The past few weeks, my husband and I have been reading Philippians in our nightly Bible readings. The past couple weeks have been filled with hard news, and it seems that God has been preparing us with his word, and timing it to be read right when we need it. Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised.
One week ago, we received news that our little one is going to be reunified. Yesterday, that path was confirmed in court. We know very little about the timeline, but his case worker hopes that he will be with his biological family sooner rather than later.
Our hearts are breaking. We have thought more and more over the past five months that there might be a chance of adoption in our future with this little person. It turns out that we were wrongfully told this information. There is still a while to go before reunification happens, and for that time, we are so grateful. But yesterday was spent largely in weeping, in grieving, in trying to comprehend all that we were going to be giving back: baby’s first Christmas, foster-daddy’s birthday as a threesome, baby’s first birthday, hearing “mama… dadda…” We wept for the memories that we have already made: when I saw him for the first time at the hospital, so tiny, so small, with the most beautiful brown eyes and dark hair I have ever seen. The first week at home, when neither of us wanted to put our little one down, when all we wanted was to look at him. The Sundays at church, with everyone watching his growth, praying for his health, and giving us every supporting hand and encouraging word new parents could wish for. The long nights of feedings, singing hymns as lullaby’s over and over again, realizing that he knew our voices and looked for us when we were out of his sight. Watching as our little dog, Dekker, learned to treat this tiny human as the newest and most precious member of the pack. Taking our little person to see extended family, or when extended family came to visit us. Rocking our little one to sleep on the Island in northern Indiana. Watching my family and Thomas’ family welcome him with open arms. Yes, we are grieving.
And then we opened our Bible, and began to read.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in his love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Christ has given us far more than we ever dreamed in becoming foster-parents. He has sent us friends, family, a church, and a school where encouragement, comfort, fellowship, affection, and sympathy have abounded. We can rest in these, even if they had been less abundant. God is good, and gracious, and loves us. In return, we are called to have the same mind with each other. If I was simply to have the same mind with Thomas, this calling would be hard enough. We think so much alike, and even have adopted each other’s mannerisms (our students are VERY quick to point this out), but we still do not see eye-to-eye on many accounts. But, our calling extends even further. As foster-parents, we are called to have the same mind as case managers, case workers, biological parents, older siblings, other foster parents, judges, and lawyers: what is best in the long-term for this child.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
How often have I dreamed of seeing this little boy on his first day of Kindergarten, taking my love, encouragement, and my last name with him. We realized as we read this verse, that all of our dreams held ourselves up as most valuable. Biological parents, siblings, everyone else easily faded away into the background. But we are called to the opposite. And that is hard. Not only do I need to think of myself less, I need to allow God the room to show just how much better someone else can be.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Such a short verse, but it is so convicting. Yes, I can look to my own interests. It’s ok to dream about what the future might look like, to invite God to astound us with his plan. But, that plan, those dreams, must also include and promote the interests of others, regardless of where they stand in relation to me and our little one.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
In our hearts, we have tried to grasp equality with God. We have teased each other about how he looks like me, but smiles for Thomas. We have dreamed aloud about watching him attend the same school where Thomas teaches. We have planned out how to start helping to pay his college expenses, and where we want to travel with him. But, yesterday, God reminded us, yet again, that we are not Him. We found ourselves facing our own pride in despair: if God wants us to have the same mind as everyone else, then we will HAVE to give up this beloved child, and all of our dreams, hopes, and plans with him. If God calls us to “empty” ourselves, then this is probably one of the most terrifying ways of doing so. If all I do is empty myself into the children of others, only to say goodbye, then I will surely become a withered woman. But emptying myself is only part of the task ahead. It is also to be a servant to those very people that I have tried so hard to ignore. I must be a servant, loving mothers, siblings, fathers, case workers, judges, seeking to serve them utterly by loving someone else’s child for as long as needed, as short as that time may seem to me.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
In panic, I pray, “Please, God, please don’t take him away.” And I can’t quite tell if I mean our little one, or my husband, so powerful is my plea that God not usher this hurt upon me. Obedience. Whatever form it may take, whatever task it may require, whatever trust I need to muster, obedience. But Christ died! That obedience killed him! It broke him! It’s breaking me!
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess in heaven and on earth and under the earth that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Death didn’t break Christ. He has been exalted, and that obedience is the root of his glory. And the only comfort great enough to calm the panic of a childless woman is the glory of God. Just look at Leah, Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth, Mary. They found greatest joy and comfort, not in their children, not in their husbands… But in their God. In Christ.
This is why I foster. It’s not for the children, for the parents, for myself. If I did it solely for them, then I would never go through it again. I don’t think I could face another broken heart. But, with God, for God, I can foster. I can love others through small children. But only in Him.
Please pray for us. Pray for peace with God’s timing and His plan. Pray for strength to keep loving and emptying ourselves as goodbyes loom closer.
But especially this. Pray that our little one, his family, the case workers, the judges, will all come to a saving faith in Christ. As long as we pray for that, we can hope that someday, when Christ is exalted, and every knee bows and every tongue confesses, that we will see each other again, run into each others arms, and praise our God saying, “So THAT’S what You were doing with us! What a glorious plan, indeed!”