February 18, 2012

Unexpected Visitors


"Hi.  I'm calling from the Department of Children and Family Services.  We have a child who has been taken into protective custody and is in need of a foster home.  Would you be interested?"

Whenever I receive a phone call from a social worker, asking me if I can take a child into my home, I usually have a general idea of what I am getting myself into.  I am given the child’s age, gender, brief background and family information, and any known problems or challenges.  I know that I will host these little visitors who will have needs that I will try to meet, who will stay temporarily, and then will leave to continue their journey with someone else.  I anticipate welcoming them into my home for as long as necessary.

However, there have been a few visitors along the way who have entered my home by surprise.  During the monotonous routines of daily life while battling the weariness of attending to the many needs of my fluctuating family, these visitors have suddenly come knocking at my door asking me to let them in.  The names of my unexpected visitors?  Resentment and Doubt.
I try not to let Resentment cross the threshold of my home, because I know that once she comes in and sits at my table, she will settle in comfortably and not want to leave.  But I don’t always recognize her at first, and her words are so tempting to listen to!  “Look at your friends and neighbors who get to have date nights with their husbands and evenings out with their friends.  And here you are stuck with these foster children 24/7, not ever being allowed to leave them with a babysitter.  That’s not fair!” 

She’s right, actually.  My life would be so much fuller and my marriage would certainly benefit if I didn’t have all of these children making demands on my time.  When do I ever get a break?

I listen to Resentment’s comments as she continues, “Your friends can get together for homeschool co-ops and Bible studies, while you are unable to participate because your special-needs children can’t go into the nursery.  And when was the last time you sat through a Sunday morning service without being distracted by a child on your lap?  You need to have fellowship and spiritual growth too, you know!”  That is so true!  What about MY needs?

No, I need to stand firm and not allow Resentment to enter my home.  She is not welcome here, and no matter how much I long to hear her words, I simply need to cover my ears and close the door as quickly as possible.

Another visitor who arrives frequently, but always unexpectedly, is a familiar figure named Doubt.  I usually do invite her in and listen to what she says, because she often comes accompanied by well-intentioned friends and family members.   Her words may be true, and I would be wise to consider them carefully.  “Is it really fair to your other children that you are focusing so much of your attention on the foster kids?” 

Hmm, Doubt has a valid point.  Foster parenting is a ministry where my husband and I have felt called to serve, but shouldn’t our family’s needs come before ministry?  I don’t mind sacrificing my time and energy for these little ones, but is it right that my own children have to give up so much? 
Doubt reminds me, “Do you remember the time you had to cut short a family vacation because of the out-of-control tantrums of that toddler;  or the hours and hours your poor children spend with you at the hospital instead of going to “real” school or hanging out with their friends?”  Undeniably, her accusations are correct, causing me to question what I am doing.  But when she introduces me to her friend named Guilt, I then know that it is time for her visit to end.

Fortunately, there is yet another Visitor who appears as often as I invite Him.  His name is Endurance and Encouragement. (1)  Ironically, He is also accompanied by friends and family members, but the difference is, instead of offering opinions, He uses their words to remind me of the Truth.  He tends to show up when I quietly bend my knees in prayer; I hear His still, small voice when I spend time in God’s Word; and His message reaches my heart when my pastor-shepherd faithfully preaches the Truth, bringing my focus back to goals and pursuits that have eternal value. (2)

When Resentment tempts me to give up because my body is so tired and my free time is so limited, Endurance and Encouragement gently admonishes, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  (3)  Instead of allowing Resentment to complain about all of the sacrifices I make for these little ones, Endurance and Encouragement enables me to proclaim, “I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well.”  (4)

When Doubt comes knocking at my door, I invite her in and ponder what she says, at the same time asking Endurance and Encouragement to “direct my footsteps according to Your word.”  (5)  It becomes a daily prayer for wisdom and discernment!  I do know, however, that when Doubt brings her friend Guilt, and blames me for the many times I have allowed my foster parenting ministry to take priority over my older children, Endurance and Encouragement promises me that “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (6) And He brings to mind those wonderful lyrics of that beautiful song:  “We stand forgiven at the cross!” (7)  Yes, the words of Endurance and Encouragement are the ones I need to hear!  His voice is the one to which I need to pay attention!

I have received many calls from social workers over the years, and subsequently, there have been many little visitors to my home.   I have anticipated their arrival, and have been grateful to offer a warm, loving environment and “a cup of water to least of these.” (8)  But I have also encountered some unexpected visitors.  When Resentment knocks at my door, I must firmly refuse to let her in.  She is not welcome here!  I do allow Doubt to visit occasionally, but I pray for discernment as I carefully consider her words, and I cannot permit her to bring Guilt with her.  The most important Visitor, of course, is Endurance and Encouragement.  He speaks words of truth to my heart, reminding me of why I do what I do, and energizing me to continue.  I want Him to visit often, and I want Him to know that He is the one Unexpected Visitor who will always be welcome in my home.

1.     Romans 15:4-5
2.     www.colonial.org
3.     Galatians 6:9
4.     2 Corinthians 12:15
5.     Psalm 119:133
6.     Romans 8:1
7.     www.gettymusic.com/hymns-powerofthecross.aspx
8.     Matthew 10:42

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