A Perspective Shift
A little over 4 years ago, we started this foster care journey and welcomed our 1st foster child into our home. To be honest, it was an exciting time for me and my husband! What isn't to love about welcoming a precious little newborn baby into your life and home? However, it really shouldn't have been an exciting time for us! Now that we are 4 years into this journey, "excitement" wouldn't be the word I would describe when foster kids enter my home!
Don't misunderstand me. Kids (of all ages) are a blessing when they come! But seeing the situations they come from become more "real" to us every single year, so "excitement" isn't the emotion we now feel when a foster child enters our home.
Ya see, foster care sadly does exist, but in a perfect world it wouldn't! There's nothing "exciting" about seeing a child forced to be separated from their birth families. Even if it is a bad or unsafe situation, these kids (no matter the age) love their families unconditionally! And I think there is a thing or two we as foster parents (and people in general) can learn from these kids!
God says in 1 John 3:16 that "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 and sisters."
It has taken us ALL OF 4 years to begin to learn this and we still have a long ways to go. When a child enters my home or yours, we are not just committing to THAT child. If we love that child with a Christ like love, we are also committing to ALL that child loves too! And that means that child's family!
This is and can be a very hard thing. I know. And there are times when the only way you can show love to that Birth Mom or Birth Father is simply by praying. And that is okay! BUT... sometimes it's more. And sometimes we, as foster parents or people in general, aren't open to "more".
We place judgment on these mothers and fathers and call them "unfit". Then we move on and love "their" children and forget ALL about the birth parents and the struggles they are fighting to overcome. Please hear me when I say that I am NOT speaking about ALL situations and I am certainly not passing judgement on anyone. I am speaking TO myself! This has been me and God has convicted my heart on so many occasions and reminded me over and over again that "it's not the healthy who need a Physician but those are sick. And God didn't come to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:31-32)
Recently, I sat in a visitation room of a department of social services that was the size of a big closet. There were 7 people crammed into it. This is where 2 children were to spend time with their mother and father for an hour. I was there because my foster child's birth mom asked to meet me.
There was a time 4 years ago where we weren't even open to this. We wanted these children to be safe and "away" from their birth families who put them in this situation in the 1st place. Anger was the emotion I felt towards these birth families for what they had clearly done wrong. But now, years later, God has softened my heart and opened my eyes to the opportunities I have missed and will continue to miss out on if I keep that mindset. I had to ask myself, "Do I really believe God wouldn't want me to show love to these families?"
Now when birth families ask to meet me, MOST of the time, I see it as an opportunity for God to use me. I see it as an opportunity to show Jesus to a broken world. I see it as my mission to use this foster care journey to bring God glory in anyway He asks. Sometimes that is putting me in a tiny room full of people I don't know.
As I sat in this tiny room full of awkwardness and discomfort, I shook my foster daughter's Birth Mom and Dad's hand. Even through the discomfort, I knew I was right where God wanted me to be in that moment. Mom was holding her daughter. The daughter I have been loving and caring for the past several months. We sat in silence and she would look up at me and ask me questions about her daughter every minute or two and I could see that with each time her eyes met mine, her eyes filled with tears. God softened my heart in a way I can't fully explain & all of a sudden, I felt so much love for this woman. If I felt like it wouldn't have been super weird, I would have grabbed her by the neck and pulled her frail and skinny body right over to me and held her in my arms! As she held her daughter in her arms the entire time we talked she suddenly asked a hard question. A hard question for me to answer but probably an even harder question for her to ask. I believe this because she couldn't even get the full question out of her mouth.
"When she came home from the hospital, did she show signs of..."
She couldn't finish the sentence without breaking down. I gently and lovingly answered honestly, "yes, she did show signs of withdrawal. But I swaddled her really tightly and that seemed to help and by the end of the 1st week they were gone."
I don't know how else to explain how I felt in that moment other than simply feeling heartbroken. Heartbroken over the brokenness this mother felt by the decisions she had made that affected this precious child. There was and is no doubt in my mind that a lot of these mothers and fathers truly love their kids. They screwed up, yes. And they screwed up in a BIG way. But, they are still worthy of love! And they still deserve a chance to make things right. Period.
One of the things I hear more than anything from people who are not foster parents (it was actually just said to me last Sunday at church) is "I couldn't have these kids in my home, and then have them taken away from me." And I get it. It's so hard! We have had to do it and I know other foster parents reading this have also had to as well!
It is heart-wrenching to say goodbye to these kids after investing so much of yourself into their little lives. Yet without people willing to sacrifice for these kids and selflessly love and care for them regardless of the outcome, means that these kids grow up not understanding true love. It means that these kids grow up believing the lie that nobody loves them or wants them. It means they may grow up believing the lie that they are not worthy of love. WE have the power to change that for these kids! BUT, we also have the power to go beyond that! We have the power to shift our perspective and not only change that for these kids, but also their families. Sometimes change takes place in small ways by simply getting on our knees and praying for healing and restoration. Other times it's stepping outside of your comfort zone and investing into the lives of these parents who so desperately need to know the love of Jesus through us.
For me, it's getting a phone call from a social worker telling me "a birth mom wants to meet me" which gives me an opportunity to be light in a broken world. What does it look like for you?
As this meeting came to a close, I told them I didn't want to take away from their time with their daughter! After all, she would be coming back home with me soon so I wanted to give them the alone time they wanted with her. But I looked mom in the eyes as she fought back tears and told her I was for her! I told her that I wasn't in this to take anyone's child away from their parents! I, then, asked if I could pray with her.
Now that I am 4 years into this journey, I sit with Birth Parents now and don't see much difference between us. I see that we are all fighting a battle, it's just a matter of which battle we are fighting.
But I was reminded that this was an opportunity, not to simply meet a birth mom but to show Jesus in every situation God gives. So, as uncomfortable as it felt (and it always seems to feel that way), I held this broken woman's hand that I had just met moments before and prayed with and for her!
Ever since that meeting in that tiny visitation room, we have been communicating frequently and just today I was able to share the gospel with her. I am able to let her know that her story doesn't have to end here, that SHE is worthy of love and that there is a God who loves her in spite of all she has done. And not only that but that we (the foster parents of her daughter) love her and we are FOR her. There is nothing "exciting" about taking a child away from their parents. Adoption is a beautiful thing, it IS needed and happens often around the world. We celebrate adoption! We celebrate a child having much needed permanency! However, that celebration doesn't come without loss and feelings of sadness as well!
This post could go on and on and on.... but I'll end with this. Whether you are a foster parent, birth parent, teacher, pastor, church member or anywhere in between......
maybe it's time we see the brokenness of this world and not just sit back and gossip about it.... but DO SOMETHING about it. And I am speaking to myself more than anyone else, but maybe I'm speaking to you too?