I tiptoed into my room so I wouldn’t wake him. Laying on a mattress wrapped in his red ‘blankey’ was a napping three-year-old little boy. While typically an explosion of energy, loudly bouncing around from one toy to the next, he lay there asleep and looked so peaceful. We had received a call from CPS a few days before saying there was a child in need of a temporary home. We accepted, and it wasn’t long before a blue-eyed boy with long reddish-brown hair entered our lives.
As I stood there watching him sleep, I was reminded of the terrible reality that there are 430,000 children in foster care across our country, and not near enough families to take them in.
I Don’t Know How You Do It
People often say to us, “I just don’t know how you do it.” For many, the greatest difficulty is letting a child you’ve grown attached return home, usually never to see them again. Often implied in that statement is that we have some special gift or ability that others don’t have. But, the truth is, we can’t do it either.
Foster care is hard at every level. It’s hard when you first get a child. When a worker brings by a sleeping child at 3am, your family is forced to make quick adjustments. It might mean running to the store for diapers and wipes, or it might mean pulling that spare bed out of the attic. Our calendar will be rearranged, and our kids will have to share their toys with someone new.
And yes, it is hard when you’ve grown close to a child and they are returned to their family. Reunification is always the goal, so we rejoice when it happens, but that doesn’t make it easy. Our last child was a part of our family for nearly a year. We celebrated her first birthday. We watched her take her first steps and heard her first words. Then came the day when the court decided it was time for her to go home, and just like that she was gone.
The challenges of foster care from beginning to end are more than we can bear. It’s a struggle to incorporate another child into our family dynamic. The behavioral issues overwhelm us at times. Juggling home inspections, doctor appointments, therapy sessions, and visitations can quickly zap our strength. It’s heart-wrenching to hear a child crying in the middle of the night, “My mommy doesn’t love me anymore,” while trying to convince her that’s not the case. We are simply too weak to endure these burdens.
But, in our weakness, Christ is strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). The Alpha and Omega never sleeps or slumbers. By his power he spoke everything into existence, and he continues to hold all of creation by the word of his power. He is the one who sends forth the lightning and provides for the ravens. At his command the eagle mounts up, and he measures all the waters of the earth in the hollow of his hand. The nations are like a drop in a bucket to him, he stretches out the heavens like a curtain. He calls the stars by name, and because of his strength, not a single one goes missing (Job 38-40, Isaiah 40). I’m not strong enough to do foster care, but he is. The great promise for the believer is that this powerful God will never leave us nor forsake us. We live moment-by-moment depending on him and trusting that he will give us the exact amount of grace we need at that time.
I trust that the Lord, in His sovereignty, brings these children to our home. It’s easy to doubt this. I hear the whispers from my flesh or Satan himself, “This is too much for you.” In spite of the teaching of popular clichés, the Lord will give more than we can handle. He is gracious to take us to the end of our strength so we’ll rely on his. Without his grace we couldn’t do it. We couldn’t handle another heartbreaking ‘good-bye.’ We couldn’t survive another long day. Thankfully, in those moments, his grace is enough.
For the Sake of One
We often want to bring massive change all at once, but it seems like the Lord doesn’t always work that way. While I wish I could help all the children in foster care, I simply can’t. This feeling of helplessness can bring paralysis that leads to doing nothing.
But as I stood in my room that day watching that little boy with a red blankey sleep so peacefully, I realized that even though we can’t bring mass change, perhaps the Lord can use us to make a massive change in his life. We can’t help all 430,000, but we can help this one.
Scripture reminds us often of the Lord’s heart for the vulnerable and oppressed, and specifically orphans (James 1:27). His heart breaks for the 430,000. And as God’s people, ours should too. We should be the most willing to die to our comforts, our dreams, and our convenience for the sake of our neighbor. I recognize not everyone can take a child in, but we can all contribute. It’s not easy, but the Lord’s grace is sufficient. His strength is perfect.
In our short time of fostering we’ve cared for babies with meth in their system. We’ve had children from homes where they were left to live in their own feces. When you engage in foster care, you get a front row view into the depravity of man. You get a glimpse into the darkness. But it’s in the darkest places that the church needs to be, shining the light.