This message to the Church is not one of condemnation, written out of anger, but rather quite the opposite. It is written out of a great love for the Bride of Christ, with much grace, intended to help her see a need that often goes unseen and unvoiced.
Damien and I have only been fostering children for a few short months, and yet already we have recognized and felt the effects of the great divide that has grown over time between foster families and a majority of the rest of the Western Church. This divide ,whether there actually is one or if it is one that is just falsely perceived, is both no one’s fault and yet everyone’s fault.
We are sinners, all of us, and thus are naturally inclined to disengage in our relationships with those who don’t directly benefit us or build us up in some form or another. Somewhere along the way, communication between those of us who foster in the formal sense and those of us who do not has wavered and waned, to the point that, more often than not, when our paths cross, we are intimidated and fearful. We all forget that we are but messy and emotional creatures, but yet that there is an abundant grace for us and our mistakes on this journey to reconciliation with both God and fellow man/woman.
Damien and I have waded on both sides of this perceived divide. The two of us, as a part of the Bride of Christ, have been on the side where the need has somehow slipped by us unseen, and, now that we are fully fledged foster parents, we have experienced the discouragement of our needs going unvoiced and thus unmet.
The two of us believe with all of our hearts that every single one of us messy, emotional beings play a part in making up the Bride of Christ, and hence each and every one of us are called to live united with each other by the same Spirit that dwells is us all. We believe that if there are any disagreements or hard feelings between any of us, we are called to prayerfully seek forgiveness and reconciliation so that we can truly represent Christ to the best of our ability in this broken and hurting world. It is out of this heart that I write to the Church now, knowing that forgiveness and reunification is needed at this time.
As foster parents, I cannot thank those of you who support and bless us out of generous, genuine hearts enough. If there is one thing that Damien and I have learned, it is that it really does take a village to raise children, and for those of us who are reaching out to the orphan by bringing them into our homes and hearts to help raise them into the men and women God has created them to be, we desperately need a tribe of people to surround us with grace and truth and support and prayer.
It may come as a surprise to you, as it has to many of those whom we have confided in, that since becoming foster parents Damien and I have found that it is more common than one would think that we are judged and placed in a box by those within the Church. Hear me when I say that this is not everyone in the Church, but rather enough that we thought it pertinent to address the issue.
Most often, we are placed in one of two boxes, neither worse than the other, but both equally harmful and discouraging. The most common box that we have found ourselves placed in is that which identifies us as saints who are worthy of much praise and honour, saints who should be placed on a pedestal above all others. Hear me when I say this: yes, we are special people for welcoming the orphan into our home in this capacity, but we are no more or no less special that the one who serves in a soup kitchen, or one that serves the orphan by advocating on their behalf on a governmental platform.
So often we in the Church (Damien and I included) forget that even though there are certain parts of the Body that are working in more visible ways than others, it does not make them any more or any less important. Each and every one of us plays a a crucial role in helping the Body to function as a whole, and when one part is elevated above the rest it opens the door for pride to enter the one who has been elevated, and it can also plan seeds of discouragement in the rest of the members of the Body.
The other box that we find ourselves most commonly placed in is one that identifies us as people who are worthy of scrutiny and discrimination. More than anyone, Damien and I know that we are not perfect by any stretch. There are times when we let the kids cry a little longer than we should, times when we yell out of frustration, times when we get too attached in the sense that we want to preserve our own hearts from the hurt of saying goodbye to a child, and of course there are times when we reserve our love out of the fear of the unknown. We know that we are not perfect, that we make one to many mistakes, and we recognize that we need a tribe to stand with and around us to help keep us accountable.
But our call to keep one another accountable does not entail scrutinizing each others every choice with the intention of telling us that you knew we couldn’t do it, that we didn’t have what it takes. Because let me tell you, we cannot do this and we do not have what it takes. All we have is a God who is bigger than all of this, a God who has called us and promised to empower us and give us His strength to do what He has called us to do.
So please, we need you to speak life over us and into us. We need your encouragement and your prayers and your support. We need to know that when we mess up, which we will on a daily basis, we have the rest of the Body holding us up.
You know, sometimes the hardest people on us can actually be ourselves. We also need you to remind us that, just like the rest of you, we too are important to the Body.
Church, we are all called to care for the widow and the orphan. But please know that there are so, so, so many ways to do so. I think that we all need to remember this, because we foster parents should not judge the rest of the Body for not fostering in the same capacity that we do. And likewise, the rest of the Body should not feel less than. It is so important that we say yes to God’s call on our lives to care for the widow and the orphan. And while we are not all called to foster in a formal capacity, Damien and I don’t believe that any of us should rule that out.
To close this letter I want to leave you with two things:
First, I want to apologize on behalf of any foster families that may have lashed out from hurting hearts. I want to apologize for the silence, for the waiting for others to make the first move. I want to apologize if any of us foster parents have withdrew from the rest of you, creating a chasm where no chasm should exist. I apologize if we have pushed you away, not allowing you the gift of being able to walk alongside us on this journey. Please, forgive us.
Second, I want to leave you with some practical tips on how you can support those of us who foster the children in our communities:
- Never cease praying for us and for the children we are loving on. Pray that we would guard our hearts, but yet love these children with the full love of Christ. Pray against spiritual attack. Pray healing and protection against these little ones. Pray for supernatural strength to keep loving on the most vulnerable in our society, day after day.
- Offer to make and deliver meals to foster parents who have just received a placement (especially if the placement is a newborn baby). Offer to clean the bathrooms and wash those dishes that are overflowing the kitchen sink and spread across the counters. Offer to cut the grass and weed the flower beds. Just like giving birth to a biological child, taking a child into your heart and home, regardless of their age, is a huge adjustment. It’s nice to have some help with regular household chores during that initial time of transition.
- Those tubs of clothes that your children have long since outgrown and you’ll probably never use again, donate them to a family with children who would (or will soon) fit them. We always appreciate donated clothes, because the sad truth is that sometimes these little ones only come with the shirt on their back. Make sure the clothes are in good condition though – these children need to feel like they are special and valued and loved, because they are!
- Consider doing respite (more or less babysitting) for a couple of hours one evening so that us foster parents can go out on a date. And I mean an actual date, not just a trip to the grocery store without kids in tow. We all need a break from our children, whether biological or not, to refocus our hearts and invest in our marriage.
- Genuinely ask us how our hearts are, and be prepared to listen. Sometimes all we need is a friend who will graciously listen to us spill out our hearts so that we can get all those pent up emotions out and realign our hearts with His Truth.
- Send a text or pick up that phone and tell us that we are doing a good job. Honestly, in the midst of this journey, in the midst of all the mess and emotions, all I’ve really wanted to hear was ‘Mama, you’re doing okay.’ I can’t explain the weight that is lifted off of my shoulders when I hear that from someone other than my husband.
- Become a foster parent yourself. It’s good people with loving hearts and homes that are needed most. And whether you think that it’s too hard or too complicated or not for you, Damien and I would encourage you to really consider it – it may just have an eternal impact on both your and a child’s life.
Dear Church, thank you for being patient and gracious and loving. I hope that together we can grow, hand in hand, closer towards Him. May His grace be with you.