Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Luggage (08/15/05)
TITLE: Fostering a Relationship
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The contemporary radio station which typically plays in my car became a thought provoking prod one afternoon as I drove home. Interrupting the faith-filled and uplifting songs was a commercial for a well-intentioned ministry in which they were requesting used luggage. They wanted this luggage for foster children who were being moved out of their homes and into foster homes. The announcer mentioned that through this ministry they had hoped to make children who had to be placed in foster care to feel better about them selves.
Sorry, but I became skeptical. Not because of the fact that I had not thought of this ministry or that I had issues with the church that had came up with the idea, but rather because I had walked a mile in the shoes of a foster parent. My immediate reaction was, “Yeah, great, love them from a distance—give them a used piece of luggage and tell them that Jesus loves them. It just isn’t going to get it.” I felt ashamed for my private outburst, but knew in my heart Jesus did not hand people things and hope they would feel better. He personally tended to their tangible, physical, spiritual and emotional needs and He loved on them. He didn’t give them some ‘thing’; He gave them (and us) Himself.
My husband and I are not reluctant to admit that we flunked foster parenting. Foster parenting was our idea. God had something better in mind. We became foster parents with one special teenager in mind. She carried a lot of her own ‘baggage’ into our home, but we were determined to make her learn to love. We are strong minded people and we are usually quite determined to accomplish the goal we have set out to achieve. Fostering this child would be easy for us. We could not have been more wrong. She ran away, after only three months of being in our care. It broke our hearts to watch the sheriff place handcuffs on her and help her into the backseat of his squad car. She was taken to juvenile detention and then back to the children’s home from which we had rescued her. We felt like we had failed.
What we realized too late was that we expected her to become like us. We wanted our Christianity to change her and mold her into our expectations. The black clothes, the body piercing, the wild hair colors were things we tolerated but did not truly accept. We honestly, had tried to slap a band aid on her deep emotional problems by taking her to church, we expected her to immediately appreciate all that we had done for her and we wanted her to be Godly, like us, instantly. Kind of like a microwave dinner.
Quick fixes and simple solutions will not change hearts nor change lives. It might appear to be happening on the outside, but the deep rooted change only comes through sticking it out through the tough times, and letting that person grow into the person God wants for them to be. Offering prayer, unconditional love and encouragement is a good place to start. However, it cannot stop there. One must be willing to build and sustain a relationship. Loving people from a distance might keep your hands clean but it won’t change lives. You realize the vastness of God’s grace when you are able to love people despite their open sores and nasty habits.
Our foster child now calls us her God parents. All praise is offered unto Our Heavenly Father and His redemptive grace. Forgiveness and restoration have taken place. In less than 3 weeks (but who is counting!), she will be packing her luggage to come home. She has spent the last year in Korea, while serving in the Army.
I still stand in awe at what God has done for this child, and it was an eye-opener to realize He could do it without us and our good intentions. However, I am so thankful He has still allowed me to be part of her life. And now, I love her with or without her baggage.
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