There is this vulnerable feeling a foster parent gets each time you receive a new placement. It resides somewhere deep in the heart, in that place where you love so deeply it hurts but you also fear loving, for you know what it will cost you. The feeling is really a helpless one because you know all the risks that come with the choices you are making. You know that choosing to love this child holds the tremendous likelihood of having to give him/her back eventually. You know that there will be separation issues, emotional trauma, acting out, and many other struggles that might arise over time. You know that you will get "too attached," but you can't help it all the same. You choose to love, knowing the risks, and out of this process the vulnerable feeling is born.
Three weeks ago, we sent our 2 year old foster son home to his parents, three days before Christmas. Over the last year, we have loved, cherished, and then said goodbye to five other little ones. It has been quite a year of change and adjustment. The other day, we received our newest foster placement. He was 8 pounds, 2 days old, and he came to us straight from the hospital. He was even wearing his little hospital bracelet still. He is a fresh from the womb, brand new baby boy.
We have walked the road of joy with each new placement, and we have walked the road of grief upon letting these little ones go. Often people have said to us, "I could never foster because I would get too attached." For my thoughts on letting a foster child go, you can check out a post I wrote last year on my old blog after we had to say goodbye to our first foster son.
As I held our tiny newborn this morning, my heart swelled with an array of emotions. I love him like my own, and that scares me. It's that vulnerable feeling I was telling you about earlier - this "I want to keep you forever but I have no control over what happens" feeling. Am I "too attached" already? I was attached the moment we received word they chose our home for his placement, and I am ok with that.
Something else hit me this morning, though, as I cradled this precious life and considered what our journey might be like with him. Is there something "special" or different about fostering? Is the call to foster different than the call for all who follow Christ? I don't think so. This vulnerable feeling we have as foster parents, it's really the feeling that comes from loving as Christ loves, with no promise of love returned and no guarantee that you won't have suffering and hardships along the way.
Following Christ actually requires this vulnerable feeling to be present in us all; it really is not just a foster parent thing. Christ says in Matthew 16:24-25,
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
I guess the better way of explaining this vulnerable feeling would be to describe it as Christ does: denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Him. When it is described that way, we see that it should be a universal feeling for all believers. We are all called to love until it hurts, to give until it hurts, to serve until it hurts. We should all reside in that vulnerable place, risking everything for the sake of Christ. It is all His anyway - our time, our possessions, our resources, our biological children, our foster children. We are called to give ourselves away, to the glory of God and in the strength of Christ Jesus. No area of our lives should be left untouched.
His call is clear. Deny yourself. Take up your cross. Follow Him. This is the beauty of redemption: we are redeemed so that we might also join in His ministry of redemption. He gave Himself away that we might also give ourselves away. We don't do any of this out of our own strength, because if we tried, we would fail. We follow Christ in our weaknesses, and we trust His promise that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). It's not just a foster parent thing. It's not just an orphan care thing. It is a Christ-follower thing, and it invades every area of our lives.
Maybe your family isn't called to foster, but I can guarantee that the Lord has a call on your life to live in this vulnerable place, too. The specifics look different for all of us, because there is a world of needs to be met by the body of Christ, and we all help meet these needs in different ways.
The call is radical, the cost is extreme, but the chase is worth it. Chase the genuine life of a Christ follower, for this is where you will find true life.