Recently, I was walking an elderly friend of mine to her car. We often talk about God and family and I’m frequently blessed by her wisdom—and humor. This day, she asked me how foster care was going. Smiling broadly, I assured her it was one of the best things our family has ever done. She met my eyes, and let me know how incredible I am—how saint-like and selfless I must be—how blessed our little one is to have us.
My smile fell.
I picked it back up—thanked her…and started thinking.
I remember feeling like that about other foster parents. Like they must be cut from a different cloth—because how else could a family do this kind of work? Then I remember going through training and wanting to quit and run away and was convinced of it.
Then there was that evening I told God, I can go no further, and decided to squash this little desire that had been burning in my heart for so many years.
It happened months before our first placement, while we were still in training, learning some particularly difficult truths about trauma and the dreaded “system.”
I hadn’t even told my husband or children yet, I just decided that we were done.
Too much effort.
Too much pain.
Too much vulnerability.
God wants me to be a victor—not reduced to some puddle in the corner made ineffective due to grief (when we finally say farewell to our beloved foster child) or handicapped due to restrictions from the state (regarding travel, or babysitting or where we keep our vitamins) or expose our home and lives to a litany of social workers and case managers (I mean, I like you an all…but not in my house).
I can't do this, Lord. I want out. So much for selfless and incredible.
His response was so…Godlike…and it was something like this:
“I’m not demanding this of you, Dionne. I’m offering it. This is not meant to be a curse—but my gift to you.”
Keep in mind, my dear friend who heaped flowery adjectives in my direction when you hear my response.
Keep in mind I said this after just learning about the atrocities of abandonment, neglect and abuse happening to children in my neck of the woods.
“Thanks. But no thanks.” Not me Lord, send another.
I would have walked away, right then and there--so close to the finish line. Too close.
If you’re a Christian who believes the Bible is God-breathed (that’s the definition of ‘inspired’ by the way); If you believe the Father sent his begotten son to restore this world to Himself—that he "emptied himself, taking the form of a servant" to expend divine effort, endure incomprehensible pain (separation from the Father) and massive vulnerability (dying at the hands of those he came to save)--you will see how unfounded my rejection was.
Thanks, but no thanks? For my life story, foster care had ‘JESUS’ written all over it. Yes Christ came to make me a victor—over my own selfishness, fear and rejection of Him as the Lord of my life. He came to enable me to love--not just in word, but in deed. He came to enable me to give--not merely of my excess--but all I have. That's why I wanted out. It was starting to get costly.
But there’s more…
God spoke to me again (oh the grace!)
“You can deny me and walk away—if you want--” He seemed to say.
(I’m off the hook? Yea for mercy!)
“But what I won’t do, is remove the desire you have for these children.”
And that, dear friends, is when the selfish, timid, uncertain part of me collapsed at the foot of my Lord.
Because it was true.
For so long I had the desire to grow our family with children who were not biologically my own. At times I tried to extinguish that longing but through a series of wonderful occurrences the faintly burning spark had grown to crackling fire. It was both beautiful and terrifying.
I’m still tempted to think other foster families are cut from a different cloth than the rest of us, especially those who care for medically-fragile children, or sibling groups…or teenagers! But I suspect they have their own story too.
Maybe we’re not incredible, or selfless or saint-like so much as we are obedient to the call God has on our lives. It is after all, one of the hallmarks of faith in Christ.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” Jesus said. (John 14:15)
I do. And I will…Help me!
You don't have to be selfless or incredible. You need only submit to the One who is and trust He will keep you.
A bruised reed he will not break and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. Isaiah 42:3
What is God calling you to do? Find out and hop to it.
"Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before you. "