The first time I walked down the hall of the third floor at Bexar County Courthouse, it felt like I was in a theater with five or ten screens each playing different movies before me. I caught snatches of covert conversations held between case-workers and CASA volunteers, saw looks full of emotion flash between biological family members and foster parents and listened as attorneys shouted out case names and conferred with their clients. There were men in snappy business suits with tortoiseshell glasses and skinny ties. There were men wearing huge t-shirts and baggy jeans, their faces framed in a colorful array of tattoos. In the huddles of humanity that lined the walls, at least five or six ethnicities were represented. There was no age discrimination in the hallway as every living generation could be seen. There were teens sitting stone faced, no emotions to be read in their hard eyes. Toddlers giggled as they climbed on and off the hard, wooden benches. Young moms wiped tears from their faces as they walked out of the court room wondering what had happened in the last twenty-two years of their lives that led them to this place. Middle aged men chatted with me about what the war had done to them and what the government was up to and the grandparents…well, the grandparents watched with troubled eyes as their grandchildren played around them. I wonder what they were thinking about the hallway they were sitting in?
That hallway isn’t like a movie to me anymore. It is too real, too tangible to be fiction. I have listened to judges issue final orders and attorneys lay family secrets out on the table for everyone to see. I have watched the intense look on a foster mother’s face as she listens to the bio mom talk with her case worker, trying to catch any snatch of the conversation that could help her understand just a little better the story of the child in her home. I have seen lover’s quarrel violently, children become adopted and families separated.
This can be a sad world, but despite the darkness, violence, abuse and neglect that makes this hallway of the courthouse a reality, there is still hope. There are families who are re-united and parents who decide that their children are worth the change. There are moms who choose to work their service plans, leave abusive relationships and stand strong in the face of the horrible judgement that is passed on them by the world. There are lonely, unloved children who are placed in homes where they are truly seen and heard for the first time in their lives. There are families who, in this culture, have shown radical love by opening their homes and their hearts to foster children not knowing if that child will get to stay with them or not. They have chosen to go to court hearings, attend all the mandated appointments, invite CPS into their home and to be in the world without becoming like the world. They have chosen to pray for the biological parents who abused the precious child that they have taken into their home and have asked God to show them how to extend grace in the same radical way he extended his grace to us.
I can keep going up to the third floor of the Courthouse because the Gospel is real. Jesus forgave me of my sins and He extends the same forgiveness, the same breathtaking, life changing freedom to every single person on the third floor. Jesus has invited me and anyone else who is willing to join Him in this ministry of reconciliation. This reconciliation is what fostering and adoption are all about.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 (ESV)