Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Letting Go

A phone call. Shock. Tears. Long talks. Earnest prayers for a different outcome. The news sinks in. Wrestling with God. Truth. Promises. Hope. More tears. Heartache. Raw emotions. Yet peace in trusting in God’s timing.

Our last few days have been filled with these things as we received a phone call from Sam’s mom last week that she is ready to bring her son back home. To be honest, we all knew deep down in our hearts that this was going to eventually come. And I’ve dreaded it. But coming this soon, was quite a shock to us all, and Jake, Sam and I have experienced some real raw emotions over the past few days.

There are parts of me that understand this. But more parts of me are in deep anguish for the loss that I am feeling over this boy that God has taught me to love unconditionally. I understand a mother’s yearning inside her heart to be with and raise her son. I fully get that. But as I’ve processed my emotions over the past few days, my fears have been kicking in.

I think of all the progress he’s made here in his behavior and school and I fear it will all go down the drain when he gets back to his other life.

For almost a year now I’ve watched him develop a loving, selfless, appreciative demeanor and an awareness for others’ needs. And I fear he will be hardened once he goes back into that environment.

I’ve been reminiscing over these past few days of when Sam’s faith in Jesus was born inside of him a few months ago, and how I have been seeing the work of the Holy Spirit transform his life and give him an excitement in thirsting after the things of the Lord. I think of the open-hearted family devotionals we’ve had with him, of the youth pastor at our church who has invested in him, of the friends he’s made in our community who are also choosing to follow God’s path, of the long-deep talks he and Jake have had about spiritual maturity and using the gifts and talents God has given him to impact others…..and I fear that his foundation in Christ isn’t strong enough yet for him to walk this path in a completely different setting.

I fear that he’s not strong enough to stand against the peer pressure and lifestyles that the city life presents to young boys.

I fear the awaiting destruction of no good male role models.

I fear that the loving bond Sam has made with each of our children will be broken with him now living at a distance.

I fear the loss that I am already feeling in my heart. Because as much as I thought we were part of Sam’s God story, he is actually more a part of ours. When I look at Sam I see growth in my faith. I see the sweat and the tears and the frustrations of learning how to love someone no matter what they do or how they act. When I look at Sam I see a huge piece of my life that taught me how to put others first in a selfless love. And without him here, I fear a big piece of me will be gone.

And yet, as my mind swirls and swirls and swirls with these fears produced from my heartache, I hear God say to me There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. Who am I trusting in? Where there is fear and worry, then there is no trust in an Almighty God. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. God has assured me that He is living in Sam’s heart. And this peace is the only thing that can drive out my fears. God’s perfect love is the only strength, help and victory Sam needs to stand firm in His faith. He doesn’t need me or Jake. He doesn’t need a perfect environment. He just needs to continue trusting in his Savior. And so do I.

Sam’s question to us as we sat down and talked through all of this a few nights ago was “Why now? Why would God do this now when everything is going so good?” Jake’s answer was that God had given him an awesome year with our family to develop his faith and set a foundation. But now God was calling him out. Out of here, and into a place where he can have a huge impact for Christ. His impact here in little Huxley, Iowa would have been good. But the impact Sam could potentially have in inner-city Des Moines where there are not many young, African American role models following Jesus to look up to is going to be so much greater. And Sam will have the platform of sports which can be used as a huge platform for Christ in the inner-city. As I practically downed an entire toilet paper roll in my tears, Jake encouraged Sam that this was the same way as it was for the disciples in the Bible. They didn’t have a lengthy amount of years with Jesus. But they believed, they spent time with Jesus, and then Jesus left them by way of the cross. And Jesus’ final command to them after his resurrection was summed up in these two words: Now go. Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

Jake encouraged Sam that God is ready to write his story….the book of Sam. We know that the story has actually already been started and has quite an exciting beginning, but where will it go from here? When the news hit, my maternal mind and heart quickly took me into worries and frets about Sam’s future….but then as people started praying for us, God’s promises to Sam became louder in my mind. I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them (Isaiah 42:16). GOD WILL NOT FORSAKE HIM! For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). SAM’S CIRCUMSTANCES AND HIS SURROUNDINGS ARE NOT AN ACCIDENT! GOD HAS BIG PLANS FOR SAM’S LIFE! So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10) GOD IS SAM’S STRENGTH AND HELP AND GUIDE! And it’s only because of these truths that I can say to Sam - I am confident that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

As we’ve said our goodbyes to Sam over the past few days I’ve been reminded that God’s timing is ALWAYS perfect. And even though Sam’s circumstances and environment have changed in the blink of an eye, there is one thing that NEVER changes and is ALWAYS constant….and that is our Almighty God. No matter what trials lie ahead, God is with him.

Dear Sammy~
I hate that you have to leave us. Jake and I have grown to love you so much, and I am having a really hard time letting go of you. I am SO PROUD of the young man I have seen you grow into over the past year. Continue on in the one and only thing that really matters in life - loving God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. If you continue to seek Him, He will help you in every single way that you need.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. ~Joshua 1:9~


heididh33 said...

How heart breaking. Praying for him.

Nate and Natalie said...

So sorry to hear this. Will pray for all you guys. Tell Jake that he did an amazing job answering Sam's questions.

Jody said...

Another passage that has helped me as I have let go of my children, especially Justin as he left to serve his country in Iraq a couple of years ago. Matthew 6:25-34 tells us to not worry about food, clothing, etc. for God provides everything. I often turn to these verses, because God tells us not to be anxious about anything whether it is food, clothing, the practical needs, but if God is going to provide those needs won't he also take care of the emotional and spiritual needs of those we love so much? Yes. God continues to draw me closer to Him as I trust Him to take care of the children He as given me. Praying for your family Jake and Janel as Sam leaves.

Kendra Dawn said...

I am so sorry Janel....we will be praying for him and your family through this difficult time. At least he always knows he is always welcome to come back!
What he learned from the Sullivans and the experiences he experienced will always stay with him...NO MATTER WHAT!

Angie said...

I'm so sorry! My family isn't ready for him to go--so I can't imagine what YOUR family is feeling. We'll be praying for you all.

Laura said...

Being a foster parent, I am brought to tears reading your thoughts.... I have experienced them so many times. Just remember it was no accident that Sam was with you for the time he was. God will continue to work in Sam's life as well as yours. You will all be stronger in your faith because of this. Praying for peace in this situation for all of you. One day, we will get to see how all of this was planned and perfect in His timing.

Our Life said...

Oh the tears! I will definitely be praying for this brave boy!

alan and steph said...

praying for you and your family... so sorry!

Kayleen said...

My heart aches for you, Sam and your entire family. Prayers being sent for all of you.

Lisa said...

My heart is hurting with you. I'm sorry that you have to go through this time of letting go and, in a sense, grieving. Blessings on your sweet family as you lovingly encourage Sam on in his faith walk with God by his side.

Tamara B said...

thanks for helping me moisten my contacts as I sit here trying to keep the puddles in my eyes rather than streaming down my face.

Way to go J&J on loving this boy and encouraging him to be strong and keep striving after what matters.

Diers said...

Oh...the tears are flowing...but God brought this to mind, "For God so loved the world, that He gave his one and only son, that whomever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life." As you let him go, as God let His son go...know there is a plan...there is a plan!

Jessie Nell said...

oh Janel! I can't even begin to imagine. I as a 180 leader at Cornerstone have also loved watching him grow this past semester as he became a Christ follower and began to live that out in his life. He will be missed! Praying for you

Christy said...

:( Praying for you all. Sam has been coming to mind often, every time I think of him, I lift him and your family up.

Deanna said...

Kaleb told us this week that he was sad that Sam wasn't going to be at school and 180 anymore. He will be missed but we will continue to pray for him.