Yesterday I spent the early evening at a 5 year old's birthday party, one of Grayden & Cole's church friends. As the boys ran around playing with their friends, I followed little Miss Allie all around. Busy as I was chasing Allie every which way, I happened to start up a conversation with a dad who was their with his 5 year old son.
He was a thick, stalky guy with a bald head and a long goatee; the type many would be intimidated by. Yet, he had very kind eyes and was considerably friendly (for a dude). After a few initial get-to-know-you questions I knew this dad had a story he wanted, even needed, to tell. I could see it in his demeanor, he had concern and worry on his mind. I could sense it in my spirit that perhaps he needed a friend.
So I hoped Allie would cooperate and I began to listen and ask questions. And his story flowed like a river out of him.
After having their son, he and his wife were unable to have any more children. So in hopes of growing their family, they began fostering babies with the intent to adopt. Over the past five years, they've fostered 6 different babies who were all born addicted to cocaine or heroine. He described the horrors of weaning a newborn off one of these heinous drugs; his descriptions broke my heart.
As he spoke about each child and told their story I could see the love he had for each of them. Yet in all 6 foster cases, the baby was eventually placed in the home of a distant family member (an aunt, uncle, or grandparent). He and his wife (and their biological son) had to say goodbye to 6 babies whom they had grown to love and care for as their own. I asked him how they dealt with this. And he shared their honest, hard struggle at each goodbye.
Presently they have their 7th foster child, a baby boy by the name of Hunter. This boy came to their home a few weeks after he was born. And like the others, he was highly addicted to drugs. He described the regimented process of how they are weaning Hunter off the drugs. Hunter's had a rough go it sounds like. But great progress in the past few weeks has brought much needed hope and encouragement.
He pulled out his phone showing me pictures of the sweet baby boy. He described his own son's love for Hunter. He raved about his wife, her sacrifice and love for this baby she didn't carry.
And he expressed a deep desire for Hunter to be The One. They long to adopt this baby and make him officially their own.
"If we lose him like the others, it will break our hearts. We will have to take a hiatus from fostering." he said.
At this point it was time to leave. I shook his hand and told him I thought he and his wife were remarkable. And I told him I would pray. I would pray Hunter would be The One. And I would pray that God would give them the strength to make it through another goodbye if necessary. He thanked me and said, "We could use prayer."
Friends, this man had a story he needed to tell. Our conversation wasn't overly spiritual. I didn't walk him through the Gospel message. It was evident to me that my role was to simply hear his story and promise to pray. I walked away overcome with emotion as I knew God had His hand on this man and his family. And I thanked God for the honor of being the one He used to listen to this man's story.
Reflecting on my time last night, I can't help but think of Jesus and His time here on this earth. Everyone who came to Jesus had a story. The man with leprosy had a story. The paralytic had a story. The widow who gave all she owned had story. The sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears had a story. The blind beggar had a story. The woman at the well had a story. The criminals to the right and left of Jesus on the cross had a story.
They all had a story just like the foster dad I met last night.
And I absolutely believe that Jesus listened and heard their stories. I love the Scriptures where we read about a crowd sitting around Jesus (Mark 3:32) because I just imagine him teaching and listening to story after story.
You see, Jesus understood and continues to understand our need to tell our story. There's healing and hope that takes place when we do.
Unfortunately, so often we are too busy or selfish to take the time to let someone share. After last night, I was reminded that part of walking with Jesus is being willing to extend a hand in friendship by listening to the stories of others. Because when we listen, God is doing something great in the heart of the storyteller (even if we can't see it). His love is penetrating those deep, dark places that need light and hope. And the truth is we, the listener, are blessed as well. God's love grows inside of us when we hear the stories of others.
So my prayer today is that my children will be willing to be used by God and listen to the stories of others.
While on this earth, You spent much of Your time listening to stories. And being the great God that You are, You brought hope and healing to each story You heard. I believe that You call us to be willing to hear the stories of others. I believe You long to use this act of friendship as an opportunity to do what You do best: to bring hope and healing AND to love. I pray my children would be willing to deny themselves, their schedules and interests, and would extend a hand of friendship and a listening ear to those who need to tell their story. I pray they would listen with a kind heart, free of judgement and full of love. I pray they would be Your vessel in this. Teach them to be Your listening ear to those whose stories need to be told. And may Your love grow inside of them deeper and deeper at each story they hear.