I pulled the door tightly closed behind me and made it to my room just in time for the tears to begin falling down my face. I sank into my bed, buried my face in my hands, and began to weep, no longer able to suffocate the pain welling up inside.
Some days, this job really hurts.
Some days, one of “your” kids has to leave, for whatever reason; maybe it is a placement in a foster home, or the reunification of a child with his or her family. No matter the reason, letting go of a child whom you have grown to love, to cherish, to think of as your own, is never easy.
And it never gets easier.
As I sat on the edge of my bed, I replayed the day in my head, unwilling to accept that one of my kids had to leave us. My tears of sorrow quickly became tears of anger. “Why is this so hard, God? Why did you call me here, to this place, so that my heart could be broken and re-broken, time and time again?”
“Because,” I thought I heard ever so softly, “I want them to know who can fix their broken hearts, just as I have repaired yours.”
Working with children and teenagers from difficult pasts is unique in its difficulty.
Living with them takes on a completely different meaning of the word difficult.
“Because of how tough it is working with these kids?”
Because of how tough it is to let them go when and if the time comes.
Because living with them, parenting them, and in many cases, raising them, you fall deeply in love with them as if they were your very own.
And you do love them as your very own.
The beauty of being a house parent is in the little things; the details:
Making the honor roll.
Hikes and swims and walks at the park.
Favorite foods and least favorite ones.
Holding hands and bear hugs and inside jokes.
Sitting together at church.
Bedtime stories and games of Monopoly and hot chocolate on cold days.
But there is heartache and pain and sorrow in those details, too:
Painful family visits.
Difficult realizations about what brought them to us.
Never knowing when their last day with you might be.
Some days, there are moments of wondering if the pain is worth it. You begin to question if your role really matters.
“Am I making a difference in these kids’ lives?”
For a house parent, this is an easy foothold for Satan to slowly begin to tear us down, discourage our hearts, and take captive our thoughts. For many kids we may never know if we made an impact on their lives.
But many times, we get to see our children grow and change and let go.
We watch as she learns to love herself.
We clap as he walks across the stage and accepts his high school diploma.
We beam as we drop her off at her college dorm.
We laugh over warm tea and board games.
We listen as she cries and vents and learns to process emotions in a healthy way.
Our eyes fill with tears the first time he says “I love you, too.”
We feel proud as she bursts through the door to announce her spot on the honor roll.
We nod in affirmation as he learns to express his sadness.
We rejoice when one of them begins to search out who Jesus is.
Being a houseparent is hard.
You bleed, you break, and you grieve.
But it is also beautiful.
And we wouldn’t trade this calling for the world. •