Thursday, May 30, 2013

3 ways that being a foster parent sanctifies

getting married is sanctifying (by sanctifying, i mean that it grows your faith in a way that makes you more like jesus).

and having children is really sanctifying.

but having foster children is really, REALLY sanctifying.

and thats the beauty of it.  because when you become a foster parent you set out to do this really good thing and be a blessing to a child in need.  but then they turn around and show you that YOU are the one who needs help, and they give you the opportunity to grow to be more like jesus.
i really want to put a pic here of one of our super cute foster
kiddos, but we aren't allowed to post those on the internet

as i have been reflecting recently, i have been thinking of how being a foster parent has grown my faith.  these are a few of the things that have come to mind.

1. you are not in control.  the best way to think about your role is something in between that of a long-term babysitter and an actual (ie legal) parent.

you feel like you are being watched.  you are asked about how you discipline, what kind of food you prepare and serve, what activities you do with them.  now, i understand that the state is responsible for the children, so they have to ask questions like that.  but its not easy to be constantly barraged with questions, and harder when you are told that you are doing things the "wrong" way.

you have to get permission for silly things like giving them the best milk.  you have little to no voice in making decisions about their future, like whether or not they will be reunited with their birth families.  home schooling is rarely if ever allowed.  you have no say in medical decisions, and have to pray that the state-paid pediatricians are making the right decisions (even if they do something irresponsible like writing a prescription for antibiotics for something that is obviously a virus).  most parents want to make what they feel like are the best decisions for their children regarding issues like schooling, nutrition, medical care (including prescription medications and vaccines).  we want to feel like we are in control.  but foster parents don't have that privilege.

it has grown my faith to have to constantly remember that God is in control and that he can take bad decisions and bad situations and work them for good.  in fact, he took the worst evil (the murder of jesus) and made it the most good (the forgiveness and salvation of all who trust in him).

so, when i am forced to feed a newborn baby formula (when she has access to breast milk), drive a 4 year old to have 20 mercury fillings put in his mouth, allow a 2 month old to be given 6 vaccines in one day, or take four young children to see their mom right in the middle of nap time twice a week and listen to them scream from exhaustion the whole drive home afterwards, i realize how small i am, but how big God is, and i am thankful that i can trust Him.

2. immense sacrifice.  foster parenting is a 24/7 job.  and even if you try to get a babysitter to take a break and go out on a date with your spouse, you find that there are even restrictions on that.

all parenting is a sacrifice as you give of your time, money, emotion and energy to another being who needs you to care for them.  but in "normal" parenting at least you get to look forward to the end result: a fully functioning adult (even if it takes a while!).  but with foster children, you aren't living for this result.  there is no "reward" at the end, except seeing them reunited with their birth parents, which you may or may not feel like is a good thing.

sometimes it even feels like little strangers have invaded your home.  and sinfully, you may feel like you want to take you home back from these small invaders.  but the motivation for a christian to do foster care is knowing that the bible commands hospitality to strangers, and jesus himself even says that the service we are providing to these little ones is as if we were even doing it for him.

furthermore, even as i see the immensity of giving my life for these little ones, i realize that even that pales in comparison to the ultimate sacrifice jesus made: humbling himself by coming from heaven to earth, humbling himself further to be a baby, humbling himself further to be a servant, humbling himself further by choosing to die and humbling himself most of all by choosing to die a criminal's death, even as he was completely innocent and perfect (see philippians 2:1-11).

3.  growth in love.  it frustrates and saddens me when people say things like "oh i could never be a foster parent because i would get too attached".  as if good foster parents don't get attached?  no, only the bad foster parents, the ones who do it for the money (though it pays almost nothing so i have no idea why people do it for money) harden their heart enough to never attach to the children in their care.

becoming a foster parent, you realize that all love (not a temporal fuzzy feeling of emotional love, but true, deep, sacrificial love) comes from jesus.  the bible says "we love because he first loved us" (1 john 4:19).  and it can feel, at times, that we have been given a limited amount of love to dole out to others over our lifetime. and if we view it this way, we are tempted to hold back and keep that love only for children who are "ours".

but i have come to learn, as we are on child number six (five foster and one biological), that your heart is like a cup.  and when you know jesus, he fills that cup full of love for your children.  and with each additional child, the cup just keeps getting bigger and bigger.  and he keeps filling it, so that we can keep pouring out that love to our children, whether biological, adopted or foster.

"by this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. but if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." 1 john 3:16-18

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