A few days ago, I was thinking about the lofty ideal to love others as God loves us and to see others as God sees us. On our own, it is impossible--like fitting a camel through the eye of a needle. But with God, all things are possible. With God, we can love beyond the capacity of our fist-sized hearts. With God, we can see beyond the capacity of our grape-sized eyes.
My understanding of this concept deepened recently because, about a month ago, I became a foster parent to a little boy whom I plan to adopt. Fostering isn't easy. You cannot necessarily raise a foster child the way you are used to raising your own child because in foster care, you are a co-parent with the state and the state has opinions about how it wants its wards treated. Of course, if we have to abide by state standards for our foster son, we cannot apply a different standard to our first son. We have to re-learn how to parent. Oh, and the state and I agree that we need to respect the privacy of our son. No names will be given while he is in foster care with us and most illustrations will be twisted beyond recognition before they are published here or anywhere else.
Both of our boys are the same age. Of course we have all of the drama you would expect between brothers of a similar age, and we get to add different life experiences, different discipline standards, different hygiene standards, anger issues for a traumatized child (imagine being ripped away from your birth family for whatever reason--children in foster care are traumatized), special medical needs for our new son,a multitude of doctor appointments of every type, school discipline issues . . . well, if you can imagine all of that, you can begin to imagine how much our lives have changed. All of this is wrapped in spiritual warfare because, as I see it, this foster-to-adopt scenario is the ONE human action that most closely resembles what God does for us. That brings me back to my original point.
Sometimes my son (my new son) makes choices that baffle me. Here is an adaptation of an example of a recent incident that did not happen exactly this way:
Me--Why did you take all of your clothes out of your closet and off the hanger?
Him--I am going to pack them up and leave.
Me--I don't want you to leave. Why do you want to leave?
Him--I don't want to go to bed at my bedtime.
Me--Do you want me to call your case worker?
Him--No. I don't want to leave.
Me--Good. Now put your clothes back.
Him--I can't. There are too many.
Me--I bet you wish you never took them down. Put them back a little at a time.
Him--Can I get help?
Me--If you can convince anyone in the house to help you, you may certainly accept their help, but everyone else in the house has chores to do, so I suggest you get started on cleaning up your mess.
At times, he seems to think that it is his mission in life to create a mess for someone else to clean up. Personal responsibility was not emphasized earlier in his life--as it was in my childhood. What seems as clear as daylight to me is completely foreign to him.
My first thought is to recognize how alien his thinking is to my perspective. That thought occurs a lot with me and most of the time, it is not about bedtime or clothes. There are other behaviors we have to overcome and a couple of miracles (real miracles) we are praying about. Anyway, the moment my mind drifts into the arena of "What in the world are you thinking?" I start to realize that this must be how God sees me. Track with me:
- I was raised "in the world," not in direct communion with God.
- My standards of discipline, hygiene, right and wrong, etc are far different from God's.
- I was a spiritual orphan in need of a Heavenly Father.
- He called me out of the darkness, and into His marvelous light.
- I have to adapt to an eternal life of security, love, and grace that I did not know before him.
- I have issues related to my time growing up in the world that I need Him to help me overcome.
Jars of Clay made a song called, "Light Gives Heat" and at one point the lyrics read,
Will you teach us how to love;
To see the things you see;
Walk the road you walk;
Feel the pain that you feel?
At your feet I kneel.
I want to see you shine;
See your light not mine;
'Cause light gives heat.
In raising my new son, I begin to glimpse the way God sees us when we enter His family. When I ask God, "Why does he . . ." and am answered with, "Why do you?" I learned a few years ago that the answer to the question "Why?" is seldom satisfying. It is more often empty, disappointing, and discouraging. In this, I am reminded not to focus as much on what my son is doing or how to control his behavior. Rather, like my Heavenly father, I am to be faithful in giving love and grace; and patiently focus on touching my childs heart. I have determined that if I can reach his heart, I can change his behaviors but if I focus on changing his behaviors, I will only succeed superficially and I may never reach his heart.
We have only been fostering for just more than a month, but we are already seeing signs of trust. I am excited to what God will do in the coming months and years.