Finding Your Something in Foster Care

My brother-in-law and I live in the same town. Attend the same church. Eat at the same restaurants. Play on the same softball team, hang out at the same family functions and are both relatively quiet guys. But aside from those things, we couldn’t be more different.

My career has mostly involved standing on stages speaking to audiences or sitting behind computer screens writing at coffee shops. His, on the other hand, has in large part been spent in helicopters, flying top-secret missions into parts of the world most of us have never heard of to protect us from dangers most of us were never even aware of. While I went to seminary to study theology, he went to Army Ranger school to become one of the most highly-trained soldiers the United States military has ever produced. I respect him immensely, not just because he could break my arm with his pinky finger, but because he’s done something I probably never could, and because of men and women like him, I likely will never have to.

That’s the beautiful thing about being the same but different – we can do two entirely different things but they can work together for a common good. My respect for him is, in part, rooted in my gratefulness for doing what he’s done so that I don’t have to – but it goes both ways. I know him well enough to know that he has no interest in standing on stage and preaching to an audience. He’s perfectly content letting someone like me do it so that someone like him doesn’t have to. I can celebrate the benefits his work has had on my behalf and he can appreciate the benefits my work has on his. Our work, though vastly different, is mutually beneficial to each other.

THE BODY OF CHRIST IN FOSTER CARE

The imagery of a human body is consistently used throughout Scripture to illustrate the identity and activity of the Church – how the people of God relate to one another and function together. Some are hands and some are feet, some are fingers and some are toes, some eyes and some ears (1 Corinthians 12:14-20). In this diverse, interconnected system of parts, unique functions are given to unique individuals, not for their own good but for the good of the whole body (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). These roles are established not on the basis of rank, as if one person’s position was more important than another, but on the premise that when each member fulfills their individual responsibility the whole body will function better together for it.

In other words, we do what we do so that others don’t have to, and others do what they do so we don’t have to. Unique roles all serving the same purpose with equal importance That’s how our physical bodies work, and that too is how the Church most effectively operates. The point of scripture using this imagery? To communicate that we’re certainly not all called to do the same thing, but we are all definitely created to doing something.

The opportunities to get involved in foster care are as unique as each individual member of the body. Some will be lead to bring children into their homes and others will find ways to serve and support them. Different functions but of mutually beneficial importance. Ask the foster family if they feel more important than the families helping them with meals, finances or babysitting. I guarantee they’ll consider those supporters to be immensely important in the life of that child, even if they’re not necessarily the ones bringing them into their home. As a matter of fact they’ll see that support network as crucial in their ability to bring that child into their home. Unique functions, same purposes, all of incredible importance. These, and a variety of others ways, are how the Body of Christ can work together in foster care.

FIND YOUR SOMETHING

Part of discovering the unique, specific role God is asking you to step into includes identifying with clarity and confidence where He’s not leading you. We’re not all called to do the same thing, but we are all capable of doing something, and it’s essential you identify what your something is and what it is not. But how do you do that? Let me suggest a few things:

  1. Pray. Ask God to open your heart to His, and to protect you from the tendency to begin rationalizing and justifying so that you can just start obeying. The goal isn’t so much to find warm fuzzy feelings of comfort and peace – sometimes asking God for clarity results in Him leading us into some very precarious places that are hard and full of uncertainties. Be willing to hear that, and most importantly, accept that from Him. Let that be the posture of your prayers.
  2. Share with your community. If our unique role within the Body of Christ is given for the good of the whole, then who better to ask how we benefit the body most than the other members of the body? Community is a crucial filter for us in determining where and how God is leading. Share what you’re feeling with your community. Let them speak into it, encourage it and maybe even refine it some.
  3. Do some research. Educate yourself on the various ways there are to come alongside vulnerable kids and support the families who are. Read blogs, articles, books. Attend conferences and local agency orientation classes. Talk to families in your church that are already doing something and learn from their experiences. You’ll naturally begin to find that some opportunities are clearly not for you while others stir up a passion in you that you might not even have known had existed before. Don’t be paralyzed by all the options. Just start somewhere, it may not be where you eventually end, but at least you’ve started. That’s what’s important.

THE COMPARISON TRAP

We’ve all heard amazing stories of people who have fostered 50+ kids, adopted 12 of them, single-handedly funded an orphanage in Uganda and run an after school program for inner city kids out of their house. Okay, maybe not that extreme, but there are certainly those amazing stories out there that make many of us step back and think, “Wow, are you kidding me?! I could never do that.” It’s in times like those when it’s incredibly easy to compare what you are doing to what others have done and feel insignificant, to feel inadequate and to feel like what you’re doing is not enough.

Let’s be clear, “enough” is not determined by measuring yourself up to someone else; it’s defined by whether or not you are being obedient to what God has asked you to do. We all can’t do the same thing, but we can all find our something to do and do it. God will lead some people to do certain things that we can’t do and likely will never have to because of people like them. And that’s ok. That’s how the body of Christ works. Charles Swindoll once said, “When the Lord makes it clear you’re to follow Him in this new direction, focus fully on Him and refuse to be distracted by comparisons with others.” He’s right. Stop looking at what others are doing and just start doing what you’re supposed to do – and fight hard against the tendency to feel like you’re not doing anything because you’re not doing everything.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

Here’s three simple questions I have found helpful in discerning and discovering God’s unique and particular leading in my life. As you prayerfully consider your role in foster care perhaps your answers to these questions can help bring some clarity and direction for what your “something” is:

  1. What do you love to do? God has hard-wired each of us with different passions that fuel our drive to work, create, progress and contribute to the world around us. What do you love to do? What is life-giving to you? What would you do for the rest of your life even if you were poorly paid to do it, or not paid at all?
  2. What are you good at doing? God has made you uniquely good at something. For some it is overt and obvious – speaking in public, playing a sport, singing on stage, etc. For others, it’s more hidden and subtle – discernment, compassion, a hospitable spirt, etc. Whatever it is, God has given you what you need so He can use you how He wants to.
  3. What honors God the most? How can you do what you love, do what you are good at and at the same time do it in such a way that the person of Jesus is known more widely and more deeply as a result? When our work is viewed through this lens, even the most mundane tasks become meaningful, and the ordinary is done for a more extraordinary purpose.

The beauty of the diversity of the Body of Christ in foster care is that no one has to do everything, but everyone can do something.

Find. Your. Something.