About fourteen months ago, my family opened up our hearts and home to a beautiful, three-day-old baby girl. I wasn’t even there–but I was struggling with it. And I had more than expressed my negative opinions on the subject. Looking back, I regret giving my parents such a hard time, but I had reasons–good ones.
My grandmother was going through chemo. My brother had just finished high school and would be starting college in the fall. My sister was about to start high school. My dad was working three jobs. I thought it was foolish to commit to more appointments–more things that would require making the 50 mile drive to Bangor multiple times per week. I thought it was foolish to take in a child when my grandma needed as much care as she did. I thought they would kill themselves if they had one more reason to lose sleep. I thought that with their family mostly raised, my parents should start to relax. And I didn’t feel like watching the heartbreak that would ensue if a child was moved out of our home.
Fourteen months later, with the adoption process starting, my perspective is very different. Our family was blessed with what seems to have been a comparatively smooth case–very different from the horror stories one often hears. And there are reasons that those stories exist.
Foster families are in a very unique, very vulnerable position. They house and care for children who they know may be forced to leave. They have no rights to those children, and virtually no say in what happens. It’s hard emotionally. It’s hard physically. It alters their lives completely. And yet, the overwhelming majority of foster families I’ve heard from say that it’s completely worth it. My parents would agree.
As the “grown and flown” daughter/sister, it took me a while to understand. Every time I called home to check in, I heard about the frustrations, and I would roll my eyes. And I think, in a selfish way, I felt like the rest of my life was in such a transitional, rocky point that I didn’t really want to mentally deal with changes at home too. But every time I visited home, I felt more positive about the situation. Baby snuggles will do that.
It’s kind of hard to believe that the scrappy toddler sprinting through the house is the same human being as the sickly newborn my parents brought home. She’s an incredible little person with a huge personality, adorable curls, kissable dimples, big, brown, soulful eyes, and the longest eyelashes I’ve ever seen. Some days she’s incredibly sweet. Other days, her stubbornness is maddening. And she will be ours for keeps soon.
Last night, one of my good friends took me to an event at a church that she and her husband have been visiting. The event was geared toward encouraging Christian families to consider foster care, adoption, mentoring, and helping to support foster families. My friend and her husband are looking for ways to participate in ministry and outreach/community involvement. She thought I would appreciate the event because of my family’s story. She was right. It was a huge blessing to see a church that is encouraging its members to engage in such a meaningful ministry.
James 1:27 says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” That verse gets a hearty amen in so many sermons–but how many people actually take action to help the fatherless? Far fewer than will say “amen,” I can tell you that. I hear so many people complain and argue about the foster care system and its brokenness–but most of them are doing little to nothing about the brokenness of children in the system. And I can tell you that I would love to see the church do more.
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:3-7)
Do you realize that foster care and adoption are one of the clearest illustrations of the Gospel?
I would love to see more Christians helping needy children in their corners of the world. I would love to see more Christians working in the system–to be shining lights in exceptionally dark places. I would love to see more people supporting foster families–making sure that there’s a hot meal ready after a long day of appointments or seeing to it that the parents get a date night once in a while. These are opportunities that offer the Body of Christ an incredibly practical, clear way to practice what we preach.
It’s hard, but it’s worth it.