“Adoption is expensive.”
“Adoption is for people who can't have their own children.”
“Adoption is scary.”
“Adoption is a special calling.”
These are some of the comments I've heard repeatedly throughout the years, and even said to myself at times. But the truth that I've come to embrace is that adoption is for God's people. Not for some of His people, but for all of His people.
While not everyone will adopt (or get married or have children at all), there are ways for each and every one of God's people to come alongside vulnerable families and children, and doing so is not only pleasing to the Lord but also fundamental to the identity of the body of Christ in a hurting and broken world.
My husband and I didn't wake up one day and have an epiphany from the Lord that we should grow our family through adoption. Our decision to adopt came through years of seeking the Lord, asking how we might live out Scriptures like Isaiah 1:17, which says, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.” How could we reconcile countless such Scriptures with our own lack of action? How could we be a part of bringing justice to the fatherless and correcting oppression? Over the years, it became clear that one of the most practical ways we could walk in obedience to this command was to open our home to children in foster care.
Fostering is the scariest thing I've ever done.
Fostering and adoption is a tangible need in a very dark place—a place that desperately needs the Church to bring light. In Denton County there are currently close to 800,000 residents; yet, there are less than 40 active foster homes. Roughly 80% of the hundreds of children in foster care are placed outside of our county because there is no room for them here. Siblings have been separated and placed as far as five hours away from each other, making visits impractical, if not impossible. The need is clearly there. The world is hurting while it waits for the Church to be the light in these dark, broken, messy places.
I know—because I've thought and heard it countless times—that many of us initially react to the suggestion of foster care by thinking, “I could never do that; I could never love a child only to lose them after a year.” And what I want to say is this: You're right. You never could. And I never could. But God can—and He does.
Where we are incapable, He is able (2 Cor. 12:9). God calls you and me to be a part of bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth by being shining lights in the dark and broken places (Matt. 5:14). That doesn't mean it's not scary. Fostering is the scariest thing I've ever done—strapping the children I love into a stranger’s car, watching them disappear into the distance believing that I would never see them again, never hear their laughter or the sound of their names echo through the walls of my home again—that’s a terrifying reality.
But the truth of God's love and redemption—the fact that the Son of God sought me out (Luke 19:10), inconvenienced His life and paid a high price for me (1 Cor. 6:20), offered Himself to bring me into His family through adoption (Gal. 4:4-7)—this truth frees me to love unconditionally. It frees me to be fearless in the face of what is frightening. It frees me to stop making things about me and my plans and make everything about the Lord and His plans. So even when the children I had hoped and longed for were gone, my greater hope, my ultimate motivation—to love these children that the Lord loves because the Lord loves them—was not lost.
This is the kind of motivation that allows the Church to be the Church and walk in dark places without losing hope. If our hope is in the Lord, it cannot be shaken. He remains when things don't go our way, or our family doesn't look like we planned, or our children get sick or don't behave how we want, or we find we cannot get pregnant, or the adoption falls through in the 11th hour, or the children we have loved in foster care move on and we have to say goodbye. In all of these moments, we have a greater hope that isn't touched. We can continue walking forward, extending grace, shining light, enacting love and supporting vulnerable children and families—sometimes with joy and sometimes in pain, but always for the Lord and always with hope.
I didn't walk through this perfectly as a foster parent. There were many days when I cried out bitterly to the Lord, feeling like He had abandoned me. I wondered, “Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His compassion?” (Ps. 77:9) I was shaken to my core when things fell apart because I was still at the center. I had missed this truth—that God is at the center and He is our ultimate pursuit—and it took me losing the children I loved in order to realize that it was never about me. I didn't become a foster parent for myself or even for the children I cared for; I did it for the Lord. I loved these kids for a year and then said goodbye because the Lord loves me, He loves them, and He tells me to love them, too.
This invitation to love and pursue the vulnerable doesn’t just extend to me, it extends to each and every one of us—whether you foster, adopt or have children at all. There is a place for each of us to be involved in serving the vulnerable among us whom our God so ferociously loves. Together as one family, learning to do good, we seek to bring justice and correct oppression in different ways (Isa. 1:17).
For some of us, obedience will look like adoption or becoming a licensed foster home. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is a good place to start for information on fostering and adoption. (If you don’t live in Texas, use this list of state foster care information websites.) For others, obedience may look like serving a foster or adoptive family in your community by bringing them meals, mowing their lawn or becoming an approved babysitter, so they can have an occasional break. It may look like donating money or volunteering your time at an organization like the following. These ministries serve the vulnerable, oppressed and fatherless, and there are many ways you can get involved:
YoungLives is a ministry of Young Life that supports teenage mothers.
Grace Like Rain is a local ministry that partners with vulnerable families before they are broken apart, offering assistance and support in order to keep families from being separated in the first place.
Journey to Dream is opening the first homeless shelter for teenagers in Lewisville, Texas, that will be a safe place for some of the more than 400 homeless teenagers in our community between the ages of 13 and 18.
Psalm 10:14 says that our God is “the helper of the fatherless,” and James 1:27 calls the Church to action, saying, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” As we seek to become a community of life—a people who value the things that the Lord values—I believe that these truths will have compelling implications for how we live our lives, invest our time and grow our families. This pursuit will indeed lead to God's glory and our joy.