I knew this was a new installation as it was in a room I frequent. Putting on my best Columbo persona I handed each of the children a piece of paper and asked them to draw a smiley face for me "for a project I am working on." There was a fairly close match, but not exact--and fearing the relational damage from a false accusation I decided to go a different route.
One by one I called each of our five into the powder room, pointed to the vandalism and asked if they knew anything about how it got there. Each child emphatically denied involvement--the littlest two with tears.
I assured them that neither Daddy nor I had drawn on the wall and therefore someone must be withholding the truth. After more fierce denials, I assigned a small section of wall in the powder room and adjacent hall to each of the children and put them to work for a couple of minutes with Magic Erasers. Still, no one backed down from their insistence of innocence.
Over the next couple of days I questioned each child again in quiet one-on-one moments, reminding them that even if I never found out the offender would know in their heart that they had been untruthful--and in the end that was a greater offense than the original drawing.
I had a strong suspicion about the identity of the mysterious artist, but frustratingly, I had no real proof.
I cannot bear lying--and I honestly struggle with a strong desire to 'bust' people. My pride gets eaten alive by the thought of being played for a fool. Yet, something in me felt an unusual pull to wait this one out. Only by the grace of God (and the distraction of a great deal of illness among our brood during the break) I let it go. I cannot emphasize enough how out of character this is for me.
Fast forward to last night--six days after the offense--as I was alone in the girls' room putting away laundry, quite unexpectedly, I heard a humble voice.
"Mommy, can I talk to you?"
"Sure," I said, putting down my stack and noticing the fidgeting hands and the downcast eyes.
Then came the run-on sentence, "I need to tell you something and I know you are going to be mad and I am going to get in trouble, because I told a lie."
Before I could say anything she took a deep breath and exhaled her confession. "I did it. I drew on that wall and I was just so afraid that I was going to get in trouble that I didn't want to tell you, but my stomach has been hurting and I just feel sad when I talk to you and I am tired of feeling that way."
I sat down in a nearby chair, taking in the gravity of this moment and the lesson. Learning how gross it is to live in lies and how freeing it is to walk in truth is a rite of passage for most people--but for this child, considering her struggles, her history, her bent...this was HUGE.
So I employed my favorite parenting technique--the internal "whoa!" followed by a quickly breathed prayer for wisdom. And even though my flesh really, really wanted to reply with "I knew you did it" my Spirit prompted me to wrap her up in a hug.
She sobbed her apology into my chest and I could feel her bracing herself, waiting for the punishment to be assigned.
I asked her how it felt to carry that lie around for days and she sputtered "terrible." I asked how it felt to come clean and she muttered, "better."
I commended her for the bravery it took to bring this all back up and confess. I implored her to always remember the difference in those two feelings--guilt and repentance. We talked briefly about truth and trust. I made it very clear that this was a big lesson and if there were a 'next time' the consequences would be serious. And even though the Prodigal's Older Brother likes to rear his head in me, something told me her sincere apology was enough.
I pulled her back where I could see her eyes and told her the way I knew Jesus really lived in her heart was because she felt such remorse--that Jesus doesn't let people who love Him feel ok about sin. She exhaled fully for the first time in a week and we hugged.
Honestly, I was chafed at being stonewalled. I wanted an interrogation. I wanted bright lights in faces. I wanted to 'catch' someone in a lie and make a big point...to prove I am no fool. (I feel so immature and gross typing that but I am not going to go back and delete it because it is true.)
God wanted me to zip my lips, swallow my pride and wait so He could speak to her heart and teach her a tender lesson. I had to get out of the way. This may not always be the role He wants me to play as Mama, but this time it was.
I have written before about C's 'post it note prayers.' They are sporadic these days, but such a glimpse into her heart. So, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised by the one she wrote this morning.
And while I will never know on this side of Heaven what all God was up to when he led us on this journey and brought these two girls in our home, this lesson has to be part of it. He loves her.
This little person who didn't know anything about the Lord at all when she arrived on our doorstep in May has been wooed by His love. He is real in her life.
Frankly, we are nearing a major crossroads with these children and there are far more questions than answers about timelines, next steps, etc. But God knows and He will go with her when the time comes and wherever He has planned.
Yet again the Lord has used fostering to reinforce a truth that applies to bio-parenting too. We DO NOT know what the future holds for our children. It is easier to pretend we do when an obvious outside force like DFCS isn't involved...but, to paraphrase Buechner, this is the world where "beautiful and terrifying things will happen" and we are charged to not be afraid.
We either trust God at His word or we don't. These are His children...the ones from my womb and the ones sleeping under my roof alike. My greatest duty is to point them to Him and watch Him work. As much as I'd like to think they can fully rely on me--it's a false hope. But He is not. The hope He offers is real, eternal and unshakable.
After all these months of tears, struggle, humble pie and exhaustion-- today I got a glimpse of the glory God Himself is working out of it all. And that peek is more than enough to refresh my weary bones and get me back in the ring.