“He must increase, but I must decrease.”–John 3:30
I have often cited the above verse when I spoke of those in ministry who seemed too eager for the spotlight. It’s an easy verse to use against someone else. But when the time comes to apply it to my own life, it’s not as easy.
I’ve heard it said that foster care is a calling that God places on someone’s life, and perhaps the most interesting twist about this calling is that some of the most powerful lessons are learned by the foster parents—not the children in care. I know this is true in my life, and the lesson I continue to struggle with is that John 3:30, while integral to my call, is powerfully at odds with my own selfishness. I would prefer that John the Baptist had said something like “Through service He will allow ME to increase.” But he didn’t.
My family and I have just come through our most difficult month in foster care to date. Feeling God’s leading, we opened our home to a fifth child—a 5 year-old little girl who had just been removed from a bad home situation. From the very first night, it was evident that this young lady was broken beyond what we expected. When circumstances did not go the way she wanted, the venom that would flow from her 5 year-old mouth left us all speechless. The old rhyme “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” had never rung so hollow. The words stung. Care to guess what my initial response was?
You got it. I was offended. It incensed me to see my wife and children treated with that kind of disrespect and verbal abuse. I was angry that someone who we were trying to help would respond with hatred. It was at this point that God brought John 1:11 to mind. This verse helped me realize that my focus on my own offense was not why she had been brought to our home. There was something else to be learned.
You would think that I learned my lesson and shifted my focus to where it needed to be, right? Nope. I immediately started thinking that maybe I was the missing element in fixing this girl’s brokenness. Maybe it was going to be the love of MY family that would cure her. The next two weeks proved me wrong once again.
As my wife and I spent hours in conversation about the situation, it became clear that for the good of everyone involved, this little girl would need to be placed with a foster family that was better suited to meet her needs. It was at this point that I began to see John 3:30 pop up in multiple places: conversations, Twitter messages, church sermons. I realized that I would need to swallow my own selfishness and realize that I was not the magic. HE must increase. I must decrease. We made the call to our caseworker and she was moved to another foster home.
So how does God get glory through my inability to help this little girl? The next week we found that not only was she able to reunite with her little brother and be placed in the same foster home, but the foster mother is a mental health professional who is perfectly equipped to properly address the needs of both children.
I know for certain that I could never have arranged those details.
God planned them before He said, “Let there be light.”
To God be the glory.
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