Real Love


On Friday, February 15th, at 2:30 in the afternoon, the lives of two moms will change forever. One will receive a son and one will release him. Both hearts will stretch so far that they’ll tear. But the tear will heal. The selfless love of these two moms makes it possible for one little boy to experience something of a wholeness, so uncommon and so costly that when we see it, it brings us low.

That’s what happened to me a few months ago when I took this picture. I was standing a few rows from the front at Arbor Church in Tampa, Florida. The church was singing a beautiful worship song but I couldn’t sing. The words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. They were right there on the screen, “What a wonderful name it is, the name of Jesus Christ my King”, but I was speechless. Just to the right of those words were two moms. One the biological mom of a beautiful, joyful little boy named Kayden and the other his foster mom. Standing there together confessing those words with one heart and one voice.

The story that brought them together is amazing. It is a real story of real hurt, real brokenness, and real love. Real love that laid me low when I witnessed it. The honesty flowing from their lips and their lives shut my mouth. Imagine the millions of reasons why these two moms should never have been in that room. Let alone together in the same row, in the same church, worshiping the same God with the same heart. Set aside the remarkable love of a young pastor’s family opening up to embrace foster children. How is it possible that a mom, forced to surrender her son to the care of the state, would choose to worship with the woman who she would soon willingly release her son to in adoption? How is that possible?

How about the radical love and humility necessary for foster parents to reach through the system to embrace a hurting mom so that she might experience wholeness and healing? How about the grace required from all sides to walk forward together? Imagine navigating all the hurt, all the fear, all the doubt, and all the pride in order to stand together as one. Do you see it? That is the life and beauty of the gospel.

Every force of evil fights against that kind of love. But it won’t prevail. And it didn’t. Love overcame and made a spectacle of evil. That’s what I was witnessing. That’s why I asked my daughter to take the picture, so that we could bear witness to love that overcomes. Not in some flowery, instagram #blessed way, not even close. I am talking about love that spends everything and stops at nothing to set things right. Love that crosses “prudent” social norms to see brokenness transformed. To see life and beauty here and now.

That’s real love. It is not safe. It is not easy. It is disruptive and doesn’t leave us the same. Counterfeit love is all around us. Shallow love. Self love. We’re used to it. But we know the real thing when we see it; when we experience it. It bears witness that it’s possible and invites us to believe.

Love leaves a witness. May the story travel.