The number of kids in my home has doubled in the past six months, since my husband and I became foster parents. We now have four children, 4 years old and under, each with their own distinct personality. Our home is really loud, and while we strive for order, it is often chaotic. Some of this chaos comes from the natural rambunctiousness, inquisitiveness and neediness of small children, while some of it comes from the uncertainty symptomatic of foster parenting. Through this season, the Lord is bringing to light a fear I hadn’t noticed before, something that applies to all four kids: I am afraid that I will not see the fruit of my labor.
Raising children is an act of gospel-centered service, which is an overflow of the gospel’s presence in our lives. It can be inconvenient, but being inconvenienced for the gospel is always worth it. Gospel-centered—as opposed to self-centered—service means we do not serve to be rewarded, but rather to follow Christ’s example of humility (Phil. 2). To be entrusted with a child, whether through birth, fostering or adoption, is an opportunity to extend God’s grace and love. With the Lord’s help, my husband and I are trying to figure out how to shape and disciple each of our four kids, different as they may be.
I gave birth to our oldest son and daughter. I know their milestones, where each of their wounds came from, what they are prone to, what they are gifted in and what they are not so great at. I think my son might be a lawyer, and my daughter tells me she plans to be the mother of seven children. I’ve been praying they might be missionaries. Whatever they become, I know that they’ll grow up in our home and that I’ll be a part of their lives until the Lord calls me home. I have no fear of these two being taken from me.
My foster children have a different story—different, but not lesser. Though I call them daughter and son, as well, I don’t know them as intimately as my older two children. They were brought to us by Child Protective Services, with minimal notice and limited information, so I know very little about the past that has shaped their present, particularly my daughter’s. She carries a brokenness that breaks my heart. I am getting to know them more every day, but I do not know how much time I will get with them.
I pour into them, pleading with the Lord that for the good of their souls there will one day be fruit. But I must remember that my efforts are not what will produce fruit; it is God who gives the growth.
I’ve asked myself, “Is this worth it?” All the tears (equal parts theirs and mine), the lack of sleep, the discipline, the questions, researching different strategies for each of their developing brains, all the prayers, all the laundry, all the teaching—is this worth my time? What if CPS takes them as quickly as they brought them? Will all the teaching and training I’ve worked so hard for be thrown out? How do I comfort a daughter who is inexplicably terrified of flies? What are those flies for anyway, God? What if my kids one day only see the tragic side of adoption and don’t see the redemptive story You can write? Will they believe that I was and am for their mama? What if I don’t see the fruit of my labor?
If I stop to think about it, I can get overwhelmed by the lack of control I have over my children’s lives. As a parent, I am responsible to the Lord to nurture their hearts and bodies, teach them a biblical worldview, train them in the ways of the Lord and model our great need for a Savior. I pour into them, pleading with the Lord that for the good of their souls there will one day be fruit. But I must remember that my efforts are not what will produce fruit; it is God who gives the growth.
What is true about all four of my children is that God has entrusted them to me for a season, and my responsibility is to love them fearlessly as long as He allows. But the Lord does not ever promise me fruit for my works. The fullness of joy comes from the cross of Christ and walking in faithful submission to Him. I can do this knowing that He uses all things for His glory and my joy, good and growth toward Christ-likeness.
No matter how your children come to you, there are areas of parenthood we must approach with blind faith. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can move past my fear by believing that the Lord chooses to halt wickedness in His timing. He has proven to be a God that redeems and heals. I know that I will be able to point each of my children to times in their lives where God saw, cared and acted when they were in need. I trust that He understands their tossings and tears even when I do not (Ps. 56). And I trust that He can go into the deep places of hurt that I cannot reach—knowing He allowed that hurt to happen—and He will heal and comfort, again in His timing. This is not my place, but His.
Right now, my two 2-year-old daughters love wearing lipstick, run whenever possible and call themselves twins, even though they are different races. They may get to grow up together, and they may not. My fear that I may not see the fruit of my labor is not unfounded, but it is unnecessary. I may see fruit in their lives, and I may not. But I can stand confident in a perfect and holy Savior knowing that my parenting has purpose. It is all worth it.