I travel often for work. Enough that the whole experience is a fairly routine one for me. Airports, car rentals, hotel rooms, even long security lines and flight delays - I'm fairly numb to it all now. It's just a means to the end of getting where I need to go.
However, a recent trip to Chicago was anything but routine. My oldest daughter came along with me and it changed the entire dynamic.
In the months leading up to the trip she checked out and read at least a dozen books from the library about Chicago's history. She researched museums, parks and famous sites she hoped to see and visit. She wanted to know as much about the city as she could so she could get the most out of her time there as possible. It was a great trip with her, but oddly enough, what I'll remember most about our time together has nothing to do with actually being in Chicago. It has everything to do with the journey of us getting there.
It began right away. She was fascinated by how the x-ray machine scans our bags; curious as to why everyone else at our gate was also going to Chicago; wide-eyed as she felt the force of the plane against her and watched the wheels leave the runway headed for the sky; in wonderment as we leveled off five miles over the earth, taking every picture from every angle she could through the small window next to her; in awe of all the shops and cafes and restaurants in the massive Chicago airport - "like a city inside a building", she said; all smiles as we rode the train to pick up our car; at a complete loss for words as we neared the Chicago skyline just as the sun was setting, again taking pictures, only stopping long enough to ensure I was seeing what she was seeing too, like a corroborating witness testifying that it was really happening. These are the things I will remember - watching my baby girl's eyes light up at all the things she was experiencing on our way to where we were going. In those moments it had nothing to do with the destination, and everything to do with enjoying the journey.
A Scale of Outcomes
We live in a results driven society, one that measures success and worth on a scale of outcomes, accomplishments and achievements. It's all about the destination and what you can produce. In some ways this is good - it drives us to pursue excellence and bring about new and better things; yet in many ways it's dangerous - forcing us to be so focused on where we think we need to be that we lose sight of where we actually are and all the beauty and wonder and opportunity that comes along the way.
What had become ordinary in travel to me was a pure joy to her that day. My routine was her delight. Sure, she was looking forward to our destination, but not to the neglect of appreciating as much of the journey along the way as she could. I needed to see that - and be reminded of that - in more ways than one. Maybe you do too.
We want to "fix" our foster daughter. I know we can't, but we want to undo in a matter of months what has been ingrained within her over the course of 17 years. In an idealistic sense we want her to "be" better and "do" better at life - of course for her own sake - but in all honesty, partly for our sake as well. It's as if somehow her progress works to validate us as foster parents - to justify our decision to do this and assure those around us that we do in fact know what we're doing (at least sometimes!). We want her to succeed, and we want us to succeed as well, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that desire, it's just that as foster parents it's easy to measure our "success" on the wrong things and to try to find it in the wrong places.
I'm convinced God is more pleased by our willingness to be faithful along the journey of foster care than He is concerned about our ability to achieve a certain outcome through it. "Well done, good and *successful* servant?" No. "Well done, good and FAITHFUL servant." Faithfulness is our success, not achieving some outcomes that only God has the capacity to produce. Of course we want to see measures of health and stability and progress and hope achieved in the lives of these kids, but what happens if she doesn't graduate, doesn't get a job, doesn't break free from some destructive patterns of behavior and thinking? What happens if our definition of "success" never materializes in her life? I honestly don't know. Does that mean we have failed her? Does that mean our work on her behalf was in vain? Was the journey along the way really worth it in the end?
Fix Your Eyes
You may not see it now - you may not ever see it fully in this lifetime - but what you are doing is of eternal significance. Fix your eyes there - on eternity - but be faithful here, today, and then tomorrow, and then next week, trusting God with the outcome as you experience the beauty and pain and struggle and wonder of walking with Him along the journey. Daily, faithfully keep walking, keep making deposits into their lives, keep trusting that what's completely out of your control is absolutely in His. His sovereignty is our sanity; our faithfulness is enough.
Be free from the burden to be something for these kids that only Jesus intended Himself to be. Our job is not to be the savior of these kids; it's simply to love these kids as our Savior has loved us - fully, freely, sacrificially - and to trust Him with the rest. Give yourself some room. No one is strutting their way through foster care; we're all limping in some way - each wired for struggle and worthy of grace. Certainly the kids, their families, case workers, the "system" and even (sometimes especially) us. At some point we come to the realization that it's not so much "us" helping "them" - it's just "us", together - all uniquely broken humans on this journey called life together.
I was reminded that day to enjoy the process, to soak up as much of the journey as I can. To not be so focused on where I'm trying to go that I lose sight of where I am. I needed to be reminded of that, and will continue to need to be often. Perhaps you will too.
The good news is that Jesus does not call you to control everything along the foster care journey, nor does He expect you to. He actually wants you to be okay with the fact that you can't. Your "success" as a foster parent is not measured by your capacity to produce some certain set of outcomes; it's determined by your willingness to be faithful along the way, and to trust that in the beauty, struggle, joy and heartache of it all, the journey is worth it, Jesus is beautiful - and so is what you are doing for these kids.
- Five Responses to Common Things Often Said to Foster Parents
- Surprised by Foster Care: Five Ways It's Not What I Thought It Would Be
- Five Powerful Truths in Scripture Every Foster Parent Must Know
- Foster Care: An Invitation Into An Entirely New Story
- Foster or Adopting: For the Husband That's Not Sure
- Counting the Costs of Fostering or Adopting
- To Foster and Adoptive Parents: Reframing Your Season of Struggle
- Foster Care is Spiritual Warfare
- Foster Care: Loving a Child That Might Leave
- Ten Unique Ways Your Church Can Get Involved with Foster Care
- Busyness, Obedience and the Perfect Time to Foster or Adopt
- Wrapping Around Foster and Adoptive Families
- The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Marriage in Foster Care
- Foster Care and What I Fear Most For My Own Kids