In our foster care journey we have been blessed and supported by so many people. This post isn’t a huzzah for us, but rather an attempt to speak to an issue that has become heavy for Christy and I. It is also carried by our children who have been beyond loving and compassionate with us in their care for others, and is a reality for so many who love those who are hurting or discarded.
Since I do occasionally get a chance to preach I had considered holding this until then, but there is truly an inherent danger which I have experienced in preaching with a personal agenda. Certainly there is a danger in writing that way as well but in our culture there is so much cache that goes into someone preaching that it’s better that I put these words and thoughts here.
When we have opened our hearts and homes to these children we have inevitably found that we are opening our hearts and homes to their extended families and realities. For us this has always begun with the mother and for each child that has come into our home Christy has carried a tremendous amount of love and concern for their mothers. While the rest of us have not experienced the level of care that Christy has her concern has greatly impacted each one of our family members.
- ‘They’re just scum’
- ‘Using the system’
- ‘Lock them up and throw the key away’
- ‘Stupid druggies’
You get the idea.
Folks, I struggle with this disease as well; Inability to Keep Mouth Shut.
This disease is further complicated by the fact that we live in the Bible Belt among well-meaning Christians who act as if we have to make a moral condemnation upon each and every person and every situation. It’s self-serving but it is our cultural pastime and appears to be more enjoyable than a game of baseball.
You don’t. You don’t have to comment on the assumed ‘badness’ of the mom or the family of the foster children that you see. We actually don’t have to do it about anyone, but for our family this has been a good place to start. Yes, these folks are obviously in need of help, direction, correction, and possibly much more – but they’re a child of God.
I know that we have attached a certain level of morality to that phrase – ‘child of God’ – but you can throw that away because that’s a construct of culture and not of God. But if there is a problem in seeing someone as a child of God a good place to begin is by recognizing them as a mother, daughter, niece, and just as a human being. If we can get to the point that we recognize someone as a human, we are very close to recognizing them as a child of God.
There is a story in Scripture that actually corresponds very well with this reality. It is the story of Hagar. Abused by Sarah and Abraham. Exploited for what she could provide; she finds herself in a situation in which there was no hope. A boy, his mom, and a desert. Death was certain. Out of fear for the great chieftain, Abraham, no one was going to come to her aid. She and the boy would die. Because of spite. Because of jealousy. Because some people were wealthy enough in their pursuit of their life that she could be used and discarded.
I can almost hear the tsking from here; 5000 years later. She probably led them on (scum). She really thought she could force them to bend to her demands (using the system). She’s lucky that Sarah let her leave (throw the key away). We’ll stop there.
But that’s not the end of the story. The story is that in her despair she is met by a messenger from God, an angel. The angel tells Hagar that she is not to weep for God has seen the child and he promised her that he would make Ishmael into a great nation. This is the same God that sees each child in care. Sees their condition and their families from where they came. Sees them wholly, and not in the ways that we have constructed that allow us to separate ourselves from them.
So the next time you feel the urge to make some moral condemnation on the condition of the children that are in care, or condemn their parents in a way that dehumanizes them, don’t do it with us. I would bet you facelifts to french fries that within five minutes you could find someone that would share your perspective and you all can happily commiserate.
But in the words of Bob Dylan;