Expectations are funny things. Whether we know it or not, our life is full of them. Most of them are subconscious and many of them are reasonable. We all carry them with us throughout our day. We expect our boss to pay us for the work we’ve done, our children to outlive us, our car to start when we turn the key, and our spouses to come home or be at home at the end of the day. It’s part of life. This, however, doesn’t mean that they are always met. Sometimes the company goes under and you’re left without a job, sometimes the car doesn’t start, sometimes children die before parents, and sometimes marriages fail. It is in those moments, those failed expectations, that we are most vulnerable and most hurt.
I married a good woman almost 4 years ago. She is one of the best people to ever walk into my life. I like to say that I “hit the lottery”. Sweet and kind, beautiful and stylish, godly and true… I’ve never met anyone quite like her. I don’t deserve her, she deserves far better than me. We said our “I dos” before all of our friends and family on March 23, 2013. Some of our biggest mentors spoke during the service, we worshiped through song, Pastor Jimmy preached the Gospel, and my son proudly stood as best man. Short of coming to know Christ, it was the happiest day of my life.
What I didn’t know was that this wonderful marriage we both entered into that day came with a huge expectation that both of us shared. This unmet expectation was that we would soon be joined in our family by children of our own. Our infertility is unexplained. We’re both reasonably healthy people, we’ve both “passed” every test we could afford, we both tried everything we could try on our own. The results are plenty of doctors visits, plenty of false alarms, and plenty of sadness and despair over every failed pregnancy test. It’s easy to speak about God’s sovereignty, easy to quote Romans 8:28. It’s harder to live those truths. It’s hard to be brave for your wife, hard to “hear” “no” to your fervent prayers. It’s hard to see in the dark, let alone lead your family while you’re there. We wanted not just a baby, but a son or a daughter. In fact, we wanted a lot of them. When we courted we used to talk of having 6 or 8 kids. We even, optimistically, picked out names and would dream of what they might be like. Nothing quite kills that optimism like years of failed pregnancy tests.
One thing was always true for us; we never saw our children as being only biological. From the moment we started talking about having kids we both knew we wanted to adopt those in need of a good home. To us, adopting a child into our family is a great picture of Christ’s love for us; a picture we intended to show through our lives. Someday. It was always someday. “We’ll have a few of our own, then we’ll look into it.” Someday.
God changes hearts. He sanctifies His people. My wife and I are no different. He continues to answer “no” (we hope He means “not yet”) to our prayers for a baby of our own. But I stand confidently on His word that He has never abandoned us, and that we suffer this trial for our good and His glory. I believe we are suffering this trial because God intended to show us that our family is needed to do something else. I believe God has called us into foster care. On Monday, my bride and I signed the final papers to officially become foster parents. We had already begun to receive calls about children in need, but nothing panned out (typical for the system). Our day will come. Children will find themselves in the care of the state, in need of good parents, even if only while the real Mom and (hopefully) Dad resolve their own life issues. Our sinful world hurts children along with everything else it destroys. Families become broken, children abused and neglected. Children in this situation are a people group in need; and we are their missionaries.
For me, it’s a testament to God’s goodness in my own life as He has been faithful to mold and shape me into someone who looks more like Him as the years go on (I have a long way to go, that’s for sure). I still remember the days when I was scared of dealing with children and would tell people that I wasn’t “good with kids”. Today, I’m a Children’s Ministry Director and I find my mind wandering off into daydreams about kids in need of a good Dad; and how I very much want to fill that need. My prayers are almost consumed with the petition that I would do well with those kids. I want to represent my Lord well, I want to be the church and bring the church to innocent little ones who so desperately need it. What an honor to represent Christ to their little hearts and minds, what an honor to care for them at this critical time. Even if they aren’t “our own”; even if they never will be. Even if they are too young to understand why we’re doing it.
No doubt, my wife and I still want children of our own. I hope my wife becomes pregnant this month! Yet I ALSO hope to soon receive a call about some child we care for to learn that they will not return to their original home. We will be ready to welcome them permanently when that happens. And when they are settled, we’ll start over again with other children and we’ll wait again for another call. My prayers used to be for pregnancy, and they still are. Now they are also that God would enable us to be a loving home for children in need, and that we would be that loving home for years to come.
I’ve been alive and saved long enough to know that no good deed goes unpunished. We have many hard days ahead, many burdens to bear. For one thing, the government run system is fundamentally broken. It’s easily exploitable for money and spite, it defines “family” and “love” with all the pseudo-wisdom the world has to offer, and bad parents are given far too many chances to stop hurting and ignoring their kids. Worst of all, families like ours (the ones, God willing, actually HELPING the kids) are ignored and seen as nothing more than government contractors. The foster parent path is not an easy path for the servant of God; but it is nonetheless an important path for the church to travel.
A new chapter awaits my family, and we gladly embrace it. God does not call us in audible shouts or whispers, but rather in those burdens He places on our hearts through His word. For me… for us… we see this as one of the most important things we’ll ever do. Fill our walls with their pictures! Fill our pantry with diapers! The mission is clear: If we have a bed, a child has a home with us for as long as they need it. We welcome them in the love of Christ. And may God allow as many as He has appointed to one day call us their forever family. We most certainly welcome that too.