Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bath Time

Some friends of mine recently went through the foster care application process. They planned to foster one or two girls, ages six to twelve. But once they got through the home study, they were asked if they would be willing to consider taking someone outside their "demographic"-- a three year old boy who needed a home. A boy with third degree burns. My friends prayed, tidied away the age "six to twelve girl" things they had been collecting for a month, and said yes. 

At age 37 and 42, my friends became "parents" overnight. To a three year old. With third degree burns and unknown trauma. With no time to even prepare little things like clothes for a boy that size, they rearranged their lives in an instant to care for this little one.

Tonight, we went over to help out as one of the parents was out of town. We brought dinner. We visited and talked about monkeys. We bonded over chocolate chip muffins. It was fun to meet their new "friend" and share a meal. 

Then came bath time. This is the main reason our presence was needed, as it has thus far required two adults to make it through the process. With burns covering his neck, chest and leg, even undressing is painful and frightening for this little one. Being drug into a cold bath tub, soaked with running water and then rubbed down with soapy gauze is unbearable for him. The combination of the pain of raw wounds being reopened, adults touching his broken little body in painful ways, and the memories it must bring of restorative skin graft operations in the hospital make it a truly horrifying experience for him. 

We watched our friend speak kindly to him, gently explaining that they have to clean him so his boo-boos will get better. We watched him carry him in his arms to the tub and sit with him, speaking tenderly to him the whole time. We watched him get screamed at and scratched and kicked as the little boy fought for dear life to escape the pain. We watched him look into eyes filled with terror and confusion and betrayal and speak peace. 

It was truly gut-wrenching to watch this little boy go through such agony and  confusion. He kept screaming, "My friends are hurting me! My friends are hurting me!" He didn't-- couldn't-- understand that his friends were in fact caring for him. Washing his wounds so that they can heal. Cleaning him so that infection doesn't spread. Giving him hope for a life beyond the burns. 

But it was just as moving to watch our grown up friend hold him tenderly in the midst of the terror. To see his gentleness and resoluteness to care for this child in spite of the pain it caused both of them. To see from the outside looking in the excruciating and beautiful dynamic of parent and child, healer and wounded, shepherd and lamb. This little one couldn't comprehend that his "friend"  was doing anything at the moment other than hurting him. But in reality, our friend was loving in a way that said, "I will care for you even though you can't understand yet; even if you temporarily hate me for it."

How I longed for this little boy to stop screaming long enough to hear the gentle words his friend spoke to him throughout the whole ordeal. How I longed for him to understand that bath time was an act of intense love and protection. How I longed for him to turn to his new friends and see them as safe, trustworthy, and for his good. He didn't understand tonight, at least not fully. But I know that my friends won't stop trying. They will do the same tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. They'll keep washing and caring for his wounds and speaking truth until he can hear them, until he is healed.

Driving away, I thanked God for His parental love. I thanked Him for inviting me, an unexpected child, into His home, His family. I realized how often in the past I've reacted against His love and His help with fear and confusion-- how often I've interpreted His actions as betrayal. How I've kicked and screamed against His healing hand in my life as He has exposed and cleansed the most broken and wounded parts of me. I thanked Him for loving me enough to invite my temporary confusion, and even hate. 

And I asked Him to quiet me in those future moments-- because I know they'll come-- to help me listen to His kind, gentle voice in the midst of it all. I asked him to help me trust Him enough to hear His words of truth spoken over me in those moments of unbearable agony. I asked Him to help me see Him as safe, trustworthy, and for my good. 

I'm not sure whether or not the little boy will trust his new friends tomorrow at bath time. I'm not sure I'll trust My Friend tomorrow either. But I sleep in peace tonight knowing that whether or not we pause enough to listen and believe,  Our Friend will keep at it the next day, and the next, and the next. He'll keep speaking truth until we hear. He'll keep healing until we're healed.


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