Near the end of the Pixar movie, Finding Nemo, our cute little clown fish, Nemo, encounters yet another crisis when his new friend, Dory, gets swept up with hundreds of tuna fish in a giant fishing net. In a beautiful exchange, Nemo tells his dad (with whom he has just been reunited) that he knows what to do. Marlin, battling the effects of past trauma, reluctantly allows his son to spring into action. Together they instruct all the fish in the net to “swim down.” The downward pressure of thousands of tuna swimming in unison begins to tear the nets that bind them. It’s only a matter of moments before this giant mass of tuna (and Dory) breaks through to freedom.
When it comes to big problems, real and lasting solutions require everyone heading in the same direction.
When it comes to foster care in the U.S., most advocates in our communities and professionals in our county offices start out with a clear direction: they want to see kids safe and families restored. However, over time, the nets of bureaucracy, powerlessness, overwhelming need and limited resources cause us to feel trapped. We eventually settle for incremental change and hope for “just a little better.” It is easy to lose sight of what it would mean to have families readily waiting for children instead of children waiting for families.
But, the truth is, we do have some small glimpse into what that looks like. In the world of adoption, it is common knowledge that there are extensive waiting lists of families waiting for healthy infants. While this is difficult and frustrating for the prospective parents who wait, when it comes to children who need families, it is exactly what we should want. Better an anxiously waiting adult than a child left to feel unwanted. Better a giant pool of parents to choose from for a perfect match than settling for the next person who answers the phone.
When it comes to kids in foster care, I pray for a day very soon where the country is full of frustrated and anxious adults eagerly waiting for the privilege and opportunity to love a 9-year-old girl for a few months while her mom finishes up rehab or the chance to adopt and delight in a 14-year-old boy with autism who loves playing with straws or mentor a 17-year-old who has good reason to believe that adults are liars but is still willing to let one take him out to ice cream once a week.
When those in the church are eagerly willing to love hurting people, we become the embodiment of a Savior who leapt out of heaven into a feeding trough for animals so that He could expose himself to leprosy, be ridiculed by the powerful, and endure abuse at the hands of those He came to love.
We’ve been commanded to love vulnerable children. So what does it look like when God’s people hear one of His commands and their response is over the top?
In Exodus 35, Moses delivers the message to the Israelites that God has commanded them to bring the supplies needed to build the tabernacle. This included gifts of gold, silver and bronze, yarn and fine linen, goat hair and ram skins, acacia wood, olive oil, spices, incense, onyx stones and other gems. Not only that, but He then commanded everyone with skill to chip in and create everything: the tent and its covering, the ark with its poles and the atonement cover, the curtain that shields it, the table, the lamp stand and lamps, the altar, the curtain for the doorway at the entrance to the tabernacle, the altar of burnt offering, the bronze basin, the curtains of the courtyard, the tent pegs for the tabernacle and their ropes, and the woven garments worn for those ministering in the sanctuary. That is a big list.
It was a complex and expensive undertaking and it was all hands on deck. The passage describes the people’s response to this command in beautiful detail but it can be summed up in Exodus 35:21:
“everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments.”
Everyone brought what they could willingly give. Those with stuff brought stuff. Those with skills brought skills. And when everyone did their part, check out what happened:
They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.” Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work. — Exodus 35:4-7 (emphasis added)
What the people of God did here was to simply reflect something in God’s very character: A capacity and a willingness (perhaps even a compulsion) to provide more than enough. We serve a God, that, for whatever reason, likes to over-deliver.
When the Israelites were wandering in the desert looking for food to eat, God provided Manna for them. He didn’t provide “not enough.” He didn’t provide “just enough.” He provided “more than enough.”
When Jesus threw an impromptu luncheon for 5000 on the side of a hill, He didn’t provide “not enough.” He didn’t provide “just enough.” He provided “more than enough.”
When Jesus came across some tired fishermen who had been out all night and had caught nothing, He told them to cast their nets on the other side. He didn’t provide “not enough.” He didn’t provide “just enough.” He provided “more than enough”.
I believe we serve a God that desires to provide for hurting children and families in this same way. He won’t provide “not enough.” He won’t provide “just enough.” He will provide “more than enough.”
This begs the question, when it comes to foster care, what does “More Than Enough” look like? We believe it looks like four things:
- More than enough foster and kinship families for every child to have an ideal placement
- More than enough adoptive families for every child waiting for adoption
- More than enough help for biological families trying to stabilize and reunify
- More than enough wrap-around support from the church for foster, kinship, adoptive and biological families
For the Christian foster care advocate, I believe that praying and fighting for “more than enough” in every one of the 3,142 counties in the country is our version of “swimming down.” It’s going to take you and others working together in your county to do the same. It’s our rallying cry and when we choose this as our destination and go there together, great things will happen.