I have a frequent fear pulsing through my thoughts: “Am I ruining my children?” That, of course, is a summary of all the other fears. Sometimes the fear sounds more like, “Am I the reason my kids will need counseling?” or perhaps, “I chose this path, but they didn’t—is this fair?” and even the numbing realization that we are intentionally bringing trauma into our home. This is the number one fear shared among my fellow foster parents: is this costly life we’ve chosen asking too much of our forever children?
As foster parents, we’re walking this path that requires continual sacrifice to make room for an ever-growing, always-changing home, but it is our children who often feel the brunt of it. I remember a hard season early in 2018 with four under four; at the time, we didn’t own a quad stroller, and our home did not have a nice backyard. Going for walks felt impossible—I didn’t have the energy (physical or mental!) to gather up the children and go outside. And so, we spent most of our days inside, isolated and stir-crazy. My daughter, a young toddler at the time, would frequently bring me her boots and hat, begging me to take her outside. But someone was always napping, or crying, or needing to be fed. The frequent no’s forced me to question the path we were on and how this lifestyle would affect her and our subsequent children.
If I’m honest, sometimes I’m terrified. I wonder if we’re damaging our little ones by how many children have come in and out of our home. In two and a half years, our daughter has gone from being an only child to sharing mommy and daddy with over 14 children, only three of whom are now siblings. I’m scared that the goodbyes might be too much one day. I’m scared that the trauma they witness vicariously will be too much, that they may pick up unhealthy habits. Yes, the risks associated with this wild ride we call foster care are undeniable.
But most days, I’m reminded of the truth that none of these children are truly “mine”—whether they’re legally mine through birth or by adoption. The temporary nature of foster care requires me to continually place the future of our foster children in His hands. We are loving them tightly, but holding them loosely, unable to predict or control their future. If you re-read those last two sentences, though, you’ll see that this is true of our adopted and biological children as well. I must place their future in his hands, and I must trust God for their future. Just because my parental relationship is both permanent and legal, does not mean that they are “mine.” We must hold every single precious life in our home with open hands, not letting fear have the final say.
This truth, however, is not unique to foster families—pastors, ministry leaders, and military families wrestle with the implications of their life choices on their children’s lives. To live free from fear and to truly be walking by faith when it comes to our children, we must relinquish whatever notion of “control” we have and remember that these children are not ours to begin with; they have always been his.
And while this specific ministry of foster care has brought new risks into our children’s life, I will not waver or step away—I cannot. The call God placed on us is a call for our whole family: he has something for them in this as well. He has not called my husband into something that has no room for me, nor has he called us into a space that will dislodge our children. I step back and ask for spiritual eyes to see when the fear is paralyzing. And in his faithfulness, he shows me:
A call to radical love and sacrificial living is not unique to foster families—as believers, that’s for all of us. Spiritual eyes allow me to see the gift of foster care and how it is shaping and forming our children already. I want them to grow up with compassion and sympathy for those who are hurting around them; foster care gives them front row seats. I want them to see brokenness and know that it exists and be able, willing, and brave enough to do something about it. Foster care shows them that it doesn’t need to be complicated: sharing their home and their family is costly, but it’s straightforward. They can take stock of what they have to offer and daily have opportunities to give freely. I want them to take the risk to love and believe it will be worth it, even—no, especially—if it costs them something. I want them to put their faith into action and put everything on the line for it. I want them to know in their minds and truly believe in their hearts that more than all comfort, security, stability, or predictability… more than anything, Jesus is better.
You see, when our children see us authentically living out the call God has placed on our lives, it is an invitation to them: what is God asking you to do? They are not onlookers, watching us figure out faith, but rather are participants in the call our family has chosen to answer. They are involved in welcoming our temporary children, and they are an integral part to the healing that must take place. And they, too, sacrifice as they suffer loss with each goodbye. In other words, they, too, are counting the cost and recognizing that love isn’t cheap and doesn’t come easily.
As they grow up and see the radical words and actions of Jesus, I hope that they will see examples of this in their own home. We want them to see our own lives reflecting the deep conviction that sacrificial love is possible, and more importantly, worth it.