So today, the last foster child moved out of our home. At one point, we had up to three foster kids, not to mention my two adopted baby girls, two teenagers and my wife and I, all living under one roof.
But tonight, we go out to eat with just the four of us. My teenagers will be off with their usual shenanigans. But our little nuclear family (explosive terms like “nuclear” are appropriate) will be pulling into California Pizza Kitchen and stuffing our faces in unusual peace and quiet.
We still care deeply for at-risk kids in our area. But the brutality of the bureaucrats running the foster care system almost ate us alive. We found ourselves too often needing to protect the kids from what the other “protectors” wanted to do to them.
The lack of compassion we saw for children was breathtaking, as was the agency’s passion for “covering-their-backsides”. It’s hard enough dealing with kids who’ve been abused or neglected, and also with their dysfunctional parents. But with so many people not doing their jobs, we began to feel we were enabling a system that was not only dysfunctional, but corrupt.
So as of now, we’re done being foster parents. The child we tried to protect from an abusive parent was taken from us, with the abuse allowed to continue and us attacked for trying to help her. We tried to save the world, just to have the world turn and bite us back.
We’ve discovered something: this “saving the world” stuff hurts. Big time.
As I’ve matured as a Christian, I’ve begun to believe God does things in your life in seasons. He asks you to do something for a specific time. Hopefully, you obey. Then He teaches you what He wants you to learn through that season, and then suddenly… the season is over. Those awesome pants you thought you’d wear forever are suddenly piled up waiting for the next garage sale.
When you’re going through a season of trial, you feel like it’ll never end. You feel trapped and that God hasn’t heard your prayers. But in truth, He’s at work, often in ways you never see until the work is finally done.
We sensed our season of tumult and upheaval was coming to a close in the last month or so. And now today, it seems to be fully upon us. And I think I can see a bit of the “why”. As I look back, I still see the pain and betrayals. But I can see a bit of the hand of God as well, especially in what He’s done in our own hearts and how the suffering has drawn us closer to Him.
The pain’s still there, but dulled a bit more with every passing day.
As I look back at it all, I’m not seeing a lot of clear “wins” in our column. But I do feel what Olympic runner Eric Liddell called “the pleasure of God”. As we continue to lick our wounds, I hear God saying to us, “I am so pleased with you. Daddy is proud!”
Though we’re flawed, we were faithful in this task the Lord gave us. And I really believe that faithfulness, even without victory, pleases the Father. We did the right thing, though it was hard and though we lost much.
Now as the dust settles, our hearts are a mess, but our eyes are focused on what we have left.
What’s left will assemble at that restaurant tonight (except for my teenagers, Lord bless ‘em). We adopted two little girls out of tough situations, and they now have a life they’d never have had before. We’ve fought the good fight, and for these girls, we’ve won. Now only God can take them away from us.
And who knows…maybe they won’t be the last two we adopt. In spite of everything that’s happened, we refuse to say “never again” to God.
I have noticed a subtle change in me through all this. I’ve noticed that my time with my two remaining daughters is more precious than ever. It’s as if God used the crisis to pull my attention away from my job (again) and back to my family. I guess that’s going to be a continuing project for Him. But I’ve probably done more things with Ellie and Gracie in the past two weeks than I did with all three of them for the last two months.
Funny how God often has to subtract from our lives to add value. How losing leads to finding, ugliness to beauty, suffering to joy.
Yes, this is what you can expect if you live your life sold out to Jesus. This is the part the motivational speakers and book promoters don’t tell you:
Trying to help will often get you hurt. So…help anyway.
No, I didn’t quite succeed at saving the world. There are still great wrongs out there and tremendous hurts. I’m just one guy – I never thought my actions alone were going to end suffering. In fact, in the end I only ended our little foster girl’s suffering for 14 months.
But there are two little girls in my house tonight who will never be hungry. Their biological mother sleeps in a tent tonight, somewhere in a wooded area of our city. I can only imagine what these girls would have already experienced if we’d not adopted them.
I shudder visibly as I try to picture them there in that makeshift tent. I can’t do it – I refuse to let myself even go there mentally. God has done something miraculous. He has saved the lives of two little girls and enriched my own life with joy immeasurable. And He gave me the honor of loving another little girl through her own painful experience, even if for only a short time.
It’s like the old story. A little boy is on a beach, tossing starfish burning on the sand back into the water. An old man comes by to smirk, saying, “Kid, there’s no way you can save them all. What you’re doing doesn’t matter.”
The little boy holds up one starfish and says confidently, “It matters to this one.” Case closed.
Tonight, I’ll take those two little girls by the hands. And as we’ve done before most every meal, we’ll say a blessing over the food. Why? Because all we have comes from God – the good and the bad, the easy and the hard parts of life as well.
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Who are we not to accept the tough times along with the happy times? Just like the prayer we prayed as kids, we now proclaim over whatever God sets before us in this next season…
“God is great. And God is good!”