If there is one thing that seems fairly certain in this life, it’s the simple fact that tragedy will inevitably find you.
Not exactly the post-Christmas message you were expecting, is it?
It’s true though, isn’t it? How many of us have managed to escape tragedy in some form or another? All of us, at some point, struggle through heartaches and experience moments that threaten to tear us apart. But there’s something else that is also true.
Out of intense tragedy, in the words of music artist Steven Curtis Chapman, beauty can rise.
I have two very dear friends who discovered a couple of years ago that they could not have kids. They were devastated. Tears, heartache, and depression became a reality for them for a period of time.
Across town, three young siblings fought an uphill battle of survival around parents who struggled with substance abuse, drug addiction, and who provided little in the way of a nurturing environment. The state stepped in, and the kids began to be shuffled around the foster care community. At one point, they were separated from each other.
Perhaps you have experienced infertility. Or perhaps you were abandoned by a parent. Maybe you understand a bit about the heartache that these dear people have endured.
Two sets of tragic circumstances.
But do you know what happened?
My friends decided that they could live with a feeling of tragedy, becoming victims of a situation that was out of their control and altogether unfair, or they could take that tragedy and do something good with it. They chose the latter. They became foster parents.
And lo and behold, one day about five months ago, three young siblings were reunited in their house.
The kids have serious behavior issues. They expect adults to walk out on them. Sometimes they eat food like they expect to never see it again. Other times, in bouts of anger that they don’t know how to express, they tear through the house and destroy things.
But some days they come home and wrap their arms around the neck of their foster mom and tell her, “I love you, Mom.”
Not long ago, for the first time ever, after throwing a desk across the room, the 5-year-old boy came up to his foster parents and said he was so sorry, what he had done was wrong and he didn’t know how it happened, but he didn’t want it to ever happen again. Some days the boys wrestle with their foster dad and the look of peace and joy that covers their faces in smiles that wrap from ear to ear tells a different story: they feel like they are finally home.
My friends, who tend to downplay their role in the kids’ slow but evident behavior transformation, talk very frankly about life as foster parents. It’s hard, they say. Some days it’s really hard. But it’s also one of the best things that has ever happened to them.
“I don’t know why more people don’t become foster parents,” my friend Melissa says. “There are so many kids who desperately need love and discipline and a place to call home. We can give that to them. We should give that to them.”
Watching my friends and their foster kids and the family they have formed, I am struck by something that I can only describe as stunningly lovely. It is hard, I know that. Perhaps the hardest thing of all is that the situation could be temporary. My friends want to adopt these kids, but there’s no guarantee they will be able to.
Yet what is happening right now, today, is so touching it makes you want to cry. This year, the kids got to participate in crazy festive Christmas activities for the first time. Tree hunting, putting up and decorating a tree that is way too big for their living room. They got to go shopping, wrap gifts and wait eagerly for Christmas morning. They got to learn (for the first time) who is behind the name “Jesus” that their foster parents talk about so much.
My friends were willing to take tragedy and let God use it to drive them to do something they had never considered before. Today, two families, struck by tragedy, have come together to form something beautiful.
We all have those moments that define our lives. Some of them are tragic in nature. Tragedy cannot be denied and should not be ignored. We should take time to grieve where we need to. But can you imagine what life would be like if we allowed God to redeem our tragedies in the same way as my friends have done?
If, by God’s grace, two tragic situations can come together and create something beautiful, maybe you and I really can make the world a better place.