan, which clearly explains that “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27) means extending love and mercy far beyond what is comfortable or familiar or even safe.
This looks different for each of us, but in some way, loving our neighbor is an invitation to “get attached”. To take on the burden of making sure that an elderly neighbor has rides to the doctor. To welcome the refugee and trust that God will provide. To take a chance on an employee with a past that makes everyone assume they have no future. God gives each of us unique opportunities to become attached to our brothers and sisters in need. And now we have learned that while it’s not easy, He also gives the grace we need to respond.
“God proved his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rm 5:8). All the opportunities we have to love those who may never express gratitude, trust, or reciprocity are a chance to understand just a teeny-tiny fraction of the unconditional love that God has for us. He pursues us every day, knowing we may accept or walk away from His invitation.
Regardless of how we respond, God chooses to love us. He gets attached.
Alison Blanchet writes the column, Team Catholic. She is a youth director in Panama City Beach, Fla. Read her blog at http://teamcatholic.blogspot.com.
Editor’s note: Alison’s column runs in The Catholic Miscellany. To subscribe, visit http://themiscellany.org/subscribe/
Image, Wikimedia Commons: “The Good Samaritan” by David Teniers the younger after painting by Francesco Bassano, circa 1651.