Monday, April 20, 2015

Focusing on Fear

Here are some of those things you hear a lot as a foster parent:

"I could never be a foster parent... I'd be too afraid to get attached."
"I could never be a foster parent...  I'm afraid I'd love them too much."
"I could never be a foster parent... I'm afraid it would be too hard if they had to leave."

I've thought a lot about this. I believe most of the time, when people say this, they are outwardly processing very difficult feelings, and I try not to run too far with these statements. I know they aren't saying I don't love my foster babies. I know they don't think I'm unattached. And I hope they don't think it's easy for any of us to say goodbye.

I understand that the idea of foster care can be very scary. I wrestle with that fear every day. But here's what I've been thinking more and more frequently lately.

The risks involved in foster care are not all that different from the risks involved in any type of close relationship.

When I was pregnant for Big Brother A, there was a lot of baby loss that hit very close to home. I mourned with the friends and coworkers who lost their little babies (both preborn and born). I struggled with knowing how to offer comfort when I had not experienced the same loss.

And I became afraid.

It is hard to fully experience joy when fear becomes mixed in.

I allowed myself to feel the weight of the uncertainty that Big Brother A would become team member #3 in my home. I started mentally framing things in terms of "if the baby is born".

I hesitated to attach. I loved my baby. But I didn't want to love my future with the baby. Not until the baby was safely here and the future was fully certain.

Around 18 months later, we discovered Big Brother A's peanut allergy. Everything was so unknown, and little things like grocery shopping or playing at the playground were suddenly very scary. What if Big Brother A was accidentally exposed to peanuts and something terrible happened? It was so painful. It filled me with fear. All of the risk of attaching so fully to another person resurfaced.

The possibilities of losing my child during pregnancy, losing my baby to unpredictable circumstances, or losing my baby to complications surrounding an allergy may not share the same probability as the possibility of losing my foster baby from my forever family. But they are very real. The weight of the risk is the same, no matter the likelihood of loss.

I think every parent, every wife, every husband, every child in a loving home, has already started to experience the reality of possible loss. This can cause fear in any of us, in any circumstance. When we start to focus on that fear, we start to miss out.

When my focus is on my fear, I miss out on the beauty of attaching fully to the people in my life. I put myself through the pain of the worst case scenario over and over, when maybe I never would have had to experience it at all.

When my focus is on my fear, I stop trusting God to do what is right and good. I stop having my faith in the only one who has any real control over my situation.

Most of life comes pretty short on guarantees, but this is something I hold to as certain:

"We know that God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

This isn't talking about God making everything easy, or always giving me what I want most. This is talking about making me into a person who looks and acts like Jesus. This is talking about little, weak, fearful me being able to pull through amazingly different circumstances by God's power alone, and emerging stronger and closer to Jesus through those painful times.

There are so many scary things about foster care. No one should enter into this journey unaware of the types of hardships that come along with it. It is totally legitimate to experience fear in considering fostering. It's wise to think through the implications for yourself and your family. And ultimately, God might not have equipped you to be a foster parent. He might not have gifted you in specific ways that would make you good at this. You might know that the burden of stress and the uncertainty of it would not be the best thing for you or your family right now. That's okay. Not every family is meant to be a foster family.

But let's not let our decisions stand on fear. That first fear of pain is not a good resting place.

"The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:7)

Don't let it be fear that keeps you from considering foster care. You could be the person who overcomes fear despite uncertainty, and is able to someday help a foster child through their own fears as they process the pain of loss, separation, and uncertainty. Maybe, like me, you'll have to face fear daily, and will constantly be in a process of re-surrendering your emotions, thoughts and actions to God. Maybe, like me, the fear will be an ever-present reminder that it is all for God's glory, and a constant encouragement to look ahead toward Heaven with joy and anticipation.

Only by praying often and praying hard can a mommy constantly cope with the possibility of child loss. 
But I think any flavor of parenting gives a taste of this fear and uncertainty.

Maybe you're the person who needs to tackle this idea, only to arrive at the other side without a plan to foster but with a solid understanding of why this is not for you. Know your gifts and know your resources. Trust God to work for your good, wherever he leads, no matter how painful. Don't be afraid to wonder if it's for you; and if it's not, embrace that. Find other ways to invest in the orphan and widow in your community. God does not call all of us to do the same things, and we can find ways to support each other in our separate callings.

Let's stop standing on fear.

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