Today, I am wiping tears from my face. Today I am grieving the loss of a child who was never mine. I actually never even met him in person, but I know his Momma and Daddy and my heart breaks with theirs. You see, today they are aching, reeling, grieving the departure of their son. They didn’t choose for him to leave. They fought for his best interest and continue to fight for him through prayer, knowing that the same God who carries them through this valley also holds their beloved son in His hands and loves him beyond understanding. Foster care carries great risk. Today, my mind replays the times when I, too, lived in a constant battle with fear knowing I could someday walk the very road they’re walking. We trained together, prepared together, prayed together for the children who would enter our homes. They’ve faithfully served over the past two years and this is not the first time they’ve walked this road. WHY? my mind cries. Unfair my heart mumbles. But resignation follows quickly behind reminding me that we knew this when we said yes. They knew this when they said yes. We agreed that giving a child the gift of love is more important than struggling through the hurt we will experience as a result. Resignation. This is what it means to live out the yes.
The reality is, we don’t have the answers in this situation or the many others that accompany this ministry. We don’t know why this broken system we call child “welfare” sometimes acts in the best interest of children and sometimes doesn’t. We don’t know why some biological families are able to turn their lives around and some aren’t. We don’t know why some foster homes provide a safe-haven for hurting kids and some don’t. We can’t begin to understand why victims are shackled with burdens while perpetrators walk free. The whys far outweigh the satisfactory answers we can find, but one truth shines through: caring for orphans in their distress is a central focus of the Gospel and the Lord has called us to say “YES” – not to cower in fear. For us, for our friends, for other foster parents, for the friends and family who support foster families, this means we are setting ourselves up for heartache, and that’s okay because it’s not about us. Meeting families where they are and loving broken children and broken parents gives us a unique opportunity to show the love of Christ to a world that desperately needs to see Him. It’s not a high calling. It’s not reserved for the strong, or the brave, or the talented. It’s a need. The only difference between foster parents and the rest of the world is that we have seen the need, and it is burned into our eyes and hearts. We can’t unsee this. We are now compelled to do something and to help others see the need as well. This is what it means to be changed.
Foster parents aren’t some rare breed of parent with a superpower for withholding love and enduring heartache. No. Foster parents – the good kind – lavish love upon the children in their homes as if there is no tomorrow, as if there is no genetic barrier, as if their lives and the lives of their kids depend on it. Because of this, our friends are not immune from pain today. They are the “good kind” of foster parents. They are grieving deeply because they have loved deeply, and have experienced tremendous loss. They will continue to deeply love a child they may never call theirs. If you’ve ever thought I could never be a foster parent…I would get too attached, maybe this doesn’t seem encouraging to you. Good foster parents aren’t able to avoid attachment, and the reality is, we don’t even try. After all, it’s attachment that drives us, attachment that sustains children through otherwise unbearable stress and pain, and attachment that opens our eyes to value and purpose. Conversely, attachment leaves us with heartache and tears when we’re forced to let go. Even so, I beg you, please reconsider. If you think you would get “too attached” as a foster parent, please become one. Just as our friends need to be held, supported, and encouraged in their grief today, children across this world are also waiting, longing, needing to be held. There is hope for the hurting children and there is hope for broken-hearted foster families. The unfailing love of Jesus does not make life pain-free, but He does give us strength and grace to endure the unbearable, to love the unlovable, and to pursue the impossible. He does not promise that things won’t fall apart around us, rather, that through it all, He will be with us. This is what it means to be held.