Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What foster care doesn't mean - Part 1

Over the last few weeks since we began telling people about our plans to foster children, we've had a number of questions/comments that seemed to strike us as odd. We've also seen a fair amount of negativity towards foster care in online forums and blogs, usually centered around the same set of misconceptions about foster parenting.

Sometime in the near future, I will post more extensively about what foster care and adoption means for believers, but for now I'd love to cover a few points about what foster care doesn't mean.

It doesn't mean we can't have more biological children...
I wanted to start with this one to address the major motivation behind our decision to pursue foster care. As far as we know, Heather and I are capable of having more children biologically. We are overwhelmed by the need of foster children for temporary (and for some, permanent) homes and our consciences pushed us to make an intentional decision to pursue these children and provide that home they so desperately need in lieu of having more biological children. God may bless us with more children that share our DNA, but for now we are pursuing the desires and convictions that have overwhelmed our family since the day we got married.

For some reason, our society has over-glorified the bond of blood relations -- to the point that we have an entire industry built around finding ways to help infertile couples have a baby. God gives us family biologically through the cultural mandate humanity carries to "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth..." But at the same time, He demonstrated His love for us by reaching beyond blood relation to adopt us. We were lost children, wandering from worldly pleasure to worldly pleasure, satisfying our own craving, when God pointed right at us and said, "That one. I want to adopt that one." I think it is a beautiful thing when a family that struggles with fertility issues chooses to give a home to a child with no home and/or no parents.

Now I'm not saying that couples should avoid having biological children in order to give a home to those without one. And I'm definitely not saying that infertile couples should not find other means to have a child. We had one ourselves and he is one of the greatest joys of my life and among the greatest gifts God has given me. Instead, I am suggesting that people reconsider their image of the ideal family and include families that have pursued children that don't belong in that perfect picture, just as God has done for us. If you have energy for another child or you cannot conceive -- please prayerfully consider adoption/foster care as a means to grow your family!

Family bonds between believers are stronger and run much deeper than those of blood-relations. Blood is thicker than water, but the Spirit is thicker still...

It doesn't mean we don't love our biological son...
The rationale behind this thought focuses on the baggage and issues that children in the foster care system will bring into our home and into the life of our son. Frankly, the underlying belief is that Heather and I have a responsibility to bring our child up in the safest, cleanest, most spiritually sanitary environment possible to ensure his safety and eventual salvation. To invite a flawed child into our home, specifically one that will draw attention, resources, and time away from our biological son, would be akin to ignoring him and demonstrating our lack of love for him.

I am astounded by this response. To think that a decision to provide a home for a child, baggage and all, would not be a powerful testimony for our son strikes me as an attitude that lacks faith. I have a responsibility as a parent to do everything in my power to lead my son to a relationship with his maker and his savior, Jesus Christ. And hiding him from every negative influence is hardly the path to do that.

I am far more emotional these days than I ever was before -- my heart breaks for the impoverished, the hungry, and the unloved in our cities and across the world. A missions-minded family might give up the luxuries of suburban life to live in a culturally diverse neighborhood with a high crime rate and poor schools. Or they might pack everything up and travel to another country without basic amenities to share the Gospel. In the same way, we see this as an opportunity to surrender our comfort for the needs of others.

I've heard it said that a church that isn't messy isn't fulfilling the Great Commission. If your building is filled with perfect people, then you aren't inviting messy, broken, flawed people to come in to hear about the Savior who came and dined with the messed-up people who needed Him most.

It's the same with our family. We will not avoid the mess. We will not pursue the perfect family. We will chase the messes at every turn. It's with the messes that God's glory is most obvious and his power is most evident. I was a mess before I knew Christ and now I'm a slightly more put-together mess with a Savior who covers my faults and fills in my gaps. I expect Him to do the same with our family -- to bless us in our efforts to give all that we have for the needs of others and to make His strength obvious in our weaknesses and in our limitations.

This post is already too long and I have so much more to say. I'll continue this in the next post.

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