I once had a dog named Zit. I got her (yes, her) for my 14th birthday. At that age, it seemed to me like a completely reasonable and appropriate name for a dog. Now that I’m the father of several kids including a couple of teenagers, I can see the extraordinary amount of restraint it must have taken for my parents to let me give this name to the family dog. After all, only 4 years later I was off to college and they were left with this dog (adorable as she was) that they had to introduce to guests and strangers as “Zit.” Good people, those parents of mine.
Responses from strangers were consistently puzzled – “did you say Zip?”
“No, it’s Zit.”
But there was a follow-up phrase that always helped make sense of it all: “Our teenage son named her.”
That, of course, cleared everything up. As it turns out, the “it was the teenager” approach is really a handy way to explain away quite a number of things.
Sometimes confusing things don’t require complex answers. A few simple words can clear it all up.
Twice a year we and a team of people from our church help to lead a 4-week class on considering adoption and foster care. For people who are just beginning to explore this process, it can all seem really confusing. There are different types of adoption and different perspectives on foster care. If you’re not careful, it becomes really easy to overwhelm someone right out of considering adoption or foster care at all. I was reminded again at last week’s class that there is one simple idea that is really useful to clear a lot of these things up for people:
Adoption and foster care is ultimately about obedience to God.
Yes, there are a lot of things to consider. Yes, there are people to talk to, articles, books and blog posts to read, and classes to attend. But at the end of the day, each person has to earnestly seek God and determine whether adoption or foster care is something He is asking them to do right now. If it is, then it’s important to obey and move forward. If it’s not, then it is just as important to obey and stop pursuing it.
It’s all about obedience.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that knowing exactly how God is leading can be confusing in and of itself. I’ve most often found that He reveals Himself not just through one moment or one experience, but rather through a “concert” of things all working together.
Here are four of those things I believe are particularly important in determining God’s direction regarding foster care and adoption (or any other decision for that matter):
Yes, I know … this one is obvious. However, lets explore what it really means when we talk about prayer in this context. Prayer is not just about asking God a question and hearing the answer and then going and doing the answer. Rather prayer is a means of consistently entering God’s presence and ultimately seeking to align our desires with His. A heart aligned with the heart of God, produces decisions aligned with the will of God.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
The best view into our hearts often comes through the eyes of others. Asking people around us whose lives we admire and want to emulate can be a great source of wisdom and direction. I can remember key times in life where really confusing decisions were cleared up by trusted friends who listened and then asked a couple of wise but simple questions.
Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.
Again, this one seems pretty obvious, but sometimes we can tend to want God to “speak”, but then treat the words He has already spoken through His word a little casually. Also, we often look to His word to tell us what to do when He is instead using His word to tell how to do them.
Your word is a lamp to guide my feet, and a light for my path.
Your Current Circumstances
This one is both important and dangerous. On one hand, an available opportunity can be God’s provision. On the other hand sometimes what seems like an open door can be a distraction from the things that God has for us. In any case, it is important to consider our current circumstances and consider whether the opportunities available are in fact the hand of God moving us in a certain direction.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
I think the most important part of all of this is viewing these four areas in concert with one another. Any one of these four things used in isolation can easily be misconstrued because of how our own desires filter things. Maybe we have a particularly moving prayer time or come across a single verse and then draw much larger conclusions based on those isolated instances. Looking at all the ways that God uses to guide us in concert with one another can help us stay on the right track.
And then when God’s direction for us becomes apparent, all that’s left is to obey. So while coming to a decision about foster care and adoption can be overwhelming, bringing it all back to the simple of idea of seeking God’s will and then doing it, can bring everything back into focus. And if you have a pet named after something gross or weird, just remember this line: “It was the teenager.”
This post originally appeared in our Foster Roster e-newsletter which is delivered each Friday. We keep it short and sweet and fill it with practical articles, videos, blog posts and other tools for leaders like you working to help kids and families in foster care. To sign up, go to http://bit.ly/1rwn6eO.