Once you have seen foster care for the crisis it is, you cannot un-see it

My husband said something oddly unexpected the other day. He looked at me and shared that he felt more content than he has in years. I let that happiness settle over me with awe. What does that feel like? To have peace rest over you and not yearn for more.

It should be noted, this is new for my ambitious husband. He is a talented musician and humble, genuine pastor who is always striving. Striving to learn more about theology, learn a new instrument, or better understand Audio Visual systems. This past year and a half he finished a second master’s degree, started and finished his first year in his PhD program, taught himself electric guitar, and the list goes on. For him to say, “I know the goals I have with school and ministry, but I don’t feel anxious or antsy when I think about accomplishing them. I don’t feel guilt, I don’t feel like I am lacking or restless, but I finally feel settled where I am.”

Here is what makes this so fascinating to me. When we were dating and early married, I remember the times I saw the Lord open his eyes towards ministry and direct his path with more and more clarity. I remember seeing how growing in the ministry was what made him light up, what made him flourish, and is what finally made him feel truly content. He heard, saw, and felt the Lord’s calling and knew he was exactly where he was called to serve. We take for granted what a gift that can be. To know where you are called and to grow and be excited and ultimately find peace in His will.

I remember one of those moments for me, a moment when I truly saw God’s calling for my life and knew where He wanted me serving. I can tell you where I was, what clothes I was wearing, and the clarity that washed over me like a tidal wave of answers to questions I had for years.

The moment happened after a long, exhausting, and emotionally-taxing week at Seven Homes. The vulnerability, humility, and anger gushed as I vented my frustration with the foster care system. There I shared my anguish over the fact that so many people were blind to ministry fostering can be. Despite all the negative emotions rushing through my body I realized I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else or fighting for something other than the precious gift of safety for vulnerable children in need. Our director looked at me and said, “You finally see it, you truly and fully SEE foster care, don’t you?” Mind you, my husband and I had previously been foster parents for several years with a handful of cases and I had worked professionally in the field for 2 years. I had been serving obediently in the ministry for many years but my eyes had still not been opened to the calling.

Let that thought sink in, "I truly SEE foster care." I questioned what caused this pivotal point for me in my journey that I had missed in the years before. I realized that we had walked through difficulties in foster care and it always felt like too much. This typically resulted in temporarily walking away or changing my focus personally or professionally. However, for one of the first times ever I knew I never wanted to, nor would I be able to turn away. I understood that despite that difficult week I endured, that I had never felt more in awe of the God I serve, nor had anything ever taught me so much about grace and faith.

I saw how foster care shaped my faith and brought me closer to the Lord. I realized that even on the challenging weeks with all the heavy emotions of this messy ministry, I cannot unsee the calling because of the gift it was to me. I could no longer ignore and devote my energy and service to anything else. Much like the peace my husband found in his calling, I found resolve in the pursuit of loving these children, serving the families who care for them, advocating, and educating others about the beauty that can be found in the brokenness of foster care.

Foster care is messy and difficult. It stretches you, it breaks you, and humbles you in a way like no other. I have always been able to identify the brokenness in the system. The stories you hear, the infuriating decisions made in court, the trauma children endure and the tendency to treat foster parents like babysitters. There is so much brokenness. Those aspects that frustrate me also motivate me to advocate fiercely for Christians to walk into that mess for the sake of the children, but also for their own faith and understanding of grace. However, I still struggle sometimes to find the beauty and appreciate it in a way that leaves me deeply satisfied and full of peace.

I thought about my husband and the peace that comes over him the way he speaks about worship. Peace settles his ambitious spirit because of the beauty he sees in worship, and the breath-taking view of a congregation pouring out their hearts humbly before their Savior. To experience deep moments of connecting to our faith and to other believers by the act of acknowledging our own brokenness and receiving Christ’s presence in worship. We would not be able to worship in our hearts or corporately in such a beautiful way without the brokenness of the cross. It was the cross that brought redemption, forgiveness and ultimately, beauty out of brokenness.

Jed Medefind of Christian Alliance for Orphans spoke one year ago at their annual conference on the intersection of beauty and brokenness that can be found in that juxtaposition. My husband finds that intersection when he leads worship and it is there, he truly finds peace. His eyes are opened to His calling and he has no desire to turn from it.

In foster care, finding the beauty can be challenging day in and day out because that brokenness feels ever-present when caring for children from trauma. However, we must appreciate that healing can only come once brokenness has occurred. Beauty is found in little moments of being grateful for the progress our children make and watching them heal. It is found when children go back to healed and healthy parents and become a family again, or when a child is adopted after hundreds or thousands of days in care. Beauty is easily identified when court decisions bring relief and we see more people walk obediently into this ministry. There is beauty to be found all around and once you see that reality, truly see it, you cannot look away.

If you see foster care and choose to do something about it, you will walk through brokenness, and sometimes that is a difficult reality to accept. However, we remind ourselves that there is an intersection where you can simultaneously experience both brokenness and beauty in a miraculous way. My flesh only wants the beautiful moments and not the broken. However, when I receive both of those extremes together, I can appreciate my calling without looking away. What I realized this week is that the reason I cannot divert my eyes is not only because of the vulnerable children we serve but because of what foster care teaches me as a wife, mother and Christian. In living this calling, I learn how to search for the harmonious co-existence of the two realities, brokenness and beauty. Ultimately, this is what keeps me searching for God’s heart, and in finding Him my eyes are opened, and my heart can truly find peace.