My heart is a big mix of emotions. My office today is our empty foster room. I’m not sure why I did this to myself except that I felt God leading me to lean into the ache of my heart. Not just for missing our girl. When you love a child for 16 months through their most significant seasons of development, it is such loss. And unfortunately, I am a psychologist so my mind tells my heart that she will have abandonment issues. And my heart cannot bear that burden. I must give her to Jesus again and again. Because if anyone knows that Jesus gives children much grace for the failures of parents, I do. He heals. Because He healed me. So I know there is hope for our girl. Because just like I had family stand in my gap, so does she. And my parents know that none of my words are in bitterness, but with the greatest gratitude for the work of Christ in both my life and theirs. It is my own story that has led me to stand in the gap. It is the circumstances of my childhood that fills my heart with compassion for these children.
My hurt is not only for her. And perhaps somehow for the childhood I did not have, which comes in unexpected waves of grief. But for every child who walks this same road. Who does not have what God knows they need. And for the selfish neglect of His church to stand in the gap. We cannot claim His name if we do not carry His heart. We have loved our own comfort and convenience more than Christ. And these kids have paid the price for our self-consumed lives. This is not His fault, it is ours. We cannot ask Him why these things happen to these kids. Here’s the thing. They have lost parents because we have not been in our communities leading them to Christ. And we have not come to their rescue to love them as Christ when their parents cannot.
There are so many myths about foster care. We cannot arrogantly look down on bio parents for their addictions and choices when we have not been there to help them out of their pit and walked with them towards Jesus. It is a myth that they can just get it together. We also cannot assume that entering foster care is the trauma because for these kids, being in the neglectful, abusive home is the trauma. We also cannot assume that entering the home of a stranger, even though it may be better and safer, is not terrifying. It is it’s own trauma. Another myth is that these are bad kids. No, they come from bad circumstances that have resulted in bad consequences and resulting behaviors, through no fault of their own. And the most damaging myth is that kids are resilient. They have the potential to be resilient, but resiliency requires relationship. I could nerd out on verbiage like ACE’s and the lasting adverse impact these children face. I will refrain. Here is what you need to know. Through safe, stable loving relationships, these children can have hope-filled futures. Your role re-wires their minds and brings healing to their hearts. We want to see things black and white, but when it comes to the mess of sin, it is not. It is both and. It is trauma to stay in the chaos and it is trauma to leave the chaos. It is all trauma because it is all not God’s good and perfect design. These myths must stop being our excuses to excuse God’s expectation of us to enter their chaos. God does have an answer to this mess and it is us.
This is love, that we lay down our lives. We do not love Christ because we have not loved the least. We have kept these kids from coming to Christ because we have not been His hands and feet of safety and protection. We have not opened the doors of our homes. And He says it would be better for us to tie a millstone around our necks and drown in the sea. You see, we want to blame the parents. When we are the ones with Christ. Thus, our silence is the more sinful. Because we know what He has commanded. But we have settled for a self-righteous religion, foolishly believing that if we live our upstanding moral lives, then we are living obediently to our Savior. It doesn’t take much reading in the New Testament to learn that Jesus condemned such pride.
Church, we must repent of our sin. We will answer to Him. These kids are paying the price for our pride, this love of ourselves. We are our own idols. May I have the liberty to say, our own kids are our own idols. As if they have more value because they were born to us “good” people. Have we forgotten the gospel we claim to believe? That we were once just as lost and dead and wretched? The love of Christ leads to sacrifice, submission and surrender. Anything less is a false illusion and sin.
Start somewhere. First in your own heart. There is no productivity in comparison and pointing and blaming. If we each take personal responsibility in our sin of neglect, true change will begin to take place. Ask God where you have been selfish, ask Him to turn your heart towards Him, ask Him how He has called you to step out in obedience to serve these kids. Ask God to reframe your perception of fostering, from burdensome to beautiful. Yes it is certainly hard because these kids are from hard places, but you are seriously doing brain work! Then take the step of asking questions to those of us in the trenches, begin having conversations and praying with other believers about how you can join together and actually BE Christ. Then just do something. This isn’t just “my thing.” This is Jesus’ heart so it must be all of ours.
And let me end with some grace. I realize that much of our disobedience is simply due to a lack of awareness. That was us for years. But once we become aware, we are responsible. My heart is that all of us as Christ followers are without excuse. Further, our lack of willingness may also be due to lack of support. That is my second goal, that by bringing awareness, an army of support is forged. Lastly, know that God knows what you can and cannot do. There are seasons and how you are called now may look different than in another season. May I lovingly say, though, that obedience always requires sacrifice. So examine your heart to make sure you’re not confining your calling to what you think you “can” do. Christ followers have the singular calling to lay down our lives. As with us, God is currently moving our foster advocacy in a new direction that will actually allow us to better serve these kids in a greater capacity and is a better fit for this season of our family. He will ask you to step out in obedience in the way that YOU can best serve these kids, with your gifting and circumstances and even your own story. But it will all push you out of your comforts and require great sacrifice.