“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” Galatians 5:22-23 (THE MESSAGE)
A young child, settling into their new WinShape home, sits with me for a counseling session. While describing the process of moving in to WinShape Homes, this young child uses feeling words to articulate feeling scared, sad and very unsafe. This brave soul further describes feelings of shock, referring to me as a stranger and the new home as unfamiliar.
The beautiful setting of the home feels distant, new parental figures are unfathomable, and several new siblings and pets feel overwhelming. The reality is — this new, beautiful WinShape home now represents another event threatening the child’s sense of safety and security, something outside of their control. This young child is experiencing trauma.
While listening and empathizing with this precious child, I eventually asked, “How are you coping?” The child admitted to crying, yelling, singing, writing in a journal and looking at old family photographs. The child then confidently shared, “I trust God even though I do not like it. I know this must be what is best for me.” When I affirmed the child for having such “big faith,” this child then asked if they could share a song and a journal entry with me.
I listened to this precious child sing a worship song and read Psalm 139. At verse 14, this child of God stressed “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Later in the encounter, I asked about the emphasis placed on verse 14. The child remarked, “God made me in His image because He loves me, and I trust Him.” When asked, the child rattled off in a rapid speed, “the image of God is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This makes me feel safe.”
This profound statement resonated with me for days and even weeks after the encounter. I was so inspired that I decided to take a deep dive into the Fruit of the Spirit, to align myself with this Source of safety as referenced by this young, wise soul.
Galatians 5:22-23 reads, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” While meditating on these verses, it dawned on me that we can use the characteristics of Christ, referred to here as “fruit,” as a guide in creating emotional safety for the children we serve. The following summary of Galatians 5:22-23 includes some encouragement and insights for us as caregivers to consider while providing for these brave, trauma survivors we are blessed to serve.
Love: Love is an action. Our children in care are often used to conditions. We can model unconditional, agape love that seeks the good in others. This love will be evident in the way we talk, listen, nurture, play and correct.
Joy: Joy is independent of external circumstances. Children, including trauma survivors, are inherently joyful. May we be mindful to serve the Lord with joy and gladness as we work to restore joy in the lives of the children that we serve.
Peace: Adjusting to a new child has the potential to disrupt the peace and flow of the home. To overcome moments of chaos, seek inner peace in your relationship with Christ and rely on the peace of God to saturate your mind and heart.
Patience: Children in care come from very hard places and need time to adjust to their new normal. In parenting, you will be stretched. Be steadfast, patient with yourself, and longsuffering with the children. Rely on the Holy Spirit to provide what is needed to carry out the purpose.
Kindness: Children who enter care will not always arrive with kindness or gratefulness in their hearts. Keep in mind that children may initially respond with harsh words, emotional distance and negative attitudes. Being kind to someone who is not kind to you can be a challenge — especially when that someone is living in your home. Let the Lord use you to demonstrate kindness.
Goodness: Goodness is the action of helping others in need. As caregivers, we are the hands and feet of Jesus. If you allow His goodness to fill your heart and your home, in time, that good will flow out of you into others.
Faithfulness: Faithfulness refers to being a person others can rely upon. Children in care are seeking consistency and dependability in love, safety and justice.
Gentleness: Oftentimes, children in care come from tough places where they suffered abuse and neglect. Providing calm, gentle responses and serving with a heart of humility can play a huge role in building trust and attachment.
Self Control: The ability to maintain your composure and remain kind and gentle in the face of hateful words or a tantrum can be life changing. Modeling self-control teaches self-control.
WinShape serves to transform the lives of children in need. This transformation occurs over time. We’ll be much more trustworthy if we can serve with hearts filled with joy, love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. Just as the new, young WinShape Homes family member referenced, modeling the characteristics of Christ as outlined in the Fruit of the Spirit can foster an environment of safety and security. And safety and security are foundational elements in healing trauma.
Thank you, Lord, for young minds with big faith who, too, can be teachers and encourage us through Your Word. As we work tirelessly to provide physical safety for our children, may we also prioritize creating spaces where emotional safety is equally as important. As we aim to transform lives, may we have the faith to trust God with our doubts and the unknown. May we maintain a posture to receive that which our flesh would prefer to reject. May we overcome our fears and stretch to grow. May we focus our minds on knowing and showing the Fruit of the Spirit so we may serve as a light to the world and within our homes. May we open our hearts to listen. May we remember to be humble and present, seeking to learn.
Peace Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.