She stood at the front of the room, feeling very small and conspicuous. A half dozen people stood in a semicircle behind and beside her. Most were unfamiliar, but she thought she recognized her case worker, although they had only met a couple of times. A large wooden table separated them from the judge, and she could barely see him as he sat perched on the elevated platform behind it. No one talked – the only sound was the shuffling of papers from behind the desk. After what seemed like an eternity, the judge spoke, raining down questions on the group. Was mom attending parenting classes? What were the results of her psychological evaluation? Did she have a reliable job yet? One by one, the others in the room – attorneys, therapists, child advocates, case workers – shuffled through their own papers, attempting to capture in brief answers their opinions on who she was as a person and as a mom.
Some of the answers were accurate. She did struggle with depression and loneliness. We all do at times. It had been hard for her to find work. She hadn’t ever finished high school, and most of the jobs she could land wouldn’t come close to paying the bills. The one job she found that paid well put her in a spot to be taken advantage of by others – not exactly a career you are proud of or want to tell your case worker about. But many of the words spoken in that court room seemed to carry a different kind of judgment. The kind that comes when you are looked down on. When others don’t think you have any value as a human being. The kind that make you realize you are disposable – that no one would even notice if you didn’t exist any more. Or maybe they would even think the world was better off.
She felt paralyzed. Suffocated. Unable to speak or to defend herself. Humiliated. Worthless. Uncertain. She loved her kids, but maybe these experts were right. Maybe she was a terrible parent. A terrible person. As quickly as it started the hearing was over. Head down, she shuffled out of the room.
It is extremely difficult to weigh the needs of a child against the ability of a parent to meet those needs. But as we do it, we must be careful not to judge the heart. To lift up and not to crush. To recognize that every single one of us was made by the same creator. Made in the image of God. Realizing that changes our own hearts towards a broken mom, and provides an opportunity to show her who she was really meant to be.
“So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God…” Genesis 1:27 (Amp)