a broken girl

Sitting across from her, our eyes met. A broken girl. One with potential, but a past so heavy that it weighed her down. Familiar pain, with a hint of resistance filtered the air. Soon, tears, rich with sorrow, rolled down her cheeks. Have you ever felt grief? I don’t mean going through the emotions of it, but actually feeling it as it permeates the air? It was our companion on that day; a bitter, suffocating ghost of what should have been.

Inhale. Exhale. Deep breath. I said, “Okay. We need to discuss what happens from here. The case is coming up very soon for permanency so the Judge will want to know what we are going to recommend.” As her case manager, I had worked with her for over nine months. We both desperately wanted success. She loved her baby, that was never in question.

“Where you are at right now and the way the case is going, I believe the team is going to ask the Judge to change the goal to adoption.” She nodded, then said, “I know. It’s what’s best for him and I want that. I can’t do this. I can’t parent. I love him so much but he deserves more.”

Tears tried to push their way down my cheeks, but I held them back. Not now. I had to remain professional. A broken girl she was but in that moment, her resilience shone bright. “Okay, let’s talk about the type of family you would want for him.”

Pausing for a moment, our eyes met again, “I trust you to pick them. I’d like for him to have a dad and a mom, ones that will always treat him like he deserves to be treated…to love him.”

Before I could get another word out, she lost it. Her body collapsed a bit. She tried to wipe away the tears but she couldn’t. They were her messengers of grief being released into the world. “Caroline, thank you. You have been so kind to me and treated me better than anyone ever has in my life, including my own family.”

This was almost too much for me to take in. Gut-punch. Twinge of ache in my heart. As her case manager, I played a huge role in determining her fitness to be a parent. The termination of parental rights summary would be penned by my hands. I would testify to it, search for an adoptive family and eventually place her little boy there.

“Oh, you’re welcome. I’ve really enjoyed working with you and wish things would’ve turned out different. I want you to get help. You deserve a better life.”

Wiping away tears, she reached out for a hug. I gave her a long one; perhaps, the most genuine one she ever had. We said our good-bye’s and she left. I never saw her again but held onto her words as I searched for and placed her precious son with a loving family who lived out her hopes for her son.

The system failed her. Her parents failed her. Perhaps, in many ways, I failed her. This world did, as well. Trauma. Addiction. Homelessness. Chaos. These things were her constant companions since childhood; the only way of life that she had ever lived. Even as an adult, her companions never left her side. Always there. Like an unwanted shadow.

It is easy for us to look at people like her and question why they just don’t work hard enough to get their kids back. Would we be capable of doing so? How would we feel if trauma was our only childhood friend? What if addiction slithered its way into our soul? Or, homelessness and chaos walked alongside us throughout our lives? Could we manage? Would we?

I think of her, often; that broken girl whose life symbolizes sadness. Did she ever receive help? Is she is out there alone fighting her demons? Will trauma, addiction, homelessness and chaos remain her constant companions?

Years ago, a broken girl sat in front of me. In many ways, she never left.

mercy has your name written on it

You sit there staring at the image reflected back at you in the mirror.  The mirror lies to you, and yet, you see that reflection as truth.  It exposes your blemishes, and your scars.  The image of your body is one that you would rather never reveal to anyone, except maybe…this vile mirror that has become the reflection of who you think you are.  The bruises, the fat, the lines…whatever errors that have affixed on your skin…shows up greater than anything else.  You wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  How could anyone love me?  I deserve to be lonely, and to be treated like this.  I am worthless…deserve even worse.  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You lay there staring at the bottom of an empty bottle, and your anger is being stirred with a mixture of dependency and despair.  The bottle…the friend you have come to rely on…is empty, and you are left alone.   Alone.  Isolated with your regrets that seem to have burrowed themselves in your soul.  Deep down, you know that the empty bottle symbolizes how you feel about yourself.  Empty.  Broken.  Dry.  You tell yourself, “There is no way God will ever love me.  No one will.  The only friend I have is a bottle.”  You wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  Is there a way out of this vicious cycle that has taken over?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You stand there, sign in hand, while looking around at the concrete bed that you will be sleeping on tonight, and you think, “When will this ever change?  When will I feel human again?”  You are cold.  You are hungry.  You are confused.  Perhaps, just maybe, if your story of how you became like this was actually scripted onto those cardboard pleads of help, then maybe…just maybe, others might see you as a human being.  You might be valued.  As family filled cars pass you by, you wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  When will my circumstances change?  I hope for something new each day, but the days seem to turn into months, which seem to turn into years.  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You sit there looking around at the empty house that was once filled with the sounds of the life of a family.  You stare at the living room, you glance at the spot where your wife once slept, and you dwell on the empty chairs at the dinner table.  You think about the life you once all danced to.  You remember the Christmas mornings, birthdays, nights spent around a ball game, or playing outdoors. You think, “I deserve this.  I deserted them.  I was selfish.  God, how can You forgive me?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You are staring at the negative sign on the pregnancy test you just took.  As the sadness starts to fill up your heart, you begin to say the same mantra that you have said for years….“I deserve this.  God must think I would make a horrible mother.  This will never happen.  I will never be a mother.  I am worthless.”  As time goes on, you wait…wait…for your moment.  You endure the showers of others who are expecting the very thing you have desired for years now.   You wonder, “God, why would You spare me?  If it is Your will, then why won’t You give me a child?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

Well, dear friend, precious soul, battered one, addicted being, homeless shell, wayward son, and one filled with despair, there is no need to wonder.  When Jesus carried His weary body so that His feet could be nailed to the Cross, it was for you.  When He breathed His last breath, it was for you.  It was for all of us.

When He exclaimed, “It is finished”we were on His mind.  His salvation lasts forever.  It lasts through the hardship of life.  It conquers the poor choices, imperfections, addictions, broken relationships, concrete jungles, and empty nests.

His mercy is fluid.  It moves with you.  It wraps around you, and migrates with each step you take.  You wonder, “Am I worth it?  Why would He spare me?  Am I worthy of forgiveness?  Is there enough mercy left over for someone like me?” 

Yes, dear friend, precious soul, battered one, addicted being, homeless shell, wayward son, and one filled with despair, you are worth it.  You are a child of God.  Do you know that?  Your worth is so much more than you can ever fathom.  Mercy….

Mercy has your name written on it…

….and, praise Christ for that!

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. – Hebrews 4:16