Love that Risks

Diane Lehn


Love is the basis of every great story, every heartfelt song. It’s a great money-maker for Hershey’s and Hallmark every February. It is often portrayed as simple, romantic, beautiful.

I’ve never been very good at simple, romantic, or beautiful. I really wish I was. I’ve never been a gambler either, until suddenly I was.

In my world, love looks like packing up the clothes of a little boy excited to go home to his mother, and packing my heart in his suitcase because it just doesn’t belong to me anymore. It’s explaining to that 4-year-old boy that I am crying when I say goodbye because he is so important, and that both his mother and I love him very much. Love is when that mother has her son call me that night to say goodnight because she loves him and she understands the broken heart that happens when you watch your son leave you to live with someone else. That’s the gamble in foster care. You will love someone who will leave.

In Minnesota it’s called legal risk adoption. A child in foster care has one of two possible case plans: Reunification or Termination of Parental Rights. A child in a legal risk placement is one who they think will have a TPR (termination of parental rights), but it hasn’t gone to court yet. Therein lies the risk. The gamble of love. People often say that they couldn’t do foster care because they couldn’t handle sending the kids back; it would break their hearts.

I know what that broken heart looks like. When my foster dad drove me back to a bad situation because it was decreed by the courts, this strong man who built roads for a living cried. He cried at the injustice, he cried because he was afraid, and because that’s what you do when you have a broken heart. You cry. It is the gift from God to love someone enough that you cry when they leave.

I know what it looks like to pack up my heart in a child’s suitcase, too. Every child deserves to have a heart willing to love them, fight for them, mourn for them, and yes, to also break for them. Here’s the crazy thing about love: it never dies. It never goes away. Love given to a child is never wasted. I know this because I lived it, and am still living this as I now mourn the passing of that father and raise the son that I once mourned. What I couldn’t see when I took my foster son back to his mother that day was that this story was far from over.  Many years later, Tim and his younger brother, Sam, are now our adopted sons. God wrote the book, but I could only see the page I was on.

Love is God’s most precious infinite resource, the miracle that can only grow when given away. Love is God giving us His most precious son, giving Him away because that’s how love can best grow. Love comes back. In one way or another, it always does. But maybe that’s faith, and that’s a story for another Sunday.

Diane Lehn is a transplant from another land, navigating her way through life, marriage, and parenting.  Raised in churches all of my life and amazed at how much I don't know, struggle to believe, and think I might have finally found the place where all my messy awkwardness and soul searching fit in.

Christina Hite