The personal love of God.
Fostering as a Christian is greater and deeper than simply giving a child a safe place during the most traumatic season of their life. It is standing as an intercessor on their behalf. Accepting and understanding the personal love of God has always been a struggle of mine. I know God is love and I know He loves us. But it has been hard for me to personalize and internalize rather than generalize His love. He has been so graciously patient in helping me grow to learn His love for me. What has begun to transform my own personal struggle with this truth has been witnessing how God intervenes for our foster placements. As we desperately intercede for our foster children, as we worry and pray and panic and cry out in desperation because we know, this child is NOT OK and NO ONE IS LISTENING, God moves and mightily says, I AM. There isn’t a way to express the burden a foster parent carries. On top of the endless documentation and paperwork, the all. the. time. DHS visits, the fire drills and the child constantly out of sorts because the second you get them settled into a routine someone who is not taking care of this child is deciding visits and changes in the case so this baby is never sleeping, the doctor visits because this child is sick all the time and the record keeping and the keeping every loving thing in your house locked up. On top of staffings and court dates and attempting to build a relationship with the bio parent who is the reason your life is now such a wreck. On top of keeping up to date on your own CEU’s and health and home inspections and cpr and first aid (so when exactly am I supposed to do all of that???) Oh and let’s not forget a scrapbook for your foster (what, my own 3rd child doesn’t even have one of those…) On top of taking care of your own kids and family. The foster parent carries the weight of the trauma this child is facing. It is a crushing burden. We preach to ourselves: today, just survive today. But we never know how many today’s there will be. Because today changes in an instant in this broken system and all the work you’ve done to provide stability, safety and sanity for this child can be undone in a second. There are days we collapse to the floor in exhaustion not knowing if we can do this one more minute. Because our sanity is one more sleepless night or text from dhs about another change gone and it won’t be our foster child needing therapy, but ourselves. And just when we think we are about to call it quits, God steps in. No, it doesn’t always happen that the case goes the best way. But when I have begged God to bring truth to light on behalf of my foster child, He has, in His timing and in the best way possible. And something about seeing God love my foster child so strongly and specifically has radically changed my grasp on His love, for me. He does see me, He has proven so in seeing my foster children. And it has been the loudest whisper to my own soul of His fierce love of me.
The sacrificial love of God.
Nothing has exposed my selfish nature more than fostering. I just want to sleep. I just want normal-my normal. I just want to be left alone and not hold this needy baby one more second. I just want my morning coffee and routine, just once. I don’t want to have to figure out childcare just to take my teenagers to the movie. I don’t want to deal with all of this extra work. It’s a hassle and it’s hard. But one morning, when I as catching a quick moment in God’s word, my reading was in Isaiah 53. And it hit me and humbled me.
“He Himself bore our sickness and He carried our pains.”
“The punishment that brought us peace was on Him.”
As a foster parent, I am bearing the sickness of this child’s trauma. I am carrying this child’s pain. What brings peace to this child is painful to me. It cost me my “normal” life. What did I think Jesus meant when He said, take up your cross? What did I think when Jesus said, lay down your life? What did I think living out the gospel meant? Because according to this passage from His Word, it most certainly does not mean, have your perfectly peaceful normal life as long as you go to church every week and are of good moral standing you are living the gospel. To live as Christ is to die. To foster is to carry the punishment of the choices of another person so that this child can have peace. To foster is to carry the pain of this child so that this child can feel some sort of peace. And Jesus walked all the way to the cross in order to bring me peace. He took on the sickness of my sin. He carried the weight of my shame. He laid down His life so that I could live. He gave up Himself. No it isn’t fair that I am carrying the burden of a parent choosing not to care for their child. No it isn’t fair that this system is broken and messy and many times makes this whole thing harder. But this child, this child chose none of this. This child made none of these choices. And yes, for this child to have peace it is painful for me. But carrying their pain in order for them to have peace, that is simply a glimpse of the gospel. And regardless of the stress and sacrifice of it all, what we as the foster parents endure holds no comparison to what the foster child endures. Rejection. Grief. Confusion. Anger. Brokenness. Trust and Attachment Trauma. Fear. Instability. Yes, when I compare the sacrifice to my normal, it seems and feels and IS significant. It is most certainly a death. A death to my world and my convenience and even my sanity. But it is small in comparison to the loss experienced by the child. We as foster parents are not martyrs and we are not victims. We are simply living out the sacrificial love of our Savior. And so in exhaustion and weakness and brokenness, we get up and we keep walking this journey. Because if we want to follow Christ we must do so with a cross.