For kids and teens who have experienced hurt, betrayal, neglect, or abandonment by an adult in their past, placing trust in another adult can be challenging. It can also feel like unconditional love isn’t possible for them. They can worry that the people who care for them now may eventually stop loving them too, just like the others did - even if the current environment is stable and loving. So, they put up walls, resort to previous behavioral patterns, lie or embellish, distance themselves, become angry or defiant, or use a variety of defense mechanisms in an effort of self-protection. They can be told, over and over again, that they are loved no matter what, but those words may not sink all the way into their heart when their histories whisper something different.
Unconditional love takes time to accept, and it has to be lived out in actions as well as words for hurting hearts to see that it’s really possible to be loved fully and completely. And, if it’s hard to see the truth that another person can love you even when you mess up, imagine how difficult it is to grasp that there is nothing we can do to make God love us less and nothing we can do to make God love us more. The good news is that God is still writing our stories, and the pain that was in the past does not have to be on the pages of the future. He can take what is broken and painful and craft something beautiful from the mess and hurt. It’s our prayer at the ranch that we can be the hands and feet of Jesus and help each child and teen see that unconditional love is not only possible, it’s real and true and available.