Vulnerable | My Journey Through Foster Care, Part 15

Is it God’s will that anyone be made naked and vulnerable?

Paul Knowlton July 11, 2016
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Read the previous part of this story here.

Station VIII: Jesus Meets Women Who Are Crying 

The crowd followed Jesus toward Golgotha. Among them were women whose crying on behalf of the condemned was considered an act of mercy. More crying and mourning than most people imagine happens in foster care: little boys and girls, big boys and girls, moms and dads, social workers and teachers, no one is immune. I wonder if I would have been comforted in foster care, knowing anyone mourned for me.

What can I offer the nineteen-year-old who has not yet learned to mourn the death of her childhood? What can I offer the forty-nine-year-old who has just learned to mourn the death of his childhood? I say mourn. Mourn loudly and mourn unabashedly. Mourn for as long as you need to figure out that God mourns with you and Jesus mourns with you and I mourn with you. Allow the inner child to mourn; this is okay. Is it God’s will that you should mourn? I don’t think the circumstance that brought you to mourn were God’s will. But mourning may very well be God’s way of acknowledging the reality of pain and suffering, and the way to recover God’s will in the lives of those who suffer.

 Station IX: Jesus Falls a Third Time 

Jesus has fallen a third time. He is physically, mentally, emotionally and socially isolated. Laid flat out, his outstretched hand grasping for the security of another to lift him, he is met only by the hard hands of the soldiers that will drive nails through his. The soldiers made choices in response to the choices Pilate made, in response to the choices the crowd made, in response to the choices the religious leaders made. We all make choices. By his words and actions, Jesus was inclusive and not exclusive. He pointed the way to security, for the individual and community, through the kingdom of God. Take a moment and compare the decisions that bloom and grow (from Jesus’ theology) with the decisions that bleed and die (from the theology of the religious leaders, the crowd, Pilate, and the soldiers.) We all make choices.

As children we usually fall because of the poor choices made by others—choices that are so selfish and destructive they can only reasonably be termed “evil.” Sometimes we fall because we ourselves make poor choices—choices that are so selfish and destructive they can only reasonably be termed “evil,” whether we are willing to be honest with that reality or not. There’s another perspective. Sometimes we fall because we misperceive the decisions of others as evil, and it’s through this misperception that we cause ourselves to suffer. My foster care experience, ignited by the evil acts of others, was painful. The subsequent decisions to place me in foster care I once misperceived as evil. Being fully honest with my reality, my misperceptions gave birth to a badly flawed theology regarding an angry and punishing god (purposefully in lower case) that caused me suffering for decades after foster care. We all make choices.

 Station X: Jesus’ Clothes are Taken 

Jesus could not escape. The solders stripped him of his clothes. He was made naked and vulnerable. In one of my foster home placements, there was an older boy. I could not escape. He stripped me of my clothes. I was made naked and vulnerable. Have you ever been made naked and vulnerable? For those who have, I’ve written more than enough to trigger the memories of the pain and suffering that accompanies this evil.

Is it God’s will that anyone be made naked and vulnerable? How could that be consistent with Jesus’ teaching of the kingdom of God? I think those two questions answer themselves, but for the determined reader who clings to a vision of a punishing God, I genuinely encourage you to prove me wrong. In trying, I expect you’ll find a different answer, but it’ll be the one you’re looking for and need to find. 

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Paul Knowlton

Writer, speaker, and thought leader Paul E. Knowlton is a former foster youth turned lawyer. In 2004, as the author of The Original Foster Care Survival Guide, he introduced and has since advocated for a better way to prepare foster and former foster youth for successful adulthoods, which includes mentoring, self-assessment, modeling wisdom and spirituality, and teaching critical thinking and leadership. Paul’s formal education includes degrees in engineering, law, and theology. He can be contacted through his website.

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