Fostering a Loving Heart

September 8th, 2016 | Family, Foster Care, Sermon Topic

This post was submitted by “Raquel” (an Ecclesian and foster mother) in response to the conclusion of our sermon series The Others.

One of the hardest parts of fostering/adopting is reconciliation with the birth family. Whether your child is reunified with that family or officially becomes part of yours, you have to emotionally and mentally deal with his or her origins. And that journey can be exhausting.

If your child goes back to their biological family, you pray and pray and pray they will be loved well and kept safe. That worrisome ache is so deep.

If the child stays with you and becomes your forever son/daughter – you have to ask, is it safe or appropriate for this other family to stay in touch? How will you tell your child about their roots, about how you first met them and why their biological family couldn’t care for them? And at the same time you battle anger toward this first family for failing their kid, that they did something so harmful to the baby they were supposed to love and protect to the moon and back.

So you can imagine my reaction to the first message in “The Others,” Ecclesia’s teaching series on the book of Jonah. Our pastor Jon asked, “Who are the others in your life?” Oh boy.

The real kicker in that message was the reason Jonah fled as far as he could from God, rather than going to minister to Nineveh as God asked: “I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” {Jonah 4:2}

That truth is so insidious, and yet familiar. Jonah would rather do anything than see these others in Ninevehpeople known for their immoral and hurtful behavior – experience God’s mercy and grace. Because they didn’t deserve it, right?

This takes me back to a conversation I had with another foster parent years ago. She who was on track to adopt a sibling set of three and shared this with me, in complete vulnerability: “I struggle with knowing how to pray for the birth mom. Of course I am praying that she would get rehabilitated and experience the grace of Jesus. And then part of me is also wanting to ask, but not yet.

There is a real struggle around praying healing in that birth family. If they were quickly made whole again, does that mean they would come back to fight for their child – possibly before they had really kicked their struggles or addictions? Wouldn’t I be the best parent for the child they brought into the world, since they screwed up so badly at the start?

If I get to the bottom of this twisted reasoning, I come face to face with my own sick sense of pride. The majority of parents with children in the foster system used to be foster children themselves. Those parents were once abused and neglected babies and kids. They were born into a cycle of poverty, lacking relationships with trustworthy adults, in neighborhoods controlled by sex trafficking and gangs.

Of course, someone’s own victimization does not excuse what they have done to victimize others. But at the same time, where would I be if I had walked the roads they had? In Jon’s most recent message, he put forth this:

“If I thought what they thought, felt what they felt, and experienced what they experienced, would I do what they are doing?”

The very core of the gospel is that we are all lost and need to be saved. We are all in desperate need of a God who is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

This is why we pray for the birth families of our kids, and try to maintain connections to those families whenever possible. This could even mean an occasional meeting with birth family members in the park or at the mall, when appropriate. Now that is real ministry, whether you are a trained missionary or not! Maintaining this ministry is often scary and always emotionally exhausting, but so worth it. We want our children to enjoy eternity with Jesus and their entire family – their biological, adoptive and kingdom family. That desire is deeper than our fears.

But honestly, I can’t maintain this brave perspective on my own. I cannot choose to love the others in my life – much less be a foster or adoptive parent – without a grace-based COMMUNITY. I need good friends speaking God’s truth and grace into my life, praying with me, walking alongside me, my husband and our kids. Otherwise we would never have the courage and strength to embrace, and even love, our now-extended family.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” {Hebrews 10:25}