Baby Charly, though safely nestled on her grandpa’s shoulder, warned me with her big round eyes that she wasn’t entirely comfortable with me patting her back.
One of my nieces was the same way. When my husband got too close her eyebrows would lower into a scowl. If he didn’t back off when she clouded up the storm clouds would erupt into a full-out deluge of tears.
We’ve both learned to take care as we work on building loving relationships. That means we humble ourselves to serve others where they are.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name . . .” (Philippians 2:5-9 NIV).
One of the difficulties with integrating a new foster child into our family was that usually their trust in adults had been broken. No matter how friendly and safe I appeared, someone like me had hurt them. A parent they loved wasn’t with them any more.
The best way I knew to help them feel welcome was to invite them to play. I’d get down on their level, making no demands. One time that meant offering the curly-haired six-year-old the tall stool while we made homemade play-doh. Another time it was crawling on the floor to push toy cars with a toddler.
One little boy, age five, felt more at home after I’d asked him to lay on an old sheet so I could outline his body on it. His sad expression changed as we added eyes, hair, and a super-hero logo his twin needed to look just like him. We hung his sheet next to his foster sister’s, showing him he had a place with us. This communicated with him that I respected who he was and he could trust me to some degree, and in time I was able to help him process his grief at being separated from his mother.
We are told to have the same mindset as Jesus, to humble ourselves in our relationships and to serve others like he did. And like I often hear repeated in my brain, “the rewards are worth it.”
I know some day Charly and I will be friends. We just need to spend a little more time on the floor.
by Kathy Sheldon Davis