March 29, 2015
Are We Insane? - Part 2
Honestly? Are you insane? Why would you do such a thing?
The questions were prompted by the recent addition of a new foster child into our home. A decision that my husband and I did not make lightly. A decision that headed us in the direction that we felt the Lord was leading us. It was an act of obedience and surrender to what we believe to be His will for our family. And now the questions from well-intentioned friends and family members are hurtful and unsupportive. They remind me, once again, that being a foster parent can be a lonely, isolating, misunderstood path.
Honestly, I don’t know why it is so difficult to understand why we would “do such a thing.” When God’s Word says to “care for the orphan,” we believe that it is a command, not a suggestion for a select few who have nothing better to do with their time and energy. There are many, many ways to care for orphaned and vulnerable children – as many different ways as there are talents and personalities and resources – and welcoming foster children into our family is the way that we are able to obey God’s command. It is our way of using our talents and personalities and resources to make a difference in the lives of fatherless children. It is our calling.
Do you question our sanity because Foster Care has such a negative connotation? Because the government-run system has such a notorious reputation for being broken and ineffective? Is it because of your misconception that it is the fault of the children themselves that they are placed in foster care? That they are “bad?” Is it because the children only stay temporarily, instead of becoming a permanent part of their foster families?
Perhaps it’s time to question your perspective, and to challenge you to look at Foster Care through a different lens . . .
What if Foster Care was a job? Would you criticize a working mother who has a full-time career away from her home? Would you question her sanity? Would you ask her why she would “do such a thing?” Of course not. You would applaud her efforts to use her God-given intellect, abilities, experience, and qualifications to do her job. You would respect her commitment to pursue her work with excellence and integrity.
It is no different for me. I view foster care as my “job.” A job that allows me to use my education and experience and gifts to make a difference in the life of a child. To make an impact in my community. A job that I pursue with every bit as much excellence and integrity as if I were working outside my home. And the best part? I get to do it in my home! I rarely have to worry about finding child-care or negotiating sick days or wearing power suits or dividing my time between my office and my home. I am home! Who in their right mind wouldn’t want that?
What if Foster Care was a ministry? I have grown up in church, and have seen and have participated in and have been the recipient of almost every ministry imaginable. Ministries in the church are as numerous and as varied as there are believers! I know that you fully support those who sing in the choir or join the worship team or teach a Sunday School class or coordinate the Vacation Bible School program or lead a Bible Study or volunteer at the church's food bank or decorate the fellowship hall for special occasions. That’s the great thing about the Body of Christ: we each have our gifts and talents and abilities and interests, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities to use them.
It is no different for me. I look at foster care as my “ministry.” A ministry that allows me to use my gifts to make a difference, not only in the life of a child, but in the lives of that child’s parents and relatives, social worker, doctors, therapists, guardians, attorneys, service coordinators, ad infinitum. And the best part? I get to do it with my family! Ministries at church often separate families: women leading women’s Bible studies, teenagers getting involved in youth group activities, children attending classes and programs with other children.
But our family? Our family’s foster care ministry is something we can do together! It unifies us in a unique way, giving us daily opportunities to work together, to fill in for each other’s weaknesses, and to recognize each other’s strengths and spiritual gifts. It gives my children a chance to witness first-hand what compassion looks like in everyday life. To consider the needs of the weak and helpless. To envision how they might devote their own lives to demonstrating kindness and tenderness towards others. I would be insane not to want that!
And what if Foster Care was a passion? Almost everyone I know, especially in our western, industrialized country full of limitless opportunity, has a passion. Something in their life that they enjoy. Something that they are willing to expend time and money and resources to pursue. Do you question the sanity of someone who takes art classes and makes craft projects? No, you ooh and ahh at the creativity and skill of the completed masterpieces. Do you scoff at those who travel to faraway, exotic locales? No, you encourage their adventurous spirit and admire the scrapbooks upon their return. Do you wonder why someone would possibly play a sport or master a musical instrument or learn a foreign language or audition for a play? Of course not. You encourage all of those things!
It’s no different for me. I picture Foster Care as my “passion.” A passion that I willingly expend my time and energy pursuing. No one has to force me to study the theology of orphan care or research attachment disorders or read biographies of former foster children. I want to!
As difficult as it may for you to believe, I actually enjoy the precious children who have come to live with us. (Well, most of the time, anyway. . . let’s be honest.) They challenge me to think and parent in new and different ways. Their antics and mischief make me laugh. They expand my heart’s capacity to love. I have the privilege of watching them heal and grow and learn and thrive! I get glimpses of God’s story for their lives unfolding before me. And there is just nothing sweeter in life than a child snuggled up against your neck. Why would you question my sanity for doing the thing that brings me such joy? For pursuing my passion?
Honestly? Why would I do such a thing? Because from my frame of reference, Foster Care, with all of its blessings and brokenness, is more than just foster care. I see it as my job, in which I labor with excellence. My ministry, in which I serve with gladness. My passion, which I pursue whole-heartedly.
Every day I get to focus on the thing I love! I get to interact with the children I love! I get to serve the God I love! To not do such a thing? Now that would be insane!