To all those foster parents that are daily learning to navigate everything they need to do and everything they have to be for the sake of these kids…here’s three things you don’t have to be for them today, or tomorrow, or ever:
You don’t have to be perfect parents to be perfect foster parents. Kids in foster care don’t need you to be perfect; they need you to be present. They don’t need pretty and polished foster parents; they need growing and repenting ones. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give children from hard places is the hope that broken things don’t always have to be final things – that our struggles and shortcomings don’t have to define or defeat us but can actually grow us and empower us. This is not the reality from which they come. Instead, they’ve seen brokenness break people, and have become the innocent victims of somebody else’s hard things. But the opportunity we have, for however long they may be with us, is to show them that new and better final things are possible. To model for them a different way – a posture in which brokenness is still hard but redemption is ever-presently available.
Perhaps the fact that you aren’t perfect parents is in the end one of the greatest gifts you have to offer these kids. It allows you to be present with them – fully present – in the hard and in the broken, sharing in their experience in order to bring about a new and better one.
2) IN CONTROL
There is nothing clean or orderly or simple about foster care. The entire arrangement is born out of a brokenness that no one was able to get any control over, ultimately leading to circumstances that a court system, lawyers, case workers, biological parents, advocates and foster parents are trying to make some sense of. In the midst of it all it’s easy to begin to feel like it’s all outside of your control – because for the most part it is. It’s also easy to forget why all of this is happening in the first place and who it is happening for – the well-being of that child. And while we may love them today in a cloud of uncertainties and unknowns and inconsistencies, we must cling to the promise of one guarantee – God is in control, so we don’t have to be. He is sovereign in the lives of these kids today, no matter how flawed the system or inefficient the process or unjust the circumstances may be. We have to believe that for the sake of these kids. We simply have to. It reminds us that our work for them is not in vain; it is not worthless, but is absolutely worth it. I’m not sure how you do foster care without a growing and robust belief in the sovereignty of God – either He’s in control over it all or there’s no hope in it at all. We have to believe that for the sake of these kids.
This certainly doesn’t exclude us from the responsibility we have to be diligent in those things we do have control over – but it does remind you, at the end of the day Jesus does not call you to control everything in the foster care process, nor does He expect you to. He actually wants you to be okay with the fact that you can’t. Your success as foster parents is not measured by your capacity to keep everything in order; it’s determined by your ability to trust that even in the chaos Jesus is beautiful – and even in the mess, so is what you are doing for these kids.
Your job is not to be the savior of these kids; it’s simply to love these kids as your Savior has loved you. Fully, freely and sacrificially.
Foster care is a beautiful expression of the gospel – it demands a selfless, costly and potentially painful love for the sake of a child gaining much as we willingly give all. This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. His sacrifice on our behalf was not the result of His weakness but was the outcome of His faithfulness. It was Him willingly choosing the cost of our joy over the price of His pain. His suffering brings meaning to ours. His struggle brings purpose to ours. They remind us that the gospel is nothing if not the ability of Jesus to bring great beauty out of broken things. This gospel frees us from the burden to carry the weight of redemption for anyone – ourselves or these kids. It reminds us that only Jesus can save and restore. Our job is simply to be faithful…expectantly, hopefully, anxiously faithful.
God doesn’t expect us to fix these kids or save them or help them pretend like nothing tragic has ever happened in their lives. He simply asks us to show up and love. That love will be costly and difficult at times. It will stretch you and break you. It will also fill you and strengthen you and drive you. Our responsibility is to love like Him because we have first been loved by Him – and to trust Him with the rest. The success of your love is not determined by whether or not it fixes everything but by whether or not you’re willing to continue giving it no matter what – and at the end of the day, that’s really what these kids need.
In the end, what you are doing for these kids is beautiful, not in spite of the chaos and brokenness that surrounds it but because of it. Know that if it’s for just a few days or for an entire lifetime, you’ve been given the unique opportunity to offer a child something very beautiful and unique – yourself. God has chosen you, a mere human, to help solve a seemingly insurmountable human problem. Your weaknesses will be exalted and your shortcomings exasperated – but His love will be abundant and His grace sufficient. You will feel completely helpless at times and wonder if you’re really helping at all in others – but He will be faithful and good and right there with you through it all.
Thank you for doing what you are doing for these kids. Be free today from the burden to be something for them that God never expected you to be.
This week’s post is from Jason Johnson. You can read more by him at his blog.
If you are interested in helping foster children in Los Angeles County, go to our website, invisibles.la, which has various ways you can get involved.