Quite a few of my friends are foster parents.
They are normal people who have normal jobs and normal hearts. They are imperfect just like me and you. Some of them have children who legally belong to them (adopted/biological), but some of them don't.
I've learned more about love in the last year than in my entire life.
Not fluffy, romantic, pretty and shiny love - messy, pain filled, and very non-shiny love. The kind of love I believe Jesus modeled (though, I am getting the picture that more Christians think His love is a lot more painless, selfish, and shiny).
I've learned about the kind of love that breaks you, continually.
Truth be told, I have been struggling with the current view this world has regarding Christians; I've been struggling because of the way we Christians have painted ourselves. It's our fault. We are seen now more than ever (in my small life) as interested in only our own safety. We are interested in making society bend to our morals and beliefs, forcing others into a world of what we deem as Right Living. We are interested in making America a "Christian nation," something I don't believe it ever has been or ever will be.
I've spent quite a bit of time shedding tears with one of my particular friends; she's a foster parent. I don't fully understand what it is like to live with trauma so thick in my home it's like you're breathing it. I don't know what it's like for the air to be thickened with pain, for the good days to be spent anticipating the blow up, the biting, the kicking, the purposeful-screaming. But I do know how to sit in the pain with her as she attempts to process what the heck is happening. Which is impossible.
[GOOD] Foster parent love is the kind that breaks you.
You choose to become a foster parent and in choosing that, you are choosing to break yourself. You are choosing to invite ugly, unjust trauma into your home and allow your entire life to exist in the limbo that is The System. The System that feels like a trap, The System that is meant to set families free but instead oppresses them, The System that makes it impossible to know who is to blame.
You are choosing to put away a fairy-tale picture of what "family" is for the sake of providing a safe home for vulnerable children.
You are choosing to break yourself in order to love.
Foster parents love like Jesus, inviting the broken and vulnerable, the hungry and undervalued and feared, into their homes. Into their hearts. Into their families. Foster parents invite the breaking of themselves for the sake of someone else. Sharing blood, skin color/race, religion, language, or anything doesn't matter. What matters is that they are adults deciding to welcome a whole person (the good, the bad, and the damaged), even at the risk of endangering their self.
Choosing to build your family through foster care guarantees a fragmented mess, fragile hearts covered up by dysfunction and detachment. It guarantees brokenness. It promises pain. It ensures loss on so many levels, we cannot even comprehend the depth.
Jesus invites us into His family; He let's us bring our mess and ugly and lay it out all over His home. He is the ultimate foster/adoptive parent, welcoming in our PTSD, our traumatized selves, our dysfunction, our baggage, our stigmas, all the things that make us worthy to be feared instead of accepted...and He welcomes us. He breaks Himself like bread and pours Himself out like wine, offering Himself as redemption and safety. He offers Himself as refuge when we have proven since the dawn of time to endanger His heart, His plan, His safety, His literal and physical life on earth.
Jesus broke Himself for us; He offered His physical body to be crucified and His spirit to endure the heaviness of Hell. All so we foreigners would be welcomed.
If the Gospel you're buying into isn't inviting, isn't welcoming, I would argue that you aren't buying into the Gospel of Jesus. If the Gospel you're buying into isn't all about breaking yourself for the sake of someone else's [abundant and whole] life, if it isn't about being a refuge for those who need it, I would argue that your Gospel isn't centered on or modeled around Jesus. At least not the Jesus I know and believe to my core to be King.
Jesus never models pursuing our own interests. Jesus never models pursuing our own safety. Jesus is scandalous and His grace is scandalous. His grace wrecks the "pretty" and "shiny" parts of us. His grace isn't pretty; it is gory, it is pain-filled, but it is redemptive.
Jesus lived an uncomfortable life. He modeled discomfort and the shedding of our shininess for the sake of the least, the less-than, the marginalized.
My foster parent friends? They love like this. They cash in "living the dream" and having the picture-perfect functional family, in exchange for welcoming the needy and claiming children society snickers at. They choose the less-than, the worthy to be feared, the fragmented humans, as their children. And it hurts them like Hell, because so much of these vulnerable children's lives is Hell - it is the opposite of His plan - it's unfair, it's ugly, and it's not shiny. But they would say somehow and some way it's worth it. That they wouldn't trade it.
I want to break myself to love like Him, even though it hurts like Hell.
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