My wife and I did something daring recently. Not because we’re “daredevils” or because we like to “live life on the edge,” but because we knew—in spite of the “risks”—that it was what we were supposed to do.
We became licensed as foster parents.
Maybe it’s not really such “daring” thing to do. Many other parents have done it before us and are doing it now. But to hear the concerns often voiced over our decision to become foster parents one would think we had just agreed to sell our family—and our children, in particular—up the river.
Foster children have, it seems, acquired a stereotype over the years. An unflattering one that intimidates many away from becoming foster parents.
It’s not all their fault, though, as an often messy system doesn’t always do them a lot of favors. It’s a hassle to even become a foster parent and then, the story goes, even more difficult to actually stay a foster parent.
There is truth there. For a variety of reasons, it is not an easy process. There are a lot of legal requirements, and the legal risk of taking a child into your home falls squarely on your shoulders as the foster parent. You have nothing to lose if you choose not to do foster care. There is a lot to lose if you choose to do foster care and something goes wrong on your watch, accidental or otherwise. Tack on the stories you hear about foster children “breaking bad” and the prospect can often appear to be a lose-lose situation.
No Longer Content to Keep Our Hearts “Safe”
For many reasons, including some of the ones just mentioned, my wife and I had never given foster care more than a passing glance. We’ve always had a heart for orphans and known we wanted to adopt. We just thought it would look… well, different.
There was too much mess in the foster care system and besides, we thought to ourselves, the kids in the foster care system here in the U.S. still have life way better than kids in orphanages in third-world countries. We would wait, we thought, and save our money in order to be able to adopt a child from another country.
But then, gradually, my heart began to change. I can’t pinpoint when it started, or why. All I know is that suddenly it kept popping up, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. Randomly, I began learning more about it by proxy. People around me were talking about it and, after taking a new job, I was hearing my boss share about his family’s journey in foster care as they were living it. It was inescapable and finally I knew I had to at least mention it to my wife.
“Honey,” I told her one night after work, “I know this is crazy, and I don’t know what to do with it yet. But can you be thinking about the idea of foster care with me? I don’t even know if we’re supposed to do it. I just know I can’t stop thinking about it.” (I’m super sweet and quietly eloquent in my memories.)
A week later, we were scheduled to take a tour at a local foster care agency. “Apparently I was accidentally really persuasive,” I thought, “I just wanted her to think about it. Now she’s all in and gears are turning. I suppose we’ll see where this takes us.”
Seven months and scads of soul-searching later, we’re newly minted and licensed foster parents waiting on our first placement. Anxious to meet and welcome our first child into our home.
Yes, our child.
Moving from “Others” to “Ours”
The biggest part of our heart change was not simply becoming open to a different form of adoption. It was, instead, a different heart for children in general.
It began with the realization of the painful realities faced by children in the U.S. foster care system. Learning about their pain helped take stories from hear-say to reality. It continued by wondering, “What if that were one of my own children? What if no one cared for them because they didn’t want to bother with the system? Or take a chance dealing with the brokenness?” It turned to a passion and a drive when we began to realize that these were not “just” someone else’s children. These were—and are—also our children.
They are all (every single one of them) our (every single one of us) children.
You see, God doesn’t discriminate with His love. He desires each of us to be His child and to receive Him as our Father. And, when He calls us to be like Him and to have His heart, the same approach to love is asked of us. As difficult as it can be to wrap our heads around, we are called to love all children equally regardless of their biological relationship to us. The same adoptive love is offered to each of us. Who are we, then, to offer any differently to those around us?
It was a similar heart change that compelled Pastor Lee Jong-rak to open his heart and his home to the broken and unwanted children of Seoul, South Korea.
My wife and I had the opportunity to watch a documentary (called “The Drop Box”) based on his home and community a few months ago, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We were at a lull in the process of getting licensed and, as “luck” would have it, we had just weathered three straight weeks of illness in our home.
We were feeling discouraged, and our resolve was feeling weakened. “Were we just crazy?” we wondered to each other. “Is this really something God is drawing us to?”
Seeing and hearing the heart of Pastor Lee settled our hearts. It was like God was touching our hearts through his testimony. So we pushed through.
“God, I Will Die For These Children”
We pushed through because we realized, as many have before us, that setbacks and discouragements are par for the course when any of us try to accomplish anything worthwhile. It comes with the territory. They don’t define us though. It’s how we deal with them that defines us. It’s the decisions we make when facing them that determine our course.
It is up to us to say, like God has said and like Pastor Lee is saying,
I will die for these children.
I don’t know what that looks like for you. I only know what it looks like for me, and even that I am learning piece by piece as God leads us.
What I do know, though, and what I do ask, is that it’s worth taking the time to consider His call. Take a chance. Take a risk. Start small.
Then respond to the call by obeying step-by-step in whatever direction He leads. Not because I’m telling you it’s the right thing to do. Do it because the children need us.
Our children need us.
“The Drop Box” is a documentary film being released by Pine Creek Entertainment in association with Focus on the Family and Kindred Image. It will be in theaters March 3-5, 2015 and tickets can be purchased through Fathom Events.