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On Being a Foster Parent

I’m so early in on this journey of being a foster parent.  But I’m inundated with the same question over and over and over and over…  I’m going to let Starr answer it as only she can.  She posted this over at her blog last week; but as I’m her husband and what she has is mine…I stole it to share with you.  It’s my answer as well.

Love is not self-seeking.
1 Corinthians 13:5

That’s what Father God whispers to me when it seems too hard.  When it seems like my heart won’t possibly be able to take it.  When I think that I will never, ever be able to cope when it comes time for this foster child to be taken out of my home and given back to his parents, or to whomever he’ll go to next.

When I start to feel that heaviness in my chest, and worry that the heartache of that experience –  of “giving him back” – that it will be too great a burden to put on my family, then Father God drops this verse in my heart again.  Love is not self-seeking. And I know that this journey that He’s called us to won’t be free of pain….but  simultaneously  feel such conviction that living to ensure the absence of pain in my life is not the life I want to live.  And so we choose love and the  likelihood  of pain over self-protection.

I know this isn’t the answer He would give everyone with that fear; that question that I’m asked nearly daily, “How will you ever give them back?” But for me, this is the answer that He brings loud and clear: Love is not self-seeking.

There are foster children in this city that need love.  No one questions that fact.  To be able to provide that love, but then refuse it because “it will hurt me when I have to give him back”, would be choosing to protect my own heart at the expense of withholding love from a child.  Choosing “me” over “them.”  For me, to continue to say “I can’t foster because I wouldn’t be able to handle giving them back”, meant I was knowingly and willingly seeking my own self-protection over offering love and hope to a child.   God changed my paradigm, and every time I tried to utter the words, “it would just be too hard to give them back”, my heart translated those words to “making sure I don’t feel hurt or pain is so very important to me, that I will not love these children.”  And that refrain of “it would just hurt me too much” when uttered from my mouth, started to sicken me.

I choose to love without regard for self.  I do it badly sometimes, with moments of self-pity and fear and worry.  But I forge ahead in my imperfection, and ask God to show me how to love like He does.  I ask Him to help me trust that He will be my comforter and friend in those times of pain.  I worry, “Is this too much of a burden for my children?  Is this unfair?  To let them love and care deeply for a foster child, then experience the pain of no longer having them?”  But I give those worries to Him and trust that He will use this time to teach my children from a very young age that He is a God of comfort and peace that passes understanding.  I pray my children will know that love is always the best choice, even if it hurts.

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.

7 Comments

  1. Dcordero Lady · April 16, 2011

    I have a friend who is a pastor and is starting in this journey of fostering children. I will be sending him this article, if you don’t mind. May God bless you and keep up the good work. Blessings , Damaris

    • Jonathan Cliff · April 17, 2011

      Thanks Damaris for the comment.

      It was people that shared the message with me that helped my wife and I grow so much; so share away!

  2. Waycoolsmileyguy · April 16, 2011

    Let me say as a former foster parent – this is a calling and is not for everybody. Let me repeat myself – foster parenting is not for the faint of heart. I know that much good can come from it but there is a price one you may not realize you have to pay until it is too late. This may be a good idea but in order to move forward it has to be a God idea. If it is not from Him then don’t plain and simple.

    • Jonathan Cliff · April 17, 2011

      Taking care of orphans is always God’s plan; but your right. There are different ways to do it. Let’s just agree that each of us should be doing something, no matter the commitment level involved.

  3. Bethany Abrams · April 18, 2011

    I so agree! I’m a foster mom – and right now we are faced with sending our daughter of 16 months (since birth) to a man she barely knows all because the bare minimum has been done, thus the court has approved it. There are days I feel like I wish I had never gotten into this…. But we did because we believe what you wrote and what Jonathan commented below – as Christians we are called to care for “widows and orphans” like in James, and just generally care for the down trodden in Gods name and with His love… I agree with “waycool” below – fostering specifically is NOT for everybody. I think God gives a special level of grace to those He calls to do that. BUT we are ALL ABSOLUTELY responsible to do SOMETHING!

    • Jonathan Cliff · April 18, 2011

      I’ll be praying for you Bethany, it’s gonna be a hard thing to release that 16-month old. I know that God will give you the strength to make it happen in the right way and in the right timing.

      Just because we aren’t there with them anymore, doesn’t lessen the influence we’ve had when we were with them! I’m so thrilled that you’re doing something to address the problem, it’s encouraging to know we’re not alone!

  4. Bethany Abrams · May 31, 2013

    Hi Jonathan –
    Could you please delete my (Bethany Abrams) post below? I am being harrassed by some of my foster children’s biological parents, and aparently found this from two years ago (5 pages into a google search of my name) and they feel that I was openly discussing details (and they say names, though obviously this is not the case), and I need to take down ANYTHING I find about myself in google searches related to fostering or adoption. This is going to be difficult because I am a foster and adoption advocate (particularly with special needs), and do fundraisers for people, etc, but I’m going through the first 10 pages of googling my name and atempting to remove anything having to do with me. Thank you!