Two years ago I became a foster parent. The experience has challenged me every day since.
Caring for someone else’s kid who is suffering the effects of sin, trauma and poverty should not be my problem. On more than one day I’ve wanted to quit, push reset, and get back to my happy and somewhat quiet household. “We can make this stress go away,” I’ve said to my wife.
But after I’ve thrown my fit, I listen. God speaks. “I love these kids as much as yours. I’ve placed my church on this planet to care for the suffering and outcasts because I care for the suffering and outcasts. But you want to quit? You want to make it someone else’s ‘problem?’ I care for you even though you don’t make it easy. I took on the sins of the world, yet you don’t want to give up your seemingly predictable, quiet, middle class lifestyle to help carry the burden of kids who need love and a safe place to live?”
Ouch. I get it. So I stand back up, dust myself off, quit my whining, and go back into a loud and crazy house for the sake of the gospel and not my own.
And therein lies the challenge. The issue for suburbanites like myself is not having another cause. We have plenty of them. From donating at the grocery store, to special collections at church, to races that raise money to fight such and such. Causes are everywhere.
Our challenge is not money either. We’ve got plenty of that. At my church, if you need help with rent and utilities, we’ve got you covered. We need to raise money for a mission trip, bam! Done! If we ask for food or other donations to help a local ministry, you better have the bins ready because they will be overflowing.
No the real challenge is not finding a cause or giving money. We hold something much more dear to us than finances. We protect our TIME and our COMFORT at all costs.
I’m guilty of this. It’s why I’ve wanted to quit being a foster dad so many times. Our family was already busy enough. We didn’t really have the time to take in other people’s kids, make sure they got to their therapy appointments, meetings with lawyers, home visits by social workers, etc.
It’s not like my wife and I looked at our calendar and said, “You know what. For the next several years we really don’t have much going on. Why don’t we take in stranger’s kids and see where that goes?”
Our life was busy enough. Plus, life was good and we were by and large comfortable. That must be God’s will after all…a safe, comfortable home where your kids are growing, overscheduled, and going to church on Sundays.
We suburbanites live where we do for the comfort, for the convenience of close grocery stores, gyms, schools and places for our kids to play. We lobby to keep trouble out of our neighborhoods, not invite it in.
Sure, we admire people who serve others in radical ways. But we don’t want that for ourselves. We’re glad someone else is doing it. We value our comfort and time way too much to feel like its also something we should do.
If you need money, we’ll reach into our pocket. If you need donations, we’ll run to Wal-Mart. If we can volunteer when its convenient, sign us up.
But our personal time and comfort are another story.
And maybe that’s the way it should be for some folks. Not everyone is called to be a foster parent. (And I just use foster parenting out of my own experience. Insert going to the nations, adopting, discipling,etc. )
We need respite care and babysitters, people who will donate to help when kids come into the home.
But let’s be sure we’re not avoiding making a greater sacrifice. I’m no martyr just for being a foster parent. I’m only sharing what I have learned about myself and seen in suburban church life.
Unfortunately, churches often have very low expectations for their members. We are afraid of the ‘big ask.’ Just sit and listen. Attend. Donate. Volunteer. Get in a small group and talk about spiritual things. And you’ll be fine.
Church staffs spend their time planning and marketing low risk opportunities. We schedule serving when its convenient, avoiding certain days because of college football, possible summer vacations, and the like.
We don’t ask too much or else people might stop coming and stop giving. All the while, Scripture screams at us about God’s priorities. Proclaim my gospel. Embody my gospel. Go to the nations. Care for the widow and the orphan.
We see how he judges his people for their lack of obedience, not necessarily their lack of church attendance. We see how he brings down condemnation on hypocrisy and easy religion.
Yet we don’t think that applies to us. We are not them. Ours is a different day and a different situation. God knows we are busy. He knows we don’t have the bandwidth to really get involved in people’s lives, like being a foster parent.
So we turn our heads. Attend another service. Sit in another Bible study. And nothing really changes.
That was me. That still is a big part of me. But that part is losing its appeal.
James calls it “worthless religion.” It’s easy and non threatening. And I want no part of it.
God has blessed us suburban Christians. But to whom much is given, much is expected. He sacrificed his own Son so that we might know him. He took on our sin, carried our burdens, to bring us into his kingdom.
500,000 kids are in the US foster system. 13,000 in Georgia. 900+ in Dekalb county. The government wants our help. We Christians can meet this need. Are we too busy? Are we too comfortable?
The thing I’ve learned about foster care is this, it doesn’t challenge my finances. It challenges my heart, my priorities, what I truly value. I guess whenever we take on the burdens of another that is true.
The gospel, at the end of the day, calls us to alter our lifestyles not just our schedules.
Perhaps if Jesus showed up in many suburban churches today he wouldn’t say, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” He might say, “Give me your home, your family, your precious time and comfort,” instead.
“And in return, I’ll show you grace you’ve never known. Together we’ll do what you never could have imagined. We’ll make my name great among the nations and even in your cul-de-sac. And you’ll meet some awesome kids along the way.”