Honestly, it was getting a little frustrating. Every load of laundry was full of crumbs. And—for the life of me—I couldn’t figure out where in the world they were coming from.
But a little further digging revealed the source: pockets. This plague of never-ending crumbs was all coming from one place. This big ol’ nuisance was coming directly from Mark’s itty, bitty pockets.
I couldn’t and wouldn’t scold him. But I sure wanted to know why. Why was he stuffing food in his pockets instead of his mouth? So, I did the one thing I could. I started watching him even more carefully.
I watched Mark at every meal. I watched him when I offered him snacks. I watched him when he thought I wasn’t looking. And—sure enough—each and every time the same thing happened: a little food found its way to his mouth and some got quickly shoved in a pocket. Over and over this process went.
Even if Mark had been able to talk, I don’t think he would’ve been able to give me an answer as to why he was doing this. I think the root of this behavior went too deep, was too painful. And when I finally got to the heart of it myself, I began to feel complete and utter shame that I had wasted so much energy on frustration.
While only 2 and a half years old when he finally joined our family, Mark had already experienced profound abuse and neglect. I learned from his previous foster mom that Mark’s very first foster placement hadn’t been meeting his most basic needs. In fact, he was very rarely fed at all, likely only enough to keep him alive. Instead, that foster mother was using the money that was provided to care for Mark to care for her own biological children. This left a tiny infant Mark woefully underfed and malnourished.
Fortunately, though, after we found and accepted his referral for adoption, Mark was immediately placed in a new foster home. After over 5 months in the neglectful home, Mark was moved to the care of a new provider whom we would pay monthly fees to. To her credit, this new foster mom took phenomenal care of Mark from the age of nearly 6 months old all the way up to the time he was toddler, when he finally was able to come home to us.
But even this foster placement was in an impoverished country. Who knows how frequently food was available and provided for him. I’ll never forget the day I felt the sting of tears in my eyes as I poured animal-shaped graham crackers into bowls for both my young boys. It was at this exact moment that I realized the “why” behind all those pesky crumbs.
Nate, our biological son, gobbled them up without a second thought. He knew food would be reliably and predictably available at every meal and whenever he felt a rumble in his tummy. But little Mark, on the other hand, didn’t know that. He likely remembered all too well the burning of an empty stomach. He didn’t know food would be available later. He didn’t know his needs would be taken care of because he didn’t know us yet. Nate was just snacking. But Mark—even at only 2 and a half—was worried about surival.
Eventually, I stopped finding crumbs inside Mark’s pockets. Fortunately, it only took a few months for Mark to learn that he could depend upon us to provide for all his needs. But from time to time, I still like to remember those crumbs. They’re a reminder to me that trust takes time. Trust isn’t easily handed over. It’s earned. And the same is true for us in relationship to God.
Each and every time we reach for control, it’s paramount to saying we don’t fully trust God.
To counter this—to avoid grasping for control that’s not mine to take—I start stuffing crumbs of truth inside the corners of my heart and head. I collect and cling to Scripture verses that remind me of my purpose and place and of God’s promises. I remind myself stories of how God was faithful to care for others in the Bible, even in the midst of struggle and suffering. These “crumbs” provide me the extra security I need when I find my own faith wavering.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4 (ESV)