How will you feel about saying goodbye to your foster child when it’s time for him or her to return home? That question and all its variants are probably what foster parents are asked most by those outside this tender and delicate world. I’m pretty sure I thought it was the toughest part of the gig before we got involved. Now I think it’s just one of several tough things. And yet I wait for it with expectation.
I haven’t yet had to walk the walk—but I pray I get to. Dear God…please bring it to pass. Whatever it may cost my heart to pray this—I do it because I believe restoration is possible. God made sure of it.
Confused, wounded and barely surviving her sophomore year, a teenager with easy laughter and big brown eyes was on a collision course with disaster. She should have been playing kickball with friends until the streetlights came on or complaining about algebra to her classmates but instead, found herself pregnant. She was 16; He was 19. Their relationship was as volatile as it was fragile.
Those closest to her would eventually accept the heartbreaking reality—and they would celebrate—but with tears in their eyes and stiff upper lips. Who could blame them? Who--but a fool—would find hope in this situation? Even as I write—knowing the beauty that would slowly take form from these ashes I tremble at the thought of what this must have been like for my mother, my grandmother and my aunties. I was born in the autumn of 1977 and the shadow of death was upon us.
One train wrecked life giving birth to another.
Teenage pregnancy brings with it a host of other challenges. A stunted education (my mom left high school in the 10th grade), poverty (my mom and I shared an apartment where it quite literally snowed in my bedroom) a fractured family (after infancy, didn’t see my birth father again until I was a teenager) and a laundry list of other ills that are too painful to recount.
While there was certainly cause to weep—liberation was on the horizon. God was working out a salvation story in the midst of the angst—and the petals of the flower he painstaking attended would unfurl over time.
Teenage pregnancy is never a good thing—except when God miraculously transforms its deficits into abundance, its desperation into heavenly reliance and its heartbreak into healing.
I believe the same about foster care.
Though my mom had lost her way — she hadn’t slipped away unseen— or alone. God pursued her. He waited for her and at the appointed time he used her baby to call her back from the dead. What she wouldn’t do for herself she would do for this tiny one who needed her for everything and saw her as Jesus did: beautiful.
The Call that Produces Life
Holy calls are plentiful in the Bible but one in particular stands out. Lazarus, a beloved friend of Jesus was four days in the grave leaving a community wracked with grief and a sister lamenting her savior’s delay, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Martha spoke rightly—for Jesus had indeed delayed himself, “two days longer.” Just long enough to ensure his friend was unquestionably deceased. Why would the Lord allow sorrow he could have prevented befall his friends? Why does he still allow sorrow to grip the hearts of those who love him?
Christ was committed to giving his friends what they needed most of all— a revelation of the glory of God. “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” John 11:4
And then, the call that brought a dead man to life, “Lazarus come forth.”
It’s a powerful connection, that between mother and child. God has allowed the blessing and burden of motherhood to call many women to accomplish feats they wouldn’t have otherwise. So prevailing is this call that when some mothers lose their way—and aren’t willing or are unable to return to their children, other mothers hear the call and respond. That’s the call ringing in the ears of every good foster mom.
My mother endowed me with the heart and wisdom to become a good mom, but her faithfulness, endurance and heartbreak prepared me to become a good foster mom. For all, I'm grateful.
So I pray for the birth mothers of children in foster care—that the State’s intrusion will be cool water on a life engulfed in flames. I pray they’ll hear their child’s call—and the voice of God cloaked within. And I pray for their salvation—restoration of body and soul so they can say with Jesus, “This sickness was not to end in death—but for the glory of God.”
There are two kinds of a sorrow, according to the Bible: the kind that leads to restoration and the kind that doesn’t. The family and friends of Lazarus quite literally had their mourning transformed to joy as their friend hopped out of the tomb—bound hand and foot in grave clothes! The grim circumstances that once threatened my mother lead not to her undoing--but her making.
Being a foster parent creates an occasion to love the child or children temporarily in our care and the family from which they came in the best way we can—to the degree they are willing to receive it. And it means praying. Praying that light will triumph over darkness and everyone involved—foster family, birth family and children everywhere will receive what we all need most of all--ears to hear the call of life and eyes to behold the glory of God.
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10
"Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before you. "