What Foster Care taught me about the Importance of Love

I'll never forget little Cheyenne...

We called her "little" because she was the younger of two different foster care girls named Cheyenne that my parents briefly took care of in our home at the same time.  Cheyenne was about 5 or 6 years old or so at the time we had her.  She came into our home shortly after some guy who frequented a local drug store, the kind run out of a hotel bedroom, reported her whereabouts to the authorities.

You see, at some point Cheyenne's mom came to the same hotel to engage in some "business" there.  And when she left, she didn't take Cheyenne with her.  She left Cheyenne with the drug dealers.  One of their frequent customers noticed this little girl was there quite often, and knew she didn't belong to any of the dealers.  Feeling concerned about her well being, he alerted the authorities, who came in and rescued Cheyenne out of that awful situation.

Cheyenne was a very sweet little girl.  She had a very vibrant and energetic personality.  But Cheyenne came to us with a lot of baggage, and was very broken as a result of her past, a past that nobody but Jesus quite knows about, as nothing is really know about her prior to her being found in that hotel.

We really liked this little girl.  Unfortunately, Cheyenne was unable to stay with my family for a long time, as she simply became too much for us to care for.  One day out of the blue, Cheyenne had a deep psychotic episode of some sort.

It was normal for Cheyenne to have "episodes," and my parents had been trained on how to help her when she had these events.  But one day she finally had an episode that she simply did not come back from.  She snapped, and became extremely physically violent and insanely loud.  Her strength was akin to the "lunatic" that Jesus healed in the Gospels.  My mother was unable to successfully use any of the techniques she had learned from her foster care classes to fully and safely restrain Cheyenne.  So, in an act of desperation, we were finally able to isolate Cheyenne in her bedroom while my mother alerted the authorities.  To keep her in her room, I used all 200+ lbs of my five foot eleven frame to physically pull the door shut and to keep it shut.  But much to my surprise, Cheyenne suddenly jerked the door from the other side and opened it up on me, and screamed at me really loudly, before I managed to pull it back shut on her.  It was like something out of a scary movie.

Shortly thereafter, a team of medics showed up to our home, and it took about 6 people to physically restrain her and tie her down to a stretcher.  They loaded her up in an ambulance, and we never saw little Cheyenne again.

Over the years, I've reflected on this event from time to time, and have been taught several lessons from it.  One of those lessons is the importance of love, and it's ability to mold lives, and impact a thousand generations.

The world is full of Cheyenne's.

It is full of people who, for whatever reason, simply have not had the blessing of being deeply loved.  And not only have they not been loved, but they've been neglected and abused at very crucial points in their lives.  Things have happened to them that will forever shape the rest of their lives in this world in a very negative way.  And not only will it greatly impact their lives, but it will impact many lives for many generations to come.

God only knows what happened to Cheyenne when she was being cared for by some drug dealers.  I shudder simply thinking about it.  And, God only knows what sort of care Cheyenne received before then at the hands of her mother.

I don't know anything about Cheyenne's mom.  Nobody really does.  But my guess is that at some point in her life, she didn't know what it truly was to be loved, and as a result, lacked the ability to give that gift to her daughter.  I assume she probably "meant well" in her brief parenting of this little girl.  But at some point those good intentions failed, and that love that God intended a mother to give to her child was forever stolen, and it will forever remain a very important missing piece of the life Cheyenne should have had.

I don't know what happened to this little girl that stayed in our house.

Sadly, I don't imagine much of anything good ever came of her.  I'm sure some doctors were eventually able to medicate her enough to the point where they stabilized her behavior.  And she probably was eventually placed back in foster care.  If Cheyenne was lucky, she might have been adopted by a loving family capable of caring for such a child.  But if she wasn't, and she continued to have episodes, there is a good chance she was eventually placed in a "group home" with a bunch of children just like her.  Such isn't exactly a great environment for children to grow up in.  Eventually little Cheyenne probably aged out of the system, and has since become a young adult, and is looking to find her place in this world.

And she's probably doing this without knowing what it's like to have ever been deeply loved. But in her gut, as someone created in the image of God, she probably knows that love is something that exists, and she will probably seek it out in a million different places.  Not knowing love, she will probably encounter a lot of coldness from a lot of people who could seem to care less about her.  And at some point, quite unintentionally, she will probably have a child one day, and the cycle she's caught up in will be passed along to the next generation, and a thousand generations after that.

Imagine how different little Cheyenne's life could have been, if she had simply been loved as God intended her parents to love her.  We live in a world full of such people.  And as Christians, God has called us to share the love He has shared with us to a world that desperately needs what we've been so richly given in Christ.

So the next time you interact with somebody, be it at work, at church, the stranger on the street, or even someone you deem to be your enemy, be reminded that there are a lot of people out there who know little to nothing of love.  Especially people who prove to be difficult to handle, and have abrasive personalities.  That person could be little Cheyenne, all grown up.

Knowing such things, let us make sure we pass along the love we have so richly received in Christ to people wherever we may go.  And we need to do so purposefully, and actively, not as passive folks who just so happen to treat other people nice from time to time.  But as people who intentionally love on as many people as we can.  And in doing so, we might just snatch a life out of the claws of the devil, and help to rewrite the future history of this world, as they come to know the love that God has for them through us, and we give them a love that nobody bothered to give them.

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