Monday, June 24, 2013

Like a 3 Year Old - The Glory of God in Foster Care

Last Sunday, a couple of hours before we were to leave for church, Little Miss (our 3 year old foster daughter) stated, "I'm ready to go to church." I said, "We will in a couple hours." She responds, "I gotta put my church clothes on." So we play and hang out all morning, then about 30 minutes before we leave, I tell her that she needs to get dressed for church. "No," she said. Those of you with children at this age know that "no" is said freely and often. So I gave my usual response, which is something like, "Yes ma'am, we are going to put our church clothes on, we don't tell adults no." She then throws herself on the ground. I then say, "If you aren't standing up and putting your clothes on by the count of three, you're going to timeout. She slowly gets up, but when I get to three she says, "No, I don't want to." With that began a 15 minute fight to get her to do a three minute timeout where she stands in the corner and faces the wall with no screaming, crying, hitting things, or laying down. To be transparent, I was really pretty frustrated at the whole thing. I was thinking to myself, "Why did she throw that fit, when I know that she enjoys getting dressed up in her 'pretty dresses' to go to church and see our friends and play in the nursery? And on top of that, why won't she just take the discipline (three minutes of standing in the corner with no crying) so she can get out and be done with it? I wish she knew that I'm doing this for her own good, that she will learn to be obedient and respectful."

I then started thinking about how this played out much like my relationship with God plays out. As my Father, He wants me to love Him above else and serve Jesus as Lord and Savior. In doing that daily, I should live selflessly, sacrificially, loving others, taking up my cross, bearing others burdens, all in worship to glorify God our Father in Christ through the enabling power of the Spirit. Yet I screw up and drop the ball all the time. And not just well-intended mistakes where I tried really hard but just couldn't, but childish and selfish mistakes. I also look at circumstances where I either don't get what I want, or not in the time and place that I demand it, and (both figuratively and occasionally literally) cry and throw fits. Then, when discipline comes my way in order to test, shape, mold, teach, and sanctify me, I STILL resist and throw more fits. Instead of realizing that as believers that we are being disciplined because the Lord loves us and wants nothing more than to conform us into the image of His son, Jesus Christ, that we may have a more perfect communion with Him. Hebrews 12:7-11 (ESV) attests to this: "It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

Praise God that even when I don't want it, He loves me enough to strengthen me to persevere, that at the end of the day, "My soul makes its boast in the LORD." Psalm 34:2 (ESV)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Foster Care - He Bids Him Come and Die

"When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." Dietrich Boenhoffer.

When I first read this in Boenhoffer's book "The Cost of Discipleship" something inside of me stirred. My heart jumped inside my chest. A feeling of excitement permeated my body, but alongside it came an innate sense of fear, quickening my pulse. It is an altogether beautiful and terrifying quote. Boenhoffer refers to the call by the Lord Jesus that "if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23 ESV) How often do we really consider the cost of what Jesus is saying here? That if we are to come after him, which as Christians is the very purpose and goal, to pursue the Lord for His glory, then we are to die daily. And not a death that happens painlessly in your sleep after a long, full, rich life, but a bloody, gory, shameful, tortuous death. That is what the very definition of death on the cross. However, there is a promise in the very last two words of that sentence. If Jesus ended it before the "and" in the sentence, it would seem a very gloomy and terrible calling. However, Jesus said "follow me." When we take up our cross daily, we are following in the footsteps of the One who took up the cross already, "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God." (Hebrews 12:2 ESV) Christ already defeated sin and death and already purchased His bride, the church, by His blood. Therefore we have nothing to fear when we take up the cross, for while Christ's cross was one of wrath and condemnation, our cross is one of sanctification, making us more like our Creator in order for us to one day enjoy perfect communion in His presence and until that day to grow closer to Him and more like Him.

What does this all have to do with my experiences as a foster dad? Today I was reminded that these children first and foremost are not my own and that while they may call me Daddy and I may fill that role, there is no guarantee that it will be that way permanently. The thought sickens me. Even after one month, these children have captured my heart. But in my thoughts of despair and hopelessness, came the words of Dietrich Boenhoffer. "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." So simple. So elegant, So beautiful. Christ has called Christians everywhere to die to the flesh, to die to themselves, to die to their hopes and dreams. But not to wallow in death, but in order to be resurrected in Christ."Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him." (Romans 6:8 ESV) It isn't wrong to want to love foster children as your own and to treat them as such and it certainly isn't wrong to treat them as if they were to be permanently part of your family. My sin is in the questioning of God's will, thinking to myself, "God, why would it even be a possibility for us to not keep these kids forever? We love them so much and we take such good care of them. We can provide them with a loving Christian home. You can't take them away." The God of the universe has no reason to listen to me and every reason to rebuke my questions, yet He loves me and reminds me that regardless of the future with these kids, I am to love them as God loves His children, to take up my cross and follow Jesus.

"The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" (Luke 17:5 ESV) This is my prayer for myself and all the other foster parents God has called into this incredibly hard but incredibly fruitful ministry.