Grace in the Nick of Time

Today I had a difficult chat with the mother of a little boy who had been visiting with us last weekend. Long story short, I alerted her to some "acting out" that I had observed, as well as report a conversation I'd had with my son about his friend that suggested that his friend might be being abused by an older child or adult.

I told my story, and the mother (with me still on the phone) turned to her son and asked him what happened. His story did not match mine, so she shrugged and thanked me, clearly taking her son's version over mine. I was stunned that she would dismiss my story so readily, and not knowing what else to say I hung up and told myself it would be a cold day in a very warm place before Christopher had any more play dates with that kid.

Ten minutes later, the boy's mother called again, in tears. For some reason, her son had decided to come clean and tell her not only what had happened that night, but that he had planned to do things to Christopher that were far, far worse than what I had caught them doing. She was calling to apologize for not believing me right away.

Fortunately, I did not pick up the second call — Craig did, and he calmed the woman as best he could and assured her that we would help her and her son find the help he needs.

As Craig told me what had happened, I felt my shoulders begin to shake, and my chest constrict as the full horror of what had happened the night before hit me. What if you had not gone down to check on the boys at the precise moment that you did? a voice whispered in my head. What if you had stayed at your computer working, as you often do? What if … What if …

The shaking turned into sobs as my thoroughly alarmed husband tried to get me to calm down, pointing out that I had gone to check on them, I had listened to that little voice that told me to peek into the room. His angels had been watching, and alerted me in the nick of time so that I would actually catch what was going on. And now everything was out in the open and we could take steps to ensure nothing like that would happen again.

It was grace in the nick of time. Not a moment too soon, not a moment too late.

Often I've heard couples who are trying to adopt — this is particularly common with international adoptions — who are delayed for weeks or months, or who never receive the desired placement. On one occasion, a friend of mine had actually received a picture of a child and headed to Eastern Europe to pick up her child … only to find out that the child in question had been given to another couple. They did have another child, however … would she like to see her?

And with that, a mother-daughter relationship was born. When I asked her how she felt about taking a "replacement," she said something very wise: "I've been praying from the beginning that God would send me the right child. The first child was taken by another couple, so she couldn't have been the right child for me. I choose to trust that God knows what He's doing here. And that when the right child is ready for me, I'll know it."

These are good words to keep in mind no matter where we are in the foster/adoption process. A few days ago I received an e-mail from a woman who had tried foster-adoption, and had even tried to get licensed as a foster parent in order to facilitate the process. She keeps running into obstacles and delays, and wonders why she is being jerked around when she only wants to help.

It's a fair question. It's a good question. Why doesn't the state work harder to help couples who are willing to open their homes to these children, when there are so many in need of homes?

I don't know. But this much I do know: God cares even more for each of those children than we ever possibly could. His heart breaks when they cry themselves to sleep at night, scared and alone. Just as it does when that child's "forever parents" get discouraged and consider giving up just before their prayers are answered.

God always sends grace in the nick of time. Not a moment too soon, not a moment too late. That doesn't mean that the path He wants us to travel will be free of all potholes or rough patches. Sometimes we have to stumble in the dark for a while … but in the end, the light is there if we have the patience to keep looking for it.

God's timing is not our timing. But His timing IS perfect.

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