In my last post on Leading at Home, I spent some time unpacking why my family decided to get involved in fostering and some things we learned through our experiences thus far. One area that I wanted to spend some more time on was how that same decision has impacted my family spiritually.
I have come to better understand what it means to show love sacrificially. Showing love at that level means that I am more concerned with the other person than I am about myself – which fights against everything in most (if not all) human beings as I believe we are, by nature, selfish. It’s always easier to show love to our family or friends than it is to a complete stranger. This is where the sacrifice comes in.
The gospel leaves no wiggle room as it relates to caring for the defenseless and I believe that anyone who calls themselves a Christ-follower should and could be doing something. That doesn’t mean that everyone brings a child into their home, but they could help those who do! More importantly though, I have had to learn to trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God – to trust that He is indeed good and in control. When the lives of these children are completely out of my control and I am relegated to a role of caring for them for a window of time without necessarily having a long term relationship with them, I need to be able to trust that God has these children in the palm of His hands and He is ultimately responsible for them.
It’s not an easy thing to trust when everything in us wants to control outcomes, but the alternatives are considerably more heart-wrenching. Let me explain what I mean…if my hope is not set in God, it is set in myself and what I can accomplish or it is set in a system that is only as good as those involved and certainly not in control of all outcomes.
If I am being total open and honest in this regard, I need to view my own children in the same open-handed way (whether I want to admit it or not).
For My Wife…
I believe she has had to learn many of the same things I have mentioned above, but I also believe she has had to fight against, as she phrases it, her ‘mommy instinct’ to protect and not get angry about the situation these children in foster care happen to be in.
Learning to love sacrificially includes loving the parents who had their children taken from them. It means not responding in anger when they continue to mess up and choose themselves over their children time and again. It means not allowing the anger you feel about what brought the children into care to cause you to make blanket judgments about people, but to work toward a better outcome and show the same measure of grace we have been shown. It means partnering with the parent(s) that hurt the child you are now spending countless hours trying to heal.
For My Children…
I have become more sensitive to creating opportunities for them to see the needs in the world and prepare them to respond. When I compare even my own childhood to what my children are experiencing, there is a growing tendency (especially in a suburban culture) to be concerned with their comfort and entertainment vs having a realistic view of life outside our home and community. Although we talked to them about fostering, we really didn’t ask for their permission. We secretly hoped that they would learn something through it because they had yet to be exposed to a very personal view of what life is like outside our immediate family.
Although there have certainly been some difficulties along the way, they responded so well to the drastic change in our home and the significantly less time they had one-on-one with us. We regularly reminded them that because of our family caring, these children are being given opportunities in life that otherwise would not be there. They are being given a chance to heal and grow.
I believe they have a deeper appreciation for each other as they quickly realized what they had before they were sharing their home and parents with other children. Furthermore, they have a better understanding of the life children in our own back yard are sometimes experiencing. This created a greater appreciation for the stability of a loving home environment – something you can easily take for granted if it is all you have ever known.
Even though it represents a pretty major commitment on our part, we truly believe it is leaving a lasting impact on our children as they learn to serve others and to be ‘others focused’ – regardless of the life circumstances those around us may be in.
For all of us – although painful at times, I pray that our experiences have and will continue to deepen our faith.
Do you have some examples of how your life circumstances and/or decisions (especially the difficult ones) have shaped you spiritually? I’d love to hear your stories!