March 21, 2018

Our Rescue

The outburst at school is completely unexpected, and catches his teacher by surprise.  In the whole time that he has been in her class, she has never seen him act this way before.  She knows a little about his story – about his rocky start in life, about his birth mother who was incapable of caring for him, about some of the trauma and uncertainty and upheaval that he has experienced during his childhood, about his multiple disruptions and moves during his journey through the foster care system.

Still, it’s been more than a year that he has been with his current foster family, a family who is loving and involved and who want the very best for him, and he seems to have settled in nicely there.  Where could all these sudden strong emotions be coming from?

A brief conversation with his foster mother clears up the mystery.  Yes, he fits in well with their family.  Yes, they love him passionately.  But they recently found out that everything will soon be changing.  His birth parents’ rights are going to be terminated in court, and he will be free for adoption.   While this is what he ultimately needs – unconditional love and permanency and stability -  this also means yet another move from his current foster family to an unknown adoptive family somewhere.  This will mean yet another painful, difficult, frightening transition.

He had been brave when they first started talking about it, asking questions and trying to imagine what the future might look like for him.  But he realizes that the permanent loss of his biological parents means that any hope he might have been holding out for reunification is now over.   That door is forever closed. 

And now the loss of his foster family too?  The loss of his friends and church and school and neighbors, everything that is familiar?  The fear and grief eventually came bubbling to the surface at the most inopportune time – in the middle of class! – and thus, the emotional outburst.  Everyone understands but, although they are sympathetic, there is nothing they can do to change this boy’s situation.

This child needs a family.   A family who will gently, patiently help him deal with his grief and loss.  A family who will love him as their own son, who will embrace his disability and provide him with opportunities to excel.  And now that he will soon be entering adolescence, he needs a family with a father who will walk alongside him as he navigates the tumultuous years into young adulthood.

For most of us, when we hear his story, there is a little stirring in our hearts, a spark of compassion for this boy.

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Some of us may have never given adoption a single thought!  We have a full life, raising our own kids, helping them with homework most evenings, getting them involved in sports, volunteering for their school’s fundraisers, driving them to their youth group activities at church.  Enjoying fun dinners with friends on Saturday nights.  Adopting another child?  That’s not even on our radar!

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For some us, though, now that the seed has been planted, it starts to take root.  We may start having conversations about it.  Asking questions about the adoption process.  Sort of put some feelers out about what to expect, you know, if we eventually decide to head down this path. We pray, hoping to hear from God, Is this really what you want for me and my family?

We will decide to take the next step.  You know, just to see where it might lead.  We contact the local foster/adoption agency to find out more.  We introduce ourselves and describe this boy who, without even knowing him, has become part of our heart.  We have so many questions, we barely know where to start.

What we learn from the woman on the other end of the phone is shocking.  We find out that in order to be considered as an adoptive family for this boy, we will need to pay an application fee.  We will need to submit to a criminal background check.  Open our family and personal lives to an extensive home study.  Attend hours and hours of required training classes.  And at the end of that months-long process, there will be no guarantee that we would be chosen as an adoptive family for him.

What?  Do all of that?  Commit to all those classes?  Pay all that money?  With no guarantee?  We are horrified and angry and disappointed and frustrated that with our very first step down this path, we have run into a roadblock.  And if we are honest, we are also sort of relieved that maybe God isn’t calling us to this path after all.

But is that what adoption means?  To give up so easily?

Adoption is such a rich picture of what Jesus has done for us?  He gave up everything – his home, his power, his position – and came running into the darkness to rescue broken people like us.   He experienced so much more than a little roadblock.  A little inconvenience.  A slight cost.  No, our rescue cost Him everything!  He suffered humiliation and rejection and unspeakable physical pain as he went to the cross.  He gave up everything to rescue the children He so passionately loved!

If we want to be like Jesus, shouldn’t we be willing to do the same?

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For some of us, it may not be an issue of inconvenience.  We may be paralyzed by fear.  What if he runs away?  What if his biological family tries to find him?  What if his behavior is more than we can manage?  What if he doesn’t get along well with our children?  What if we are unable to provide the time, energy, resources, and support that he needs?  What if . . .?

All legitimate questions.  Questions we should be considering! 

But is that what adoption means?  To let fear to be the deciding factor?

In the book of Judges, there is a story about Gideon, who was facing a powerful enemy with just a small army, knowing that he was not nearly equipped enough for the task that God had called him to – the task of rescuing Israel.  God said to him, “Go with the strength you do have.  I will be with you.”

Yes, we should be asking questions.  We should be making wise, informed decisions, decisions that will indelibly affect us and our family.  However, if God is calling us to this seemingly impossible task, we should consider so much more than what we lack.  What we don’t know.  What we might not be able to provide.  We should be considering the strengths we do have.  And the one thing we do have?  A family.

Every year, more than 20,000 teens age out of foster care without ever having found a family.  They enter adulthood without housing, financial assistance, or emotional support.  They are at huge risk of homelessness, unemployment, unplanned pregnancies, and prison. (1)  If this child does not find a family to adopt him, there is a very real possibility that he could become one of these statistics.

There are no perfect families, no perfect parents, no perfect homes.  But if this boy, this one child who is facing an uncertain future were to be given a choice?  Guaranteed he would prefer to have an imperfect family than no family at all!

Furthermore, if God is calling us to this seemingly impossible task, He will not leave us to do it on our own.  He promises to be with us!  We go with His strength, His wisdom, His sufficiency.  We go with His perfect love in our hearts . . . the perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18).  Yes, it may seem impossible, but not with God!  With God all things are possible!  (Mark 10:27)

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Perhaps some of us have already been involved in this foster and adoption journey, and now we are weary.  We have spent years and years welcoming broken children in our homes, loving them as our own, committing to give them the very best care that we possibly can.  Almost always it has been at great expense to our personal comfort and convenience.

We want to be done with social workers in our home.  Done with paperwork and court hearings and ongoing training classes and fire inspections and fingerprint checks.  Done with learning to love a stranger who doesn’t want to be here, dealing with their behaviors that are difficult to manage, and walking alongside them as they deal with past trauma and grieve the loss of their birth family.   Done with doctors and disabilities and diagnoses.

We want to have a normal life, raising our own kids, reading to them on quiet evenings in our family room, having spontaneous tickle wars, dancing to silly music.  We want to enjoy fun dinners with friends on Saturday nights.  Uninterrupted family vacations.  Quiet holidays.  Adopting another child?   Isn’t it someone else’s turn?  Please, God if there is any other way, please choose someone else!

Is that what adoption means?  To put a limit on our love?

Jesus begged His Father, Please, if there is any other way, please let this cup pass from me.  But there was no other way.  He rescued us from a bleak and hopeless and lonely future, running into the darkness to rescue us.  To become the Father we so desperately need.  He set his face towards the cross with joy  (Hebrews 12:2) because He knew that this was the only way to rescue the children he so passionately loved!  The only way to adopt us into His family.

He did that, not just a few years ago, but more than 2,000 years ago!  And in spite of the millions of people who have rejected His free gift, His arms are still open.  He still welcomes the needy.  He still offers the beautiful invitation to Come.  There is no limit to how much, how often, how long He will love.

If we want to be like Jesus, shouldn’t we be willing to do the same?

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Our hearts are stirred with compassion for this boy.  But he needs so much more than hearts stirred with compassion.  He needs a family.  A family who will not be dissuaded by any obstacle.  Who will courageously face any fear.  Who will not become weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9).  A family who will set their face towards his adoption with joy.

When we understand what Jesus has done to rescue us, it is an honor, a true privilege to be a part of His story of redemption.  Part of His plan to rescue the lonely and give them a family (Psalm 68:6).  To know that when Jesus promises “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18), that He would choose us, our own willing hearts and open arms, to fulfill that promise!

In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple He heard my voice,
and my cry to Him reached His ears.

Then the earth reeled and rocked;
The foundations of the mountains
trembled and quaked.
He bowed the heavens and came down;
He came swiftly on the wings of the wind.

He drew me out of many waters.
He rescued me because He delighted in me.

Psalm 18

Such beautiful imagery of what He has done for us!  He heard our cry.  He saw, as it were, our unexpected outburst, our strong emotions, our grief and our fear bubbling to the surface at the most inopportune time. 

What did He do in response?  He came running.  He moved heaven and earth to come to us.  To rescue us.

If we want to be like Jesus, shouldn’t we be willing to do the same?

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