Today’s scripture readings seemed very confusing on first read. Then they spoke to me about authority and where our hope comes from. In Numbers, a wicked, non-Israelite is chosen by God to deliver a blessing and message of hope. “A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.” The psalmist asks the Lord to Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior. In Matthew, Jesus is teaching the people and is challenged by the priests and elders. “By what authority are you doing these things?” Jesus could act on his divine authority and silence them. Instead He gives them an opportunity to recognize who He is. Jesus asks them a question: “By what authority did John the Baptist baptize? Heavenly or Human authority?” Sadly, the religious authorities still do not see.
Recently Nebraska has been in the news as the last state to enact a Safe Haven law. The law provides for a mother to take her baby to a hospital and leave it without fear of prosecution. Except Nebraska did not put an age limit on the law. Soon, parents from across the nation were coming to Nebraska to drop off their unruly teenager or angry child. At first the media treated this like a joke. However, as the heart breaking stories began to mount up, the lack of resources available to parents at their wits end became glaringly apparent.
My wife and I had already decided that we would take classes to become foster parents before the Safe Haven law came along, but this sad episode really reinforced our decision. As we started into the classes, I was very confident. I’ve been parenting for decades. I’m the father of seven boys. I’ve coached and taught children for years. What could a foster child possibly throw at me that I have not already dealt with? My human authority was in line and I was ready to roll.
Then came the classes. And the stories. Heart breaking stories. Children with mental illnesses. Abandoned children. Children with drug addicted parents. Children who had been abused. As I listened to the instructor talk about sexual abuse I just could hardly believe it. I asked if this was not the exception or an extreme. She said no and that, even if the case file did not indicate sexual abuse, we had to assume sexual abuse and watch for indicators and triggers for any child that came into our home. My jaw must have been on the table as she asked me to close my mouth. Sitting on a child’s bed. Stroking a child’s hair. Either of these actions could trigger a sexual response from a child that has been abused. She asked me to close my mouth again.
I had gone from complete confidence to no confidence. I had no clue how naïve and sheltered I had been. Two questions popped into my head. How can I possibly do this and is there really any hope for these kids? I looked at my wife and she was diligently taking notes. Hadn’t she just heard what had been said? These children need more than we have to offer. Their pain and damage is beyond our ability to repair. It takes a lot to rattle my wife. I think her faith is stronger than mine. And that was it. I was putting all my stock in me. Human authority. God is the only one who can bring hope into a seemingly hopeless circumstance. Heavenly authority.
Advent season is a time of expectation. A season of hope. My prayer this day is for children in need. And for those of us who see a hopeless situation. That we would look to Christ, our reason for hope.
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