“A pattern of falling apart precedes every transition to a new level of faith. If one is not prepared to live in that temporary chaos, to hold the necessary anxiety that chaos entails, one never moves to deeper levels of faith or prayer or relationship with God. Notice that almost every theophany (revelation of God) in the Bible begins with the warning not to be afraid. The fear is totally predictable; but if we give in to our fear, we will never be able to move to the next level.” — Richard Rohr
I know I’ve said this before, but the past year has been one of the hardest years of my life. Our foster daughter was almost three when she came to us. Her first foster family gave her a wonderful, solid start in life. But still, there was trauma, and grief, and chaos. D has adjusted well — but this was a huge life change for all of us.
We entered into it willingly, and happily. But still. There’s no way to prepare for being a parent, dealing with the foster system, figuring out daycare, building a relationship with D’s biological family, being sick all winter from all of the viruses D picked up in daycare. Nothing could have prepared us.
Recently, when I described the past year to my spiritual director, he told me matter-of-factly, “Oh yes, you’ve been in liminal time.”
My spiritual director explained. Liminal is from the Latin word limen which means “threshold.” It is the disorientation that occurs during a transition. It’s the “beginning of a state or action, outset, opening.”
This surprised me. You see, I though liminal time was what I experienced before D came into our lives. All of that waiting — that “in between” time when we wondered if we would ever become parents, when we were in limbo.
I thought once D entered into our lives, the waiting was over. We had arrived. We finally could feel like a family and get on with our lives. But no….now I realize that the upheaval had just started.
I was relieved when my spiritual director explained this to me.
The first year of our new lives with our foster daughter has been one of the most difficult experiences of my life. But it has also been the most transformative.
I think of all of this when I read the story about Davion Navar Henry Only.
Davion is an older foster child who has been hoping for a permanent family for a long time. Last week there was an article in the Tampa Bay Times that told his story — and how he stood up in front of a local Baptist church and asked someone, anyone, to adopt him.
How many other children, like Davion, are waiting to find a permanent home and family? To be loved unconditionally? I think I read somewhere that there are 101,000 children in foster care who are waiting. Just waiting. And hoping.
The thing is, that people are scared. They are scared of stepping through the Threshold and dealing with the chaos an adopted child might bring into their lives. Especially an older child from foster care who might bring his or her baggage through the Threshold with them. They are scared to adopt a child who may be experiencing emotional trauma. They are afraid they won’t be able to handle it. They are afraid of adopting a child who may have behavioral issues, or has a difficult time attaching, or a child who will disrupt their lives. And they are afraid of “the system” which many consider to be broken.
FOR YEARS, THESE WERE MY FEELINGS, TOO.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was afraid of the foster care system. Afraid of baggage. Afraid of dealing with biological parents. But we got over our fear, we stepped through the Threshold into liminal time of upheaval, chaos, but also transformation, deep joy, and happiness.
We are now on the path to adopt our 3-year-old foster daughter, whom has lived with us for over a year. I feel the chaos settling a bit. We have found our groove, we have mourned our losses, D has adjusted well.
My response to parents who may be considering adopting from foster care: DO NOT BE AFRAID. Walk through the Threshold and see what’s in store. If you don’t take that step, you may never find out how strong and courageous you are, and how fulfilling it can be to see a child transformed by love.
For all of the Davion’s of the world — Do not be afraid.