If you’ve ever felt God calling you to something uncomfortable, big, and more out of the box than your current life you will experience something unexpected. People, God’s people, won’t always understand. Some people will drift away while others draw near, and it won’t always play-out the way you had anticipated.
It’s safe to say the majority of those who have decided to foster or adopt children, have watched their relationships change as a result. To some people what we do seems heroic and unfathomable. That view will rub against their insecurities and they will feel like they are not enough, and it will make them uncomfortable around us. They drift away and we may never know why.
Other people are just hanging on in their own lives. They love us and our friendship, but when our lives get really tough, they don’t have the capacity to be there for us. It’s not that they don’t care about us, they just can’t be there in the way we may need at the time.
Others will flock to our more dramatic seasons. They thrive and are most comfortable when they are helping someone else manage their crisis. They are a wonderful gift in the moment, but we might not understand why they don’t rush to cheer for us when things are going well.
Some will remain dear friends and empathize as best they can, though we know they will never truly understand the depth of our struggles and height of our victories. Our family members may not understand either. Many adoptive families have experienced racism, favoritism for biological children, or flat out rejection from their extended families. Open adoption can add a whole new dynamic to your relationships and family.
The only certainty is that foster care and adoption will change the landscape of your relationships. It’s our job to expect this and know people can only support and love us in the way they are capable of.
Even if it’s less than what we need, they are still doing their best. It’s also our job to accept it for what it is, and cultivate new relationships that bring richness to our lives and the lives of our children.
When we were in the process to be licensed foster parents, my husband Josh had been a youth pastor at a young church. We loved the youth and youth leaders there dearly and being invested in their lives was a joy. However, not everyone you would expect to support us did.
Early in our process the lead pastor pulled Josh aside privately and told him he didn’t agree with our decision to adopt. He said, “it will become a distraction.” He didn’t believe adoption and ministry could work together.
Being the rebels we are, we did it anyway, confident we were walking the path God set out for us. Josh had been serving there for six years, always with high evaluations, but from that point on, we could do nothing right this pastor’s eyes. We took the twins placement and six months later Faith was put on life support.
I remember calling Josh from the PICU room telling him they were prepping Faith for heart and lung bypass and it wasn’t looking good. He was already feeling on thin ice at work and was nervous about taking the day off from the local conference the staff was attending to come to the hospital.
He came anyway, held my hand while they told us to say our goodbyes, and several days later that same pastor made the decision to terminate his employment.
We would receive a severance package, but it was conditional on us signing a document drawn up by a lawyer that we wouldn’t tell anyone connected to the church the reason for our leaving. That might look bad on the church. We were desperate and complied.
At the very least, it was unethical. It felt like the enemy was going in for the kill while we were down and already bloody and bruised. Spiritually it was almost fatal.
Josh who had grown up a pastor’s kid and been a pastor his whole life was suddenly ushered out the back door of the church, assured of his worthlessness, and specifically asked to not return.
We ended up moving cross country to be near family and attended their church. Josh questioned how a good God could let this happen and began to doubt his faith.
Forgiveness was a daily battle. He spent several years becoming physically ill every week before we entered our new church campus.
We would both tell you that being violently cut off from our faith community and support system was even more emotionally difficult than having a medically fragile child with a feeding tube. By the grace of God, we had a couple invest themselves in counseling us weekly at our home after all our babies went to sleep. This was the only way we could have managed to access support in that season and God provided.
They helped us process our pain, worked through counseling materials with us, and challenged Josh to pray daily for this pastor. It was one of the hardest things he did, but it led him down a road where he could eventually heal.
If you’ve ever been hurt by a Jesus follower or a church, you are one of many. We have never been apologized to, and I’m guessing many of you haven’t been as well. On behalf of believers in Christ, I’m apologizing for us. We are a messed-up bunch of sinners.
We are not a reflection of a good God who loves, but rather people in need of his grace and forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting or always reconciling. Forgiveness is not for them either, it’s for you and it’s worth the fight.
Something us foster and adoptive parents are asked to do in this world, is live an uncommon life among people who won’t understand us or our challenges. Adoptive parenting has given me plenty of opportunity to practice forgiveness and not feeling hate towards others. If I feel hate, I am only feeling it at my own expense.
Instead of making it means something horrible about me or them, I can see that if they had walked a mile in my shoes, they would have handled things differently. I know the same can be true of me in many other circumstances and the way I’ve acted in life.
Colossians 3:13 tells us “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Not one of us is perfect, and we can choose to extend the same grace to others as we have received ourselves.
For some reconciling your past is a really big hurdle. An awful childhood, trauma, or previous relationship can come along as an unwanted guest and visit every interaction you have. You can reconcile your past in a way that serves you, instead of perpetually being victimized by it.
You may have been victimized, but you are not a victim. Something that was done to or against you is not who you are. It goes back to your worth being established when God made you in the womb.
Thoughts from past trauma can trigger us so quickly. They are patterns we developed as a survival tool. Many of us see these tendencies in our kids with difficult pasts too.
Having trauma doesn’t mean it won’t still affect you, it will. But now you can take responsibility for it through awareness. You can’t argue with your past, but you can change what you make it mean for your present.
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