"Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." John 13: 3-5
Being that Noah and I travel to different churches every Sunday, we have the opportunity to have a lot of conversations about foster care. We typically get the same questions that the majority of foster parents get. Questions like, “How do you give them back?” “Doesn’t it just break your heart?” “Don’t you get so attached?”. The inquiries are usually followed with ending statements like “I could never do it.” “I would get too attached.” “It would be too hard for me to let go”. (PLEASE note this is not a post to guilt anybody into foster care. That’s not how things are done, and that’s not my heart. Just keep reading 🙂 ).
If you’ve read my posts over the last year, you’ll know that I’ve struggled with many of the outcomes of those questions we receive. Just because we’ve chosen to foster does not mean that we have figured out the secret to these fears. If anything, the fears are just validated as being real things that you need to navigate.
Which brings me to the heart of why I’m writing this in the first place. The questions we receive bother me. At first they were a little hurtful, as if to imply that I don’t struggle with missing these children that come into my home. I quickly moved past that, though, as I know people don’t mean to imply that. The real struggle that I came to head with was this: “Since when don’t we love others because it hurts? How is that like Jesus?”
We read in the verses above that Jesus, knowing His value and identity as God’s son, knelt down and served. He humbled himself, and washed the feet of his disciples.
Servanthood, after reading this passage with fresh eyes, is essentially love.
Something I’ve been confronting more than ever before in this journey of fostering is how to love everyone involved, not only the little one we’re caring for. And let me assure you, that is very tricky to carry out. It is simple in theory as a follower of Jesus; He commands us to love everyone…even our enemies. But as foster parents, we have to recognize that the case workers (good at their jobs or not) and the parents (good intentioned or not) are not our enemy. Our enemy disguises itself in our selfish motives, fear of becoming vulnerable, and hesitation to open our minds and hearts to God’s plans. The enemy will use anything he can to stand in the way of us caring for these kids who cannot help themselves.
When you enter foster care in order to adopt (like we did), you have to understand that the state’s goal is reunification with the biological parents. Next is biological family. Next is you. Some children are further along in this process, but others have just entered this complicated system that definitely has its many, many flaws. I find myself struggling to rejoice with the biological parents when they do well. Because, selfishly, I would love to adopt and adore their baby forever. And should God ordain that to be so, it would fill my heart with uncontainable joy. But I feel God challenging me. Challenging me to not only love the baby that I rock to sleep, but also the mother and father that are not able to care for her right now. To rejoice in their triumphs, and mourn with them when they struggle. And this sort of love can’t come from me on my own. It’s not normal, to some extent. We HAVE to be able to trust the One who IS love to empower us with this ability. To trust that He can handle all the feelings, emotions, and fears, and have His plan succeed for the children, parents, and you.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Cor. 13:4-8
This layout of love is often read at weddings. But Jesus doesn’t command us to only love our spouse. He commands us to love e v e r y o n e. We don’t have to like them, but that doesn’t mean we don’t humble ourselves and ask for the strength of God to love them.
Jesus washed the feet of his 12 disciples. If you remember, one of them went on to betray him. And Jesus knew that…yet He knelt down and washed the feet of Judas anyway. Knowing he would be the vessel that sent Him to the cross.
The key here is the vessel. We all have the capacity to love. To hate. To kneel down and serve. We are all a vessel held by someone. Who is holding you?
As vessels, we need to trust the One who holds us.
It is not up to us to decide what’s best for these children. With our limited knowledge and sight we can take pretty good guesses as to what’s best, but it’s not our job to determine the course of someone’s life. As believers, however, it IS our job to be servants; to love those who could hurt us; to sacrifice our lives to BE the love of Jesus.
The truth of the matter is that there are over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. That’s not ok. Who will step up to take these children in their home? I can guarantee you, it will never be convenient. Loving like Jesus usually isn’t, no matter what He’s asking you to do. It involves going out of our way, sacrificing comforts and emotions. But don’t we have the Source of everything on our side? Don’t we serve a God who is the giver of A L L life and power? Don’t we believe that he will equip us with everything we need to love the least of these?!
Forgive my passionate questions, but it really burns a fire in my heart to think that we let fear get in the way of not caring for children who truly cannot help themselves.
Let’s be reminded of this: Because Jesus knew to Whom He belonged, He knelt down and served. It is out of our security in our identity in Jesus that we can kneel down and serve; that we can open the doors of our homes and hearts to children, the homeless, refugees… whoever God is calling you to love...to serve.
We are not all called to be foster parents, but we are all called to serve. If we proclaim faith in Jesus, then we are called to give our lives to spread His love. I can't withhold His love from these precious children and their families because I'm scared. I just can't. We have to choose to love in spite of the fear, for we know Who holds our hearts.
As this is National Foster Care Awareness month, I do plead with you to ask God if He would have you open your home. The system is far from perfect, but we can trust the God who IS perfect to take care of us. To fight for these children. But to fight you need soldiers. Let’s show the world that we are not afraid to love, but that we are willing to trust Jesus with our fears and extend His love to those who desperately need it.