by Judy Merchant
I have heard the simple metaphor that makes the distinction between sympathy and empathy. Where sympathy is standing on the shore and throwing a life ring out to the person who is struggling in the water. Every decent human being would do that ( at least I would hope). It’s automatic, almost flowing out of our adrenaline.
Empathy however is much more of a risk. Empathy is diving into the water and thrashing around in the cold choppy waves with that person to bring them to safety. Not everyone does that. It’s rare enough that the people who do jump in are called heroes.
Hero is a term that I’ve heard our family described as. Honestly it never sits well with me when it is spoken. Though spoken with best intentions I find myself immediately deflecting the statement and praying for humility for myself and my family.
God uses our family, our community to reach those in the water who need someone to come alongside them and help them to find solid ground again. I truly believe this is the calling on our lives, on our family unit.
Reflecting upon our sermon series of LoVermont I am able to draw on many connections between reaching our neighbors and caring for those directly around us. James 1:27 states “Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Children and families in foster care are in distress. Their entire worlds are flipped upside down and suddenly everything they knew is turned on end. I truly can’t imagine the feelings that engulf these families. Here is where our family comes in. We become the hands and feet of Jesus caring for these children and parents; sowing seeds along the way.
Sometimes there are success stories, sometimes those seeds land on fertile ground. Sometimes they do not. God is in control.
2 Corinthians 5:7 states ``For we live by faith, not by sight.`` We try to live everyday showing these families unconditional love. To shower them with the love of Christ.
To be quite honest with you, most days it truly is a thankless job. We pray everyday that God will equip us for what's ahead. Most of the time although we play an intricate part in helping these families find solid footing again they often retreat away from us. Leaving us with only memories and hope that someday we may see them again. Hope that we have pointed them toward the love and acceptance of Jesus. Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”
My thoughts are all over the place while writing this. I apologize. My desire to share is rooted in the connections our family has personally had with this particular sermon series. We truly believe that God has called us to help in this way. That for while these children are here in our home we are to love them and cherish them as the blessings from God that they truly are. Some hurt more than others when they leave but all occupy spaces not only in the hearts of our family but the hearts of those around us who walk together with us to help raise these children and support their families in the name of Jesus.
My prayer is that these children will feel the love and acceptance of Jesus while they are with us and that somewhere in their hearts they will store up those treasured moments and lean into them as they travel their paths and know that they were and are loved unconditionally by the most high.