Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why We Are Fostering

family photo

Next month if all goes smoothly the State will open our home and we will welcome our first foster child. Daniel and I have completed our preservice training, we have filled out paperwork and gotten background checks. There are a convertible crib and convertible car seat waiting in the spare bedroom. We just need to get our physicals and finish baby-proofing while our friends send in their personal reference forms. We have asked for a child between newborn and age 2 so that he or she will be younger than our youngest. The next question is always "Are you looking to adopt?" and the answer is that we are open to it but not seeking adoption specifically. If we feel God urging us to we will, but at the same time there is a need for families who are willing to be there for kids for just a year or so as well. 
When we talk to other families who foster I can see the burnout lurking and it scares me. Exposing my own children to the deep problems of other children scares me. It's not like I am just bursting with emotional energy and enthusiasm right now. Passion, yes! Enthusiasm, no. Twenty seven hours of training on where these kids are coming from and what it takes to be a "professional parent" has done little to raise my spirits. Passion, yes! Spirits, no.
Today I need to revisit why we are doing this, and what hope I have for fostering.   

Reason #1: Obedience.
Throughout the Bible God has a lot to say about societies and people who do not care for the helpless among them: The orphans, the widows, and the aliens, but I will leave it at 2 passages: 

Psalm 68:4-6 "Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds– his name is the LORD– and rejoice before him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land." 

James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  

The Scriptures make it very clear that while good works do not save you, they are the obedience expected from the redeemed. One of those areas of obedience is toward protecting the powerless. In America the orphans are in foster care and other alternative living situations, and Christians are called to be part of the solution.

Reason #2: I Was Adopted, Cosmically Speaking.
Confession: I often skim the lists of passages people reference online so I try not to use many, but this is important! 

To break it down, the Bible is the story of God's glory as he redeems mankind. Though we were created for intimacy with God, we are each rebellious against him, and dead in sin. While I like to picture this death along the lines of Snow White looking ravishing in her glass coffin, the Bible describes something more along the lines of an orgy that turns into a zombie fest. It's not pretty, and I don't mean ugly-cute, I mean horrifying. You just can't get more helpless or unlovely than the walking dead. That's when Jesus stepped in:  

Romans 5:6-8 "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Jesus Christ took my death penalty, bestowed life and righteousness on me, and made me a child of God. As an heir of God and co-heir with Christ I have all the rights and responsibilities of a son.
Before I cringe about bringing little people with inconvenient behaviors into my household, it behooves me to consider that God did this for me, and it was the saving of me.    

John 1:12 "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."     

Reason #3: God's Idea of Family Is Different. 
The human idea of family is people bound together by birth, bloodlines, customs and contracts. Traditionally the individual served the family's corporate wellbeing. American families today are concerned with the family serving each individual, and helping them to be all they can. God's idea of family is people he has redeemed regardless of blood, race, income, or nationality. Jesus said our natural families will divide over belief or rejection of him, but our heavenly family is radically inclusive for those who have claimed him as Lord. In God's version of family we are to lay our lives down for one another, neither to advance a patriarch nor to advance ourselves. It takes us into the realm of true love and giving glory to God.   
We see that dynamic working out in the struggles of the New Testament church as God moved his people and brought down the barriers between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, wealthy and poor, without requiring conformity of culture. Rather than turning the church into mindless clones there was a flowering of freedom and culture within the overarching ethic of the family of God. We have a lot to learn.
Did you know that in ancient Rome when plagues struck the city and everyone who could flee did, the Christians would stay and care for the sick and dying–– often dying themselves? That's radical family. Did you know that in Roman culture the husband had the final say on whether or not a baby lived and was part of the family? If the baby got the thumbs down it was put into a clay pot and left on the doorstep in the elements to die. Later this practice was banned and people threw their babies off a bridge into the Tiber river instead, and in each case the Christians rescued the babies and raised them as their own. That's radical family. 

Reason #4: Family Changes the World.
Daniel's sister Maggie has a heart to stop human trafficking. She has traveled all over the world, worked for amazing agencies, done things you wouldn't believe, and given up things I take for granted. When she visits with churches here in the US people often say "We really want to get involved in anti-trafficking as a church!" to which she responds "How do you see yourselves being involved?" She knows that there are a staggering number of girls blatantly trafficked in our own towns and cities. They may not be locked up in red light districts, but they are in heavy emotional and physical bondage even so. There's a halo of heroism surrounding the idea of taking a trip and being part of brothel stings in asia, but what about the very young girls working the streets in your city? They are emotionally, physically, and sexually abused in horrific ways. These are girls whose strongest experience of family is with their pimps, and they will return to "the life" because that is the family they know. Maggie tells people that if they want to make a difference in anti-sex trafficking as a church they need to become foster families, and support foster families. The rich young ruler sadly left Jesus because he couldn't imagine selling his possessions to give to the poor, and these individuals turn away because they want to travel far away to the pain and be a part of a tidy solution, not bring the pain home with them.  
 Most of what you have learned in life you learned in your family, for good or ill. You imprinted on how your family uses money, deals with conflict, and approaches honor. We can all point to skills and values we are really glad our families bestowed and a few we would pass on if we could. Now imagine that you just didn't have any family to speak of, or that no one had taught anyone in your family life skills so they had none to pass to you. Imagine your heart was so fearful of constant danger that you could not learn a life skill to literally save your life? That's where many kids "in the system" are at. Just being born into their situation put them many steps back, then life doesn't help. They need solid relationships and true love. Transforming families is the way to redeem culture, which is why God spends so much space talking about family in the Bible. 

1 John 3:16-18 "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth."

The conclusion for Daniel and I? We are blessed with riches in the form of family, and it's time to spend them trusting that God will provide for our needs even as we lay our lives down. 

1 comment:

JK said...

I think that's an awesome and scary and awesome decision all at the same time.


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