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Hope Big

I was sitting across from a 16 year old boy.  His pants sagged low around his waist.  Even seated, I could see at least two layers of underwear above his waist line.  His shoes were meticulously taken care of, not a single speck of dirt could be found on them, not one single smudge.  His jacket was on, despite the warm office, but it was part of his image, so he wore it long into the spring when he would start to sweat.  His arms were crossed and he looked around the room.  He would find ANYTHING to look at in order to keep from looking me in the eyes.  His mask was thick, it always was. 

I asked, "Joe, how are you doing today (name changed for his privacy)?" 

"Nothing man, naw, I'm fine, why did you call me in here?" he replied.  

He enjoyed getting away from his group to chat, but I often asked questions that made him think, and he often found himself sharing more than he wanted.  He would catch his mask slipping down and then he would get upset and leave.  The image he presented to the world of a tough kid from a group home was so important to him.  That mask was how he kept his heart safe all those years.  

He had been in foster care since he was 1.5 years old.  He had been in over 20 placements.  At least 5 of them were pre-adoptive placements, but the families backed out and decided not to adopt him.  As he got older and rougher around the edges it was harder and harder to find foster homes.  He ended up in a group home.  He had been at the home for a little over 3 years when I met him.  

In one of those conversations where he told me more than he wanted to, he told me that he wanted to be adopted, but he didn't believe it could happen.  He said "I am too old, and people just want babies and little kids, they don't want someone broken like me?".  After sharing he barged out of my office cursing the world and everyone in it.    

Coming back to the day I started this devotional with: I asked if he remembered a family that I had sent him to for several visits to get away from campus.  We had scheduled them as breaks away from the group home, giving him a chance to get away from the energy of group home life.  He said he did, and then visibly steeled himself, worried he had messed that relationship up too.  When I told him that they asked to adopt him, he relaxed, laughed and walked out of my office shaking his head. 

I had two more meetings like this before I brought the family in to ask him themselves.  He just couldn't believe it.  It reminded me of the time God promised an old woman that she would have a child.  

"Abraham and Sarah were old by this time, very old. Sarah was far past the age for having babies. Sarah laughed within herself, 'An old woman like me? Get pregnant? With this old man of a husband?'”  - Genesis 11-12 

Sarah went on to become the mother of every Israelite that has ever lived, but she laughed first.  

Why is it so hard to believe in hope sometimes?  Why do we resist it so much?  I suspect we do it for the same reason that young man in my office wore a jacket well into the spring.  We like our masks thick, they help protect our heart.  Hope is dangerous, it can lead to disappointment and hurt.  The thing is, often, the things we might hope for can't happen if we don't open ourselves to the hurt.  This family would not have adopted him if he had not been willing to set aside his mask and say yes.  He had to try again, he had to open himself to the fact that it might not work.   Thankfully it did, I talked to him a few weeks ago.  He is in his third year of college, studying to be a social worker.  He returns to his adoptive parents for all of the holidays, and he is 100% part of their family.  

During this pandemic, I know a lot of people are feeling hopeless, and if I just told you that this is a season for hope, that our King has promised to return and set all things might laugh.  I would just like to remind you that you are in good company, it's OK to laugh, but don't forget that if you want to experience the thing hoped for, when you are done laughing you have to take off the mask.  

God, help us to find hope in this season.  Help us to take off our masks.  Help us to take the risk of opening our hearts to you.  Amen  


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