15 Feb Partnering in the brokenness and mess
There are some moments in life that no amount of training or fancy degrees can prepare you for; especially as a mom.
There are plenty of sweet moments that melt your heart — like the first time your baby gives you a kiss or says “mama”, and plenty of sad moments that break your heart – like when your foster child screams heart-wrenching cries, wanting you to rescue them from their visit with their birth mom…or when your baby tests positive for life-altering drugs.
Part of the decision to foster, or live on mission in general, means that I am choosing to step into someone else’s brokenness with them, and pursue them not in spite of, but because of, that brokenness. That is what Jesus did for me. He didn’t pursue me in spite of the fact that I was broken, He pursued me because I was broken.
Part of living on mission means that I am choosing to step into someone else’s brokenness with them, and to pursue them not in spite of, but because of, that brokenness.
We talk a lot about three core capacities we have as women to reflect the nature of God- inviting, nurturing, and partnering. In foster care, the first two have been relatively natural. It’s been easy to welcome new children into my home; to feed them, clothe them, hold them, and generally speaking “nurture” them. However, partnering is a little bit tougher.
Partnering is coming alongside of someone else where they are, being their ally, and aiding their cause. Part of partnering with a foster child is what they call shared parenting. It is taking the child to visit their birth parents, it is being intentional about helping them bond with their birth family, and often means hearing a whole list of ways that you should be raising their child better. Adoption is the exception in foster care. The goal is always family reunification, and the foster family plays an important part in keeping the connection strong with the birth family.
No one told me how hard it would be. You are the bridge with their birth parents. Sometimes their parents have just gotten out of jail, sometimes their parents lecture you for not feeding their kids the food they want them to eat, or dressing them in the clothes they want them to wear. Sometimes your heart just aches because these people (the ones you are partnering with) are the people who abused or neglected the child now living in your home. One child cried and cried for me to get him, to rescue him, for the entirety of every visit. My heart broke every time I heard him screaming for me.
Your role is to come alongside of the parents and “own their cause” of family reunification.
Instinctively, everything in your heart wants to protect them from these people, or go into mama bear mode and fight them off – but you can’t. Instead, your role is to come alongside of them and “own their cause” of family reunification by keeping them informed about what “your” baby likes or dislikes, what they have learned, and who they are becoming as a little person.
Recently, God has been exposing in me how quickly I make even the good things I do all about me. What I want, what I like, what makes me feel comfortable, or how I contributed – it’s really quite narcissistic. My tendency is to make foster care about myself. The things I enjoy, the things I am comfortable with, the sweet memories and heart melting moments; but it’s hard to have the humility to realize that it’s not actually about me at all.
God has a story of redemption for each of us. The story of Him entering into our brokenness to rescue us and pursue us. And this is the story that He is writing in the life of these birth parents, and in these little children. I am not the heroine of this story, I am just one of the extras on set that is a very small small piece of the overall plot. An important piece, but a small one.
I am not the heroine of this story.
Perhaps we each have a different reason, but I think when I fail to partner, it’s because I am wrapped up in my own life and in my own story. I am making someone else’s story all about me. When Jesus looked out over Jerusalem, He wept. Is my heart moved with that same compassion for the parents and families of the kids I am fostering?
If I am actually living on mission, then my eyes can be opened to see that I am a piece of the story that God is weaving in their lives and not THE story. And through partnering with these families, I am given the privilege of reflecting the nature of God to these birth parents in an unique and life-giving way. They may not recognize it as life-giving, they may still yell at me and blame all of their sorrow on me, but I get the opportunity to reflect Christ to them in that moment.
When I fail to partner, it’s because I am wrapped up in my own life and in my own story. I am making someone else’s story all about me.
Giving up my life is hard. It requires sacrifice. But Jesus says that whoever loses his life for the sake of the Gospel will actually gain it. And I’ve seen that in action. Loving, forgiving, and partnering with the people who have made some serious mistakes that are now affecting the lives of these precious children is hard. Seriously, it is. But it is not my place to judge them – without the grace of Jesus I would likely be in a similar place. At the core, my heart is just as sinful and self-centered without Christ.
However, as a redeemed and forgiven daughter of the King, it is my place to partner with them and give up my own hurt to come alongside of them in a way that can aid family reunification. No, reunification isn’t always what’s best for the child, but that is not for me to decide. All that I have been called to do is to partner with them; to enter into their brokenness with them and pursue the success of their family not in spite of, but because of, their brokenness. This is what Jesus has done and is continually doing for me.
Foster care has broken my heart. But foster care has filled my heart with greater joy and love than I ever knew possible.
Foster care has broken my heart. But foster care has filled my heart with greater joy and love than I ever knew possible. Anything I have lost, I have more than gained. I am so thankful for the lessons that God is teaching me, for the love that He given me, and I am thankful for the amazing opportunity to step into the brokenness of these little children with them and help them learn about the redemption and rescue of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21.
-Ashlyn Ours, foster parent
How are women called to be missional?