My foster son has been on my mind a lot lately. Not because he’s been particularly bad or amazingly well-behaved–he’s a typical 2 year-old. Even on days when he is operating from the Terrible Two’s playbook, I haven’t given a single thought to calling his case worker and telling her that it’s just not going to work out. I love that little kid, regardless of what he does. This kind of love means that he can rest assured that he is safe with my family. It also means that I have the potential to be crushed.
When the subject of foster care comes up, I’ve heard many people make comments like “I think that what you’re doing is so great…but I just couldn’t handle getting attached to a child and then have to give them back.” While I understand what they’re trying to say, at the same time I have to wonder if they think my family and I have a special, separate kind of love that we reserve for our foster children—one that holds something back. As I sit here and look at a picture of his smiling face, I can assure you I’ve held nothing back from this little boy. Simply put: he is my son.
During these conversations, the question that comes next is “How do YOU do it?” Normally, I have fallen back on the well-rehearsed answer of “Well, we just love him while we’ve got him. That’s all we can do.” Nods & smiles follow, and the conversation usually ends there. Lately, my thoughts haven’t ended there.
These exchanges have made me realize that there are things in this life that we take for granted. We assume that just because our biological or adoptive children are legally ours, we can just love them at our leisure. After all, they’re not going anywhere, right? There’s no sense of urgency. Nobody ever asks, “What if you lost your daughter through some tragic event, how could you handle that?” or “What if your son grows up to disown you and rebel against everything you have tried to teach him, will you just be thankful for the time you had with him?” We don’t think about these things, and by default we often wind up loving our children very passively.
The truth is none of us know how long we have any of our children. Being a foster parent has opened my eyes to the fact that we need to love all of our children intensely and intentionally, and we need to make sure they know it–every single day.
Biological, adopted, foster…these are labels that can be dropped when it comes to loving our kids. Loving them is easy at times, difficult at others. I’m sure God would say the same thing about us. In fact, He has. Scripture routinely points out that even when we’re on our very best behavior we can do nothing to earn or deserve God’s love. (Romans 3:23, Isaiah 64:6) The love of our Heavenly Father is intentional (Romans 5:8) and it’s selfless–John 3:16 says “For God so loved, that He GAVE…” He didn’t send Jesus to die for certain people that qualified. God gave His son, Himself, for all of mankind. John 15:13 shows us that there is “no greater love than this.” If we call ourselves children of God, then shouldn’t we do everything we can to be like our Dad? That’s the only way that our children are going to see the best example of how to love their own families one day.