Since his very first memory, life for my guest, Gaelin Elmore, has been about the struggle for control. He couldn’t control his parents’ addictions. He couldn’t control whether he went into foster care. He couldn’t control where and with whom he was placed. He couldn’t control what happened inside the home. He could only control his own behaviors, so that’s what he held onto tightly. It was a way to cope, to temporarily ease the pain. What Gaelin didn’t anticipate was that there were people, and far greater, a God who was worthy of his trust. He didn’t have to be the one to muster up the strength on his own, but God in his kindness was there, holding him through all the hard. His trauma displays itself in relationships with people still, but Gaelin is not without hope, and he’s running hard after the one who was in control the whole time.
HERE ARE MY 3 TAKEAWAYS FROM OUR CONVERSATION:
1. The desire for control can show itself in unresponsiveness.
Waking up in a group home at age three, Gaelin knew that his life was being radically altered. He understood something was happening, but not why. He struggled to grasp onto any sort of control he could have, deciding that he would never be caught having fun while he wasn’t with his biological family. He wouldn’t talk to his caseworker. He wouldn’t interact with the families he was placed with; he didn’t want to be there. After more than ten moves, he was placed with one of his sisters. Though the quality of his homes from this point on was poor, he cared more about staying connected to his sisters and being in this together.
“I made the decision that I wasn’t going to allow my social workers to ever assume or misconstrue the idea that I was enjoying myself [in foster care], so out of stubbornness and need to be with my parents, I made the decision that I’m not going to be playful, joke, or laugh.”
2. God’s love is way beyond our control.
As much as Gaelin wanted to control everything in his life and manage his own story, he couldn’t. He questioned, “Why me? Why is this my story?” His need for control and grip on it didn’t allow for freedom even at its greatest moment. Control had become his mode of survival. Yet, God gave Gaelin hope throughout his life in a way that was beyond comprehension and certainly beyond what Gaelin could have done on his own. Looking at his life, Gaelin has reason to be angry with his circumstances, but instead, he is simply thankful that God brought him through it. He sees God as kind, leading him to repentance.
“People would ask, ‘How did you do it? How did you end up the way you did?’ and I have no answer other than God. It’s way beyond my control. It’s supernatural.”
3. We can build trust by creating space for biological parents.
Gaelin was never looking for replacement parents in the adults who cared for him. When he was told of his father’s arrest and offered a place to stay by his coach, he agreed. They knew little of each other’s lives beyond their relationship as coach and player. That’s how Gaelin wanted it. He had learned how to avoid talking about his early years in foster care. He stayed with his coach because it prevented his greatest fear, going back into foster care. He built a wall, not one that was outwardly rebellious but one that allowed him to engage rarely. A late-night conversation cracked that wall. “I’m not trying to replace your dad.” His coach was kind; their family treated him as their child, yet, they didn’t make him be their child. He was able to breathe, able to trust for the first time with those simple words. They became part of his family—not legally, but because they were willing to sacrifice for him, and didn’t try to force their way in.
“I’m not trying to replace your dad. I don’t need to be your dad. I’m just here to give you a break that you haven’t gotten.”
Meet Our Guest
Get encouragement and updates in your inbox.
Be the first to know about new episodes, posts, resources, and stay in the loop about what’s coming up.