I grew up in the flannel graph years of Sunday school. I realize that ages me & my kids look at me like I am speaking a foreign language when I talk about it. But it is such a great memory that I have of growing up in the church and the way we learned about Jesus. I vividly remember hearing the story of the Good Samaritan while using the pieces of the flannel graph. The poor beaten up guy with a bandage around his head, the fancy dressed priest and Levite, the plainly dressed Samaritan and his donkey all cut of out flannel so that you could move them around as the story was being told. I remember getting the chance in class to take turns moving the injured man onto the donkey and playing out the story. It is a story that I had heard from a very early age and one that I have shared with my children from their early years. It is a story that can be just so easily understood and transferred to our present reality of helping those in need around us.
Mark shared a teaching on this passage a few months back. And this story that Jesus told that I have heard from infancy has stuck in my mind in a way that it never has before. ”Opportunities to love people are inconveniently everywhere”. There are three important words in that phrase that have just been replaying in my mind over and over these past few months. Opportunities – we can choose to see them and respond or ignore them. Inconvenient – it can be draining on time, money, and resources to love people. Everywhere – no matter where you look you can always find someone in need.
The story of the Samaritan has been one that I have always liked. One that I have always hoped I could demonstrate in my own life and in the way I deal with those around me that are hurting. And one that has never been made so apparent to me as it has in the years that Zach and I have been doing foster care.
Foster care was something we stepped into with the intention of taking care of vulnerable children until they could be reunified with their families. I wasn’t necessarily prepared for the amount of brokenness, struggle and complete heartbreak that came with it. I wasn’t naive about the fact that sin creeps into people’s lives. Bad choices are made and difficult consequences come from that that affect families and relationships. I was just not prepared for the level of involvement we would have in it. What we have found by being involved in this system is a whole mess of struggling, vulnerable people. People in ditches. People that have made mistakes and need some grace. People that genuinely want to do better but need someone to take a chance on them. Children who have gone through unbelievable trauma and who desperately need healing. Children who need to know that despite their circumstances and struggles, they are valuable, important and loved by God. Families that are stepping up for children and getting knocked down by all the chaos and brokenness that comes with it. Families that are dealing with the effects of bringing brokenness into their homes and the toll it takes on their marriages and families. People that have to remove children from hard places but can’t erase those images from their heads. People that work hard daily to reunify families and children and constantly wonder what more they could have possibly done when that doesn’t happen.
Ditches are not a fun place to be. They are messy, inconvenient, and hard to climb out of. But ditches are easier to manage and claw your way out of when you have a hand pulling you up and encouraging you to keep climbing. The foster care system is full of people in these hard spots: precious children, biological families, foster families that step up to take care of kids, and agencies that work tirelessly for the best interest of kids. They need people that are willing to see that the opportunities to love them are inconveniently everywhere. They need people to step into whatever role God is calling them to support them, encourage them, and love them, despite how inconvenient it may be. We have jumped into and been thrown into a lot of ditches while on our foster care journey. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that some of those ditches were the hardest years of our married life and ones that I wasn’t sure we would ever climb out of with our hearts intact. But I would also be lying if I didn’t say that God has used that time in the ditches with us to plant us, to grow us and to strengthen our faith. Opportunities to love people are inconveniently everywhere. Don’t miss out those opportunities. Get in the ditches with people. I believe you just might find Jesus there too.