Here’s a fun story: We started our journey to become foster parents a seemingly long time ago. The idea of adoption has been on Joy’s heart for a number of years but I was never really too keen on the idea. I like my autonomy and the ability to get up and go whenever we want. Some days it’s hard enough managing my own life, let alone that of a little person. But somewhere along the way God placed the idea of fostering on Joy’s heart. Still, my stance was dead set against it. Sure, we can provide some material and moral support to foster families and the foster care system because that is very needed, but to go all-in and go head first into the darkest places of someone else’s life? That just didn’t seem like a fun idea to me.
But then an interesting thing happened. Like Jim Carey as the Grinch, my heart grew two sizes bigger. One of the pastors at our Church spoke one Sunday about fostering. God placed a burden on his heart for the hundreds of kids in our area that are in the middle of a crisis with no Christ-centered family to love on them. It was a very pointed message about the need to care for “the least of these” and the widows and orphans. Our Church is uniquely positioned to fill that need because of its size. Nonetheless, I grew up in Church and thus have heard that a thousand times and it never really had an effect on me. This time was different though because it was at this service that I felt God poking at my heart, knowing full well that I would say “nope, I think you’ve got the wrong guy. Try next door”. And so, I went on my merry way. But God had a different plan, and for any one who may not have experienced this yet…God is relentless in poking the proverbial bear and resistance is futile.
So anyway, I have a long commute everyday. Depending on traffic, my commute can be anywhere from an easy 40 minute cruise to 2 hours stuck on the dreaded Don Holt bridge. I think I’ve mentioned this particular bridge in all of my posts so far because, well, it’s the very bane of my existence. If ever elected to public office, I vow right now to wipe that bridge from the face of the earth. And I’ll do it with a smile on my face. So to summarize this thought: I hate traffic. I hate it so much. My wife would say I have a bad attitude about it, but I just don’t care. I. Hate. Traffic. And since I find myself going 5 mph on the highway quite often, it probably doesn’t do much good for my blood pressure. Like most things in life though, there is a silver lining.
Usually when I am driving to work I get great views of the Charleston area rivers, namely the Wando and Cooper rivers. At this point in the morning the sun is just beginning to rise and flocks of beautiful birds are seemingly gliding across the water. The marshes are a vibrant green against the blue backdrop of the coastal salt water and all is right in the world. So when I’m stuck in traffic lamenting why I chose this particular job, I am frequently reminded of how beautiful the world is and how powerful the one who made it must be.
It’s in these moments that I usually have some alone and quiet time to think about the status of my life, the posture of my heart, and reflect on what the day may hold. There have been several times when I was reminded of the aforementioned sermon about caring for the least of these. Take the birds gliding across the water. They are taken care of. I know every morning that the sun will rise. Even if some mornings I can not see it when it’s cloudy, I know it is is still there, constantly present. “But that simply isn’t the case for some kids”, was the thought that kept coming across my mind. Some kids aren’t taken care of, don’t know why and they somehow are convinced it’s their fault. They have never experienced the constant presence of unconditional love and therefore do not feel the comfort of knowing it’s there even when they can’t see it during tough times.
I had built up this idea that I can’t be a foster parent for numerous reasons. Many of these reasons were valid: I have never been a parent. I have a busy schedule. We don’t even have beds. I’m not ________________. Come to find out though, none of these reasons were valid for the God who has the ability to provide solutions to problems I don’t even know exist yet. And so, over time my heart began to crumble like the walls in the story of Jericho. What’s worse is that I knew it was happening. It was a terrifying position to be in knowing that I would one day be a foster parent still being dead set against it. Lo and behold, when I talked to Joy about it….she was on board. And so began our journey together towards foster-dom.
From July of 2015 until March of 2016 we took a 9 week course on how to love children in crisis, filled out roughly 1,200 forms, paid for background checks, driving records, outlet covers, drawer locks, medicine locks, added door locks, got new windows (ours were inoperable and a “fire hazard”, as they say), a fire escape ladder, bunk beds, mattresses, sheets, toys, pillows, remodeled two of our bedrooms, organized our office, purchased two new sets of smoke detectors, and I’m sure several more items that i’m forgetting right now. I say all this to say that we were committed and invested. We had poured ourselves into this venture and were not turning back. Our plan was to provide respite care to kids in crisis for when their full time foster families needed a break or couldn’t keep them over night while Joy finishes her Master’s program. Then, when her degree is complete, we would step into a full time foster role hoping and believing that another family would be ready to support us when needed.
We received our foster care license on March 11, 2016. When I’m writing this on March 18, 2016, we have had our license for exactly 7 days. So how’s it going? I’m glad you asked. Sit down and let me tell you the fun part of the story.
I can’t give details for obvious reasons, but we got a call on Monday (D-Day +4)saying a young boy needed a temporary foster family for two nights. Of course, since our intent and focus has always been to support full time foster families, we eagerly said yes. His foster family couldn’t keep him for the next few nights and DSS was desperate. We were their Obi Wan, their only hope (in case you haven’t figured out yet, I’m a bit of a nerd). Now let’s rewind a quick second. On Saturday night I had been in a car accident and the car was possibly a total loss. Now back to current day: We were thrust into a life of having a pre-K energetic, curious, independent little ball of fun over night while balancing the need to search for a new car. We had him for two days…not a problem, right?
I am writing this on Friday while still fostering and loving on this amazing kid. Here’s a quick recap of our week:
- Monday: didn’t eat dinner until 9:30
- Tuesday: Joy spent the day playing cars and blocks and couldn’t get any schoolwork done.
- Wednesday: The car was deemed a total loss and the search for a new car officially began. We spent the evening comforting and loving our new family member through missing his mom.
- Thursday: A family jumped in to hang out with him during the day on Thursday and Friday, which was a huge blessing. On the way to look at a few cars, Joy got a flat tire. After installing the spare tire, the spare tire blew. No cars were looked at, but the countdown for a new car continued.
- Friday: At 4am I received a text cancelling his babysitting for the day.
So. Here I was on my way to work after Joy and I quarterbacked our way through a spontaneously fun and stressful week. Crossing the Don Holt and Wando bridges I again had some time to reflect on the week’s events. Up until now I had felt like maybe we made a mistake by fostering. I have been having thoughts of “who am I to think I can parent these kids I have never met before? I’m certainly not qualified!” Thankfully, I was quickly corrected of these thoughts. Here’s the truth:
In Matthew 25 Jesus is telling a short little story about how he will discern between those who lived a fruitful life and those who did not. He uses the analogy of a shepherd separating the sheep on his right from the goats on his left(with the goats being the fruitless lives). Here’s how it goes:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
Or how about James 1 when James writes to the Jewish leaders and says:
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
There are some things in the bible that are open to interpretation or may need some translating depending on how it’s phrased. These aren’t those verses. We are called, every single one of us, to care for those society and the world considers “the least of these”. Those who are cast aside and forgotten about. Those who are in need of what Christ has to offer. That’s it. If we do that, we can change the world.
My last reflection on how this week has gone is actually not about faith, directly anyway. It’s about George Washington. Follow me for a second. I was listening to a Podcast about history because I’m a huge nerd, and I learned something about then Major Washington. In the months leading up to the French and Indian War, Washington was to deliver a message to the enemy…the French and Indians in the Ohio River Valley. The message said that the British were claiming those lands and that all opposition had to leave. Naturally, the message wasn’t received too well. Washington had to fight his way back home fording rivers, climbing mountains, and running for his life. Ultimately he forged the beginnings of his legacy in those trials but I learned something else from this story. When I care for these kids in crisis, I am essentially delivering an eviction notice to those voices that tell them they are not worthy of love. They do not deserve a hug. They are dumb. They are bad. They are worthless. That there is no hope. Through the sometimes complicated acts of clothing, feeding, and loving these foster kids, we are giving them a glimpse of what the constancy of the sun, even during a storm, looks like.
Here’s the correlation: Washington was claiming enemy territory. His job was to go behind enemy lines and make known the intent of those he served to evict any opposition. And that’s what we did this week, and will continue to do for these kids in crisis. Will we have tough weeks? I would expect no less. But that means we are in the right place, reclaiming that which has been wrongly occupied. And hopefully those kids I love, and those around me, will see Christ’s perfected love along the way.