By Jen Hinrichs
On a day in November, just shy of her first birthday, our foster baby’s great aunt came to our house to take her home. It was quick, but not painless.
Our hearts were broken, just like we knew they would be. But they are steadily mending, like we knew they would, too. Her aunt has called to tell us she is doing well, and has even sent some pictures. This does our hearts tremendous good. But it is still difficult to think about loving a child again who isn’t legally mine, because my heart doesn’t know the difference. A friend expressed it well when she said her heart needed a switch.
As I have processed the “why’s” of engaging the broken foster care system, I have come up with the following:
We live in a broken world, of which the foster care system is a part. God calls us to be His restorative agents of the broken things. We are not equipped to do this emotionally, physically, or mentally but He equips us. He loves us and these kids. Our hope is in Him, not the system.
When we pray over these precious children that we are stewards of for a short (or sometimes longer) time, we believe our Father hears us, and is already working in their lives.
We are unable to love the moms and dads of these kids on our own. They are the reason these kids are wards of the state, and are responsible for most of the trauma the kids experience. They are the natural “enemy” when our mission is to protect and nurture these children. However, the parents may have gone through the same things when they were children. They may never have been given a chance. They may have little hope. Perhaps we can be the people that offer them encouragement and hope, and point them toward the true Hope. Maybe we can be patient with them as they try to escape destructive lifestyles, and let them know we want to provide a loving home for their children while they try to get back on their feet. Maybe we can even build relationships with them, and offer them support when they get their kids back. I have seen this happen, and it is beautiful. It is most definitely more Christ-like than my judgment and self-righteousness.
How do you love your perceived enemies? God gives us love and compassion for them. I am amazed to see God changing my heart as I pray for our baby’s biological parents — that I feel grief for them, and hope God restores their lives, too.
As we all know, when we think we are sacrificing and helping someone else, God is usually helping us more than we could imagine. When the baby departed, she left behind expanded hearts in all of our family members (and church members, too). My kids, who didn’t necessarily love babies, loved her. And we are all better for it.
And even though we don’t consider ourselves racist, we have had to admit we don’t understand what it’s like to be a minority. When my husband walked into a gym with a lovely brown baby to watch our daughter’s volleyball games, he felt the heavy weight of stares. It made him even more protective and loving toward that baby knowing she would grow up feeling those stares, too.
Finally, the baby’s caseworker wrote me about her adjustment to her new home:
I am so glad that baby had the care that you and your family gave to her… a big part of the reason that she has adjusted as well as she apparently has is because your family gave her a very stable, loving, nurturing nine and a half months of care. She was, and remains, a very well-adjusted little girl which has enabled her to make a smooth transition to where she is now.
When we left your house with baby, the aunt was feeling horrible because she saw how hard it was for baby to leave your family. She said “you know this is a little bit right but it’s also a little bit wrong.” And I don’t think she could have said anything more true.
Someday I may reveal her face so you can see the little person who changed our lives. But for now, be certain she is not a faceless statistic. She is known and loved.
Jen has been married to her feisty, wonderful husband for 22 years, has 4 feisty, wonderful daughters, and one son-in-law that fits right into the ridiculous mix. She loves tutoring reading students, teaching parenting classes at the local crisis pregnancy center, and helping out in the church office. She appreciates a stout cup of coffee, sweet conversation, and just the right light for photography. Read more at Burden of Glory.