Last week was extraordinary as God just blew open the door to receiving another child into our home. On Thursday, we took in a 4-year old girl and now despite the greatest joy I have ever felt, my family is in a huge adjustment period. My joy is a result of recognizing God’s hand and sensing his pleasure as we obediently and faithfully walk into the center of his will for our lives. Last night I was moved to tears as I watched our precious child riding bikes with Billy with a huge smile on her face. She is enveloped in love and delight and is already thriving in it. She has become the object of our deep concern, and not only our prayers, but the prayers of many others as our family and friends rise to the occasion once again. Much fuss is being made over this child – that is beautiful to me. Certainly it is beautiful to God, the one who formed her heart and knew her name before time began. He also knew that she would come to us one day – a divine appointment was made and now has occurred.
It’s crazy to wait and pray for so long for this to happen (since September, 2007) and then to move so quickly into the reality of doing it. Somewhere along the line Julie and I were led to include our names on the Foster-only list. This big step for us has been more difficult than we ever imagined. The beauty and the joy of actually doing it are rivaled by an incredible amount of weightiness, sadness even, as we consider our precious child’s situation and wonder about her future. There are a lot of issues at play here, but I want to highlight a few.
First of all, is the awareness of the Spiritual world. Julie and I have entered a battle against an enemy who delights in darkness, evil, death, destruction, addiction, brokenness, depression, and dysfunction, to name a few. His presence in this world is undeniable. The Evil One has had a stronghold for generations in some of these families and these precious children are victims of the sins of their parents and their parent’s parents. The parents and families are not the enemy, they are often victims as well. By God’s grace, we are on the other side with Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High God. This is the side of redemption. He calls all people to himself. In the presence of his light, the darkness flees. He is the essence of good and it is only in his absence that we see evil. He delights in bringing eternal life, redemption, freedom from bondage to addictions, wholeness, and joy. When a child is plucked from the kingdom of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of glorious light, the Enemy is the looser and he is really angry. He is also threatened, as our child’s relatives are now the objects of our love and prayers as well. God is reclaiming what is rightfully his – past, present and future! We have felt the Enemy’s anger, and have been drawn to prayer like never before to confront the reality of the oppression. Oppression brings a number of things – in our case, anxiety, agitation, disunity, confusion, exhaustion, and other unrelated problems that beat us down. The only answer that we have found is to walk boldly forward, one day at a time, wholeheartedly trusting in God. We are secure in God’s love for us, our love for each other (kept strong by honest communication), and the love of our family and friends. This is God’s way for us and we wouldn’t have it any other way. In the long run, just like Maria’s situation, this draws us into a more dependent, trust-relationship with our Heavenly Father.
The second issue at play here is emotional. The adjustment to bringing a baby into a family is hard enough, especially on the existing siblings. Imagine bringing in a 4-year old. This has been a stunning change for both Billy and Maria, not to mention Julie and me. Everything has been disrupted. Every activity and relationship is impacted and we are in the necessary process of grieving the loss of what was and accepting what now is and learning to embrace it as better. I have no doubt that God’s way is the best way for us. In addition, there is the awkward reality that this child loves her parents and wants to go back to them. It’s a new road to walk with very confusing emotions when it comes to the reality that she deserves and must receive our full extension of love for as many days as she is part of our family. In this case, as in Maria’s case, but more glaring, we must love without possessing.
The third issue is obviously physical, spelled W.O.R.K. – laundry, meals, cleaning, baths, discipline, teaching, shopping. This is where exhaustion comes in. You can imagine the load Julie has added to her daily life in that everything has changed. I still get to go to work. Julie and other mothers like her are definitely the unspoken heros as they pretty much are at work 24/7.
The final issue is social and personal – there is a lot of giving up of things that is required to raise a family. Time and energy given to children must be taken from somewhere else. What gives? – sleep, friendships, social activities, etc. In addition, you would think that there would be 100% support for such an act of sacrifice and love, but all too often, enthusiastic encouragement is not the first response we receive. It’s what we need more than anything else!
Spiritually, emotionally, physically, socially – these things pretty much cover the entirety of who we are. We’ve had to lay it all down – everything, and that is an uncomfortable thing to do. We are embracing suffering for the sake of Christ in a world that resists, avoids and attempts to numb suffering at all costs. This is a real paradigm shift for us and it’s not easy. That is why a great blessing has been singing some worship songs that I chose for our church during a sermon series called Mission Possible. Little did I know as I began listening to these songs in February, that God was equipping Julie and me to take this next step in our family ministry. (You can read notes about each song on my blog at Trinity Church, and can take a link to download the iMix from iTunes.) But the most encouraging thing has been to pray with each other, with friends and family and to rest assured that what we are doing is pleasing to God. The awareness of God’s pleasure brings a joy that eclipses all other emotion. The gift of like-minded family and friends is a great blessing. This is his way and together we are discovering his heart. “Break my heart for what breaks yours. Everything I am [is] for your Kingdom’s cause as I walk from earth into Eternity.” (lyrics from the song Hosanna by Hillsong) I end with Jesus’ words.
“… ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matt. 25:37-40, NIV)