I went to court for the first time in my life last month. We were there regarding the boy we have been hosting, and I was the plaintiff petitioning for custody. His mom was one defendant and his father yet another. Each of us sat at our own table and pleaded a different case before the judge.

The judge.

Apart from the case at hand, the hardest part about being in that courtroom was addressing this man in the big black gown. With every question he directed towards me, I stuttered awkwardly, “Yes sir…I mean your honor. Yes sir, your honor.”

I could hardly swallow those words because I felt so uneasy about the power this man carried, yet I was to give him all due respect. In his hand was the power to direct the course of this boy’s life, but could he really make the right decision?

The question was which home is best and what is the best interest of the child?

Was it back home with his biological mom or dad where things seem so unstable and uncertain yet that is where his real family is? The thought absolutely frightened me because although I wanted him to be with his family, I also fiercely wanted to protect him because he had become family to me as well.

Before the final hearing, however, an order was given. We were all mandated to go to mediation before the final hearing. If we could come to an agreement, our resolution would be sent to be signed by the judge. There would be no need then for a final hearing and for the judge to make any other final verdict.

Mediation. The last time I was in mediation was when I had a tiff with a girl in elementary school and we had to go to mediation with the school counselor.

Could this really work out? I was not so sure, but we had to try. So on two different occasions, we met with the county mediation team to discuss this case. At first, we seemed to only go in circles around the same issues we’ve been going around this whole time, and the truth of the matter still seemed to sadly be far from being found. I mostly sat silent as mom and dad went back and forth with different accusations. I only wanted to know what was really going on behind the scenes with each of these parents, what was truly in their hearts and minds, and if I could trust them to care for this boy like they said they would.

Then in the middle of all the commotion, the Lord began to speak to me and asked me very simply, “Will you trust Me.”

I knew right away that meant to do the very thing I was most afraid to do, and that was to return the boy to his home. As the idea whirled around with my doubts and fears, I looked up at the parents who in my eyes, seemed to be so unqualified. They had messed up so many times before, and how did we know they wouldn’t do it again?

I wanted to take them to trial, to have them stand before the judge, and for the judge to make a just decision based on all the wrong that had been done. Yet instead, here we sat with the mediator and God was prompting me to overlook their past wrongs and to show grace because the court was also ready to do so if I were willing.

Again, very gently, God reminded me to trust Him and that these “unqualified” people were the ones He chose to be this child’s parents. No matter what the outcome, God wanted to give them another chance.

So we have decided to wave the white flag. To agree with the Lord and to trust Him.

This is ultimately what we hoped for in the first place anyways, and this is what we’ve been praying for all along. Reunification. Yet now that I know he is going back, it has become so hard to let go.

Over time, I think the reality that he was not really my child was somehow forgotten as I got lost in his love. Turning off the mommy switch is somehow so much harder than it was turning it on.

And when that day comes for him to leave, I’ll have to put on a smile–the biggest, cheerfulest, and in some ways, the fakest smile there is. Because he’ll be absolutely ecstatic (as he should be), and although I will be ecstatic for him as well, a huge part of me will also be dying inside. And that part of me, I will never be able to express to him.

Even now, he doesn’t know how I cherish every single moment we have left together. I linger a little longer in every hug, every read aloud, and every long, lively, detailed conversation he pulls me into. I stare at him a little longer after he has fallen asleep each night because I know these nights won’t last very long, and although this year has felt more like an eternity, our time together now feels like it wasn’t nearly long enough.

Even if he had left afterjust a couple months like he was first supposed to, it would’ve been hard. Yet with so many more days, weeks, and months we had together, he has become this thread that has woven himself into the very fabric of our family.

He has become a part of us.

So as the day draws near when we will have to say goodbye, a part of me deeply fears that his leaving will unravel me.

I don’t want to say goodbye.

There was once a time I imagined my future with this boy if he were to stay with us. I imagined driving him to college, meeting his wife for the first time, and I even imagined what kind of father he would be to his children. Many weddings I attended this year, I shed even more tears than usual, especially as I watched the sweet traditional mother-son dance, because I couldn’t help but imagine the possibility of dancing with this boy on his wedding day as well. Oh the unspeakable joy and honor I would feel. All this and more flashed before my eyes at some point in our time together.

And our time has been so sweet. These days, we get to enjoy more fits of laughter than fits of rage, more growth than breakdowns, more healing than pain. We have so much joy and peace with him with us. We’ve overcome trauma, bad dreams, many boo boos, and more. Together, we’ve moved mountains, and now that we know all his favorite dance moves and favorite places to hide in hide-and-seek, now that we know how to read every facial expression he makes, and now that he just made it into our Christmas card family photo with that beautiful, A+, model smile–now that things are getting really sweet and good–it’s finally time to let go.

He has adjusted beautifully to our family and has learned to love us as his own, but I know that deep down inside, he has also been desperately longing to return back to his home every single day as well. I must remember that he did not come for us to keep him as our own but for us to send him back when it was time.

So it is with absolute heartbreaking and genuine joy that I wish him the absolute very best when he returns. There, he can build all those memories and more with even greater peace and joy because he’ll know he is right where he has always belonged. And for that reason alone, I can let him go and celebrate with him over this ginormous victory.

Furthermore, we also don’t have to worry about standing before the judge again. The verdict has been made through the mediator.

What’s more is that the ultimate Judge in heaven has spoken. God has given not just this boy’s parents a second chance, but He has given us all another chance as well. Before we stand before God the judge, He has sent us the mediator, the man Christ Jesus, with whom we can come into agreement over His blood, receive His pardon, and be given another chance. Every one of us who are otherwise unqualified, have been given a second chance and declared qualified to stand innocent before God through Christ.

I thank God for these second chances, for His forgiveness, and I pray that not only his parents but all of us can walk with our heads lifted high in a manner that is worthy of the Lord and pleasing to Him.  

Be a good boy, Rell Rell. We will miss you greatly and will be praying for you. It has been the greatest honor to have you, to know you, to love you. Thanks for joining the family and equally taking the brave chance of opening your heart to us so fully the way you did as well. God is always with you, and we love you so, so much.

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2 thoughts on “The Judge, the Mediator, the Goodbye

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