Love Hurts . . . And Heals

Thirty-three foster kids and six adopted children later, I joined Dan and Melissa Jarvis’ family for a few weeks. The stories I have learned since have boggled my mind.

The four-year-old who lovingly laid his head on my lap the night I arrived had a breathtakingly awful beginning. He came to the family as a nine-week-old baby, having been mercilessly shaken and brutally beaten. He had twenty-seven broken bones (and no, that’s no typo) and his brain had been severely damaged.

Her life was so deprived and desperate that redemption looked impossible. But God.

The doctors predicted he would not progress beyond a nine-week-old mental state if he lived at all. But God. Last night I put together an A–Z puzzle with him and learned that he not only knows his alphabet, but he can also say it backward. He’s one of the most cheerful kids I know.

Another three-year-old had been so neglected she operated in pure survival mode, with almost no knowledge of the outside world. After arriving at the Jarvis’s home, she thought she was in heaven when she first visited Walmart and saw the milk jugs lining the cooler.

Her life was so deprived and desperate that redemption looked impossible. But God. Last night this little girl helped me make a fruit salad, and after dinner we all feasted on homemade popcorn while watching the movie Frozen.

I can’t begin to fathom the cost Dan and Melissa have incurred over the past nine years. Not only the financial costs, but the much-more-expensive emotional costs.

The pain of choosing to love others’ children for a short time and then giving them back, the pain of adopting children who may never recover from their broken beginning. (This, I’ve learned, is often tied to how well they “bonded” emotionally just after birth. Without a parental bond, it’s incredibly difficult for kids to grow up and trust people, bond with others, or love fully, even if they’re later placed into a loving home.) It makes my insides hurt just thinking of the excruciating pain of Dan and Melissa’s one-way love.

And yet, as I ponder this mind-blowing love, I realize it really isn’t one-way. They first received God’s one-way love for them, and now they pass it on. It’s more like a beautiful circle. They were first adopted into Father God’s family, and now they’ve opened the doors of their own home and family to welcome in new sons and daughters.

The same is true of you, you know. Whether you had a father who shook you and abused you and trash-talked you, or whether your father fed and clothed and comforted you, you too are one-way loved by the Father God and can be (if you’re not already) adopted into His family:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved (Eph. 1:3–6, emphasis added).

Our Father sent Jesus to be broken and bruised so you might be accepted and welcomed—accepted and welcomed when your life was a wreck, when you had nothing to offer Him.

It reminds me of the movie I watched last night that said, “An act of true love will thaw a frozen heart.” Only the Father’s love can thaw our sin-frozen hearts and warm them to embrace and heal this broken world—one heart at a time.

How has the Father’s one-way love for you opened your heart to one-way love another?

Paula (Hendricks) Marsteller is a compassionate Christian communicator.

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