March 18, 2016

When my heart is tired of grieving.


This past Monday, my heart trembled a little when our social worker wanted to stop by to talk in person. This isn't my first rodeo - I knew what that meant. A hard conversation was coming.

As gently and compassionately as she could, she broke the news. She had gotten word that Baby M will most likely be moving soon. It wasn't her plan, wasn't her choice. It wasn't mine, either.

I stood and nodded and held my tears in check. I thanked her for her kindness, for fighting for what she thought was best for M. As I closed the door, my heart was reeling, screaming to pull back, whimpering in the corner, "this is too much. I'm done. I don't want to do this anymore!"

I was already bracing for all of the well-intentioned "I don't know how you guys do this..." comments that would come when people heard that M was moving. Bracing for the teary conversations with my children. Bracing for the painful process of packing up baby clothes and toys, printing pictures, writing letters I'm not sure he will ever see... buckling a baby I love so much into a car seat while he smiles at me with his whole-body-wiggle-smile and sending him to live with strangers. Bracing for all the times when I will think I hear him crying, and then remember that he isn't there. And sometimes, I'm just so weary of this process of loving and letting go and grieving. I'm so tired of caring so much and not having enough to give. I am not enough.


I've heard the term "compassion fatigue" before; I love it for its simple descriptiveness. Caring is tiring. Sometimes our hearts don't want to come out of the corner and be vulnerable again. We just feel... done. No more, thank you. Please stop the ride - I want to get off; I'll just go buy a funnel cake and sit on that bench over there.

This morning I was reading Matthew 15:29-39. For three days people have crowded around Jesus, and around them. The people are listed out by their needs - the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute... and "many others." Jesus has touched them and healed them and ministered to them for three days. As amazing as this scene was, I imagine the disciples are tired. Tired of seeing these heart-breaking needs. Tired of everyone wanting something from Jesus, when they just wanted to be with Him. Tired.

Jesus' words in verse 32 are so stunningly kind. "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way." 

I wonder what the disciples thought. Were they tired of Him caring so much about everyone? In my selfish weariness, I think I probably would have condemned them in my own mind for not planning ahead, not bringing enough food - or leaving when I wanted them to two days ago.

Not Jesus. Jesus loves them. Jesus sees their every need. Jesus has compassion - true compassion that doesn't have an expiration date.

Their response to the problem of feeding the crowd stuns me every time. Years ago I had written this note in my Bible - I wondered the same words again this morning.



Why are they asking this? In the chapter just before this, they had seen Jesus feed a massive crowd with five loaves of bread and two little fish. (Matthew 14:13-21). Sure, there are a lot of hungry people with them now... but they actually have fewer people, more bread, the same Jesus.

Typically I shake my finger at the disciples and think, "come on, guys - get it together." But today, today as I sit tearfully feeling done, feeling the weight of compassion fatigue, wanting to get off the stomach-lurching loop-the-loop ride of foster care, I think I get it.

Because in my fatigue, I have a tendency to think a whole heap of a lot about myself. How I am tired, how this feels unfair, that no one understands how I feel... what about me, me, me. And in the blink of an eye, I lose sight of the fact that I'm with Jesus. The One who chose me by name, who called me His own, who promises He will always be with me. The One I have seen provide time and time and time again. I forget that He isn't asking me to be enough - He knows that my reserves are running woefully low. All He is asking me to do is to keep coming to Him, keep fixing my eyes on Him, keep bringing Him both the weight of the need and the little bit I have - and He will be enough. He is always enough.

Why are the disciples asking this, right after they had seen Jesus provide miraculously and abundantly? I think they are tired. And in their fatigue, they are thinking about themselves, not about Jesus. They are thinking about how it feels like Jesus is asking too much of them - rather than realizing that He wants them to believe that He is enough when they are not.

My heart is weary. My Jesus knows that. A few chapters earlier, in Matthew 11:29-30, Jesus promises that when I come to Him weary and burdened He will give me rest. That when I take His yoke and learn from Him, I will find rest for my soul. That His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

If the burden is feeling heavy... maybe it's because I think He's asking me to carry it alone. And that's the furthest thing from the truth.

So, dear Lord Jesus, here is my weary heart. I am grieving, and I'm so tired of grieving. Forgive me for thinking so much of myself, so little of You. Fix my eyes on You. You are the One who calms the storm with a word, feeds the multitude out of a lunchbox. You are enough, and I am not. Give me a heart of compassion that doesn't grow weary of doing good - a heart so much like Yours that I don't pull back in selfish safety.

I'm getting my baskets ready, Jesus. I know that once again, You will provide. You will be enough. So much more than enough, in fact, that I'll have to pick up the leftovers.

I must tell Jesus all of my trials
I cannot bear these burdens alone
In my distress He kindly will help me
He ever loves and cares for His own.