When I took vocal classes, my first time singing a song was the toughest. I’d spent the week working on it, but now the nerves kick in. At the end of my struggling rendition, the professor would smile and say:
“OK. Once more, with feeling…”
Sometimes you have to get past the first try before you can succeed. Though you want your initial attempt to be perfect, the pressure to produce often works against you. Best to get the first try out of the way, then move on without the nerves.
For many, 2016 was tough. Whether it was personal, political, I’ve noticed much grousing about how, like my voice lessons, folks are glad to get it over with. In my own home, it was one of the most painful years ever.
My wife and I had seen the incredible need for foster parents in SW Florida. Though we’d finished raising our own kids, we wanted to help children who’d been removed from their parents.
When the birth mother of two girls we fostered had her parental rights terminated, we stepped up to adopt them. After that, we also fostered a three-year-old girl who’d ingested cocaine in her mother’s hotel room. Months later, her parents were arrested for millions in drug trafficking.
Then the child confided to our pediatrician and others her father was touching her inappropriately. After some soul-searching, we informed our caseworker we’d be willing to adopt the girl to protect her. But foster care workers told the parents, who then request the child be removed from our home.
Finally, I sat in court and watched as the person who bonded the biological father out of jail was given custody of the girl. The judge ignored the obvious peril the child was in, the boxes were all checked off, and everyone had supposedly done their jobs. I guess this is what happens when government bureaucracies are entrusted with the lives of children.
To say we were devastated was an understatement. Actually, our home will be fine, raising our two little adopted girls in peace without daily contact with drug dealers and calloused care-workers. But a little girl was thrust back into harm’s way, and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. Our family and church grieved together, asking God, “Why?”
Ok, now tell me about your bad year…
No doubt you’ve faced some tough things as well. So I’m writing to tell you, after much soul-searching, what I plan to do next.
I plan to try again.
The easy thing to do is bandage our wounds from the year, crawl into a hole and never come out. Once you’ve been bitten, you’re indeed “twice shy”. So we retreat, ignoring the helpless around us and live a safe, sequestered existence here in the sunny capital of self-indulgence.
With time, you simply get overwhelmed by the darkness. I remember one night we were informed of a threat – my wife took the kids out of town while I waited in our house with a baseball bat. So after you sacrifice and the bad guys still win, you start thinking about taking your marbles and going home.
We fight evil, but then evil pushes back. We show love to the hurting, and the hurt sticks to us. You start to realize happy endings aren’t guaranteed, and the misery you battle has a funny way of following you home.
Why did we ever think life should be easy: that evil would just give up without a fight?
Darkness counts on us giving up. It depends on our love of comfort. And in the process, it robs us of our destiny as heroes to the hurting around us.
Nothing can derail God’s destiny for your life. No person can…except you.
So this year, we’re starting over. We’ve found a group of folks – guardians, psychologists, foster parents – who’re angry and want to fight back. We’ve started an organization, The Starfish Foundation of SW Florida, to effect change in the foster care system locally. I hope you’ll search us on Facebook if you’re interested.
What about you? What knocked you to the ground this past year?
Whatever it was, do this: get up, bandage your wounds, and try it once again. Fight the numbness that hurt left. Try “once more, with feeling”.
Because the second time might just be when the real music happens.