“Worst case, if she runs, just call the police.”
Did I hear that right? I had taken this phone call in the safety of my living room, and I was glad. For the cell connection hid the shock painted upon my face. Those words gave me a quick and hard reality check, and I was choking on it. Now, three years removed from the eve of our first experience with foster parenting, I’ve only had to follow this advice once.
Nine children have gone in and out of our home, and one came in to become our own. Through these experiences, I’ve learned much of how we as humans try to protect ourselves. Many times, in trying to do so, we run from exactly what we need most. I had no idea how difficult it can be for some to receive love, or how much I run from being loved myself.
We all do it. Fear causes us to run from love. As we attempt to get through the walls we ourselves and others put up we must realize that it may take extraordinary measures of persistence and sacrifice.
In children who have experienced trauma, it can come out in running, screaming, or slammed doors. They push people away before they get close enough to hurt, because that is what they have experienced. After enduring profound emotional and physical pain at the hands of those who are closest, the very people who should keep them safe, they learn to protect themselves from vulnerability. Which can cause a domino effect to those reaching out. Our natural response to being given the cold shoulder or being lashed out in episodes of explosive anger—Get away. What the child actually is asking for as they try to make you turn is closeness, connection, and safety. Their overtop reaction is a pleading for love.
I haven’t always translated this chaotic disconnect very well. As Dr. Russel Barkley said, “The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways.”
Sometimes they have the words to ask aloud, “Why should I trust you? Do you really care?” Other times the same question comes out in their actions, “Will you still be nice to me if I break your stuff? If I throw a fit, will you still tuck me in and read a bedtime story?”
Love gives both grace and truth in the midst of failure. This love takes perseverance that is completely beyond humanity’s grasp. When love freely given is not returned, or the recipient looks you in the face and spews vinegar for your honey, you are reminded real love is hard.
Real love is worth it.
I see this worth it in the child who packed a bag in anger. It’s contents: a teddy bear, warm clothes and the Jesus Storybook Bible we read at night . One moment raging and running, the next asking for reassurance. A hug. A sandwich. Completely against me one moment, but wanting me to stay close by later. My presence allowing sleep to come quickly.
I see myself in the runners. How I want my own way. How I avoid being near to God when I’m upset instead of collapsing into his open arms. I throw the same fits on a different plane. Moments of unbelief cause me to question if God really loves me, even though I know he has shown his love over and over again. I see now, I am running just to see if he chases me.
He does chase me. Like the Storybook Bible that is once again on the bedside table says, his “Never ending, never giving up, unstopping, always and forever love,” continues to persevere no matter what I throw his way.
His love is relentless, and somehow by God’s great plan there are people in my life who need to be chased down with the same kind of love. A love that does not depend on whether or not it is received or reciprocated. We go to extraordinary lengths to persevere in love because, “We love because He first loved us.” 1John 4:19
So today, I remember the persistence of God’s love for me, and from it I can persevere in loving the people in front of me. Even those who aren’t always easy to catch.
Readers, Are you running from the love of God? What keeps you from seeking him?
Holly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.