The journey of foster care and adoption is an incubator of seemingly competing emotions, feelings and experiences - none of which are felt lightly or quickly. The tension of everything seeps that much deeper and lingers that much longer.
The joy of loving and the heartache of letting go. The thrill of adopting and the grief of all that's been lost. The confusion in the wake of brokenness and the clarity in the face of redemption. The uncertainty of what's to come and the sure hope in the One who is sovereign and in control over all of it. A constant of chaos only punctuated by moments of calm, it seems.
The tensions run deep.
They reach into places and parts of you that you did not know existed - and force you not just to acknowledge them, but to embrace them. To go there in yourself, not just for the sake of these kids, but for your sake as well. The crevices in their stories expose the cracks in yours. Their heartache reveals your hurt. Their loneliness exposes your need for belonging. The anguish over all they've lost in their life reveals the apathy you have towards all that you've acquired in yours.
Success in foster care and adoption is not learning how to minimize the hard and maximize the good. It's not determined by your ability to avoid the difficult things and only live in the ideal ones. Instead, it's the process of continually discovering how to navigate the tension of both simultaneously - as equally true and real at all times - the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, the "this is what we hoped for" and the "this isn't what we signed up for". This is where hope is ultimately found - in these unique and special places - not in your ability to avoid the tensions, but in your capacity to absorb them, be embraced by them and ultimately be compelled by the truth of both of them.
While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it is certainly representative of the incubator of tensions God has invited us to walk in throughout our own personal journey. Probably like you, we've wrestled with them all, been conquered by most and at times managed to defeat some by learning to hold each side up as essential and true. They never really go away - we're not ever fully done with them. We simply learn how to live with them as constant companions on this journey that will periodically make their voices heard and remind us of why we started doing this in the first place.
The feeling like this is hard and we can't do it, while also believing this is hard which is exactly why we do it.
The fear of loving a child we may have to let go coupled with the fear of a child never knowing what it felt like to be held onto.
The crippling weight of brokenness confronted by the healing power of beauty and redemption.
The awareness that we don't have what it takes balanced by the belief that God doesn't expect us to have all that it takes.
The longing to love these kids fiercely as our own tempered by the hope that one day they can return home.
The anger we feel towards abuse and neglect balanced by the love we must give towards those who perpetuate it.
The conviction to keep coming back - because somehow it feels less like we're choosing it and more like it's choosing us.
The overwhelming feeling of not being in control of anything met by the steady hope that God is sovereign over all things.
The sense that sometimes when it feels most wrong, that's when we're doing the most right.
The joy of seeing new things formed from old struck by the heartache that any of this is even happening in the first place.
The angst we have over exposing our bio kids to hard things met by the concern we have of insulating them from all.
The desire to methodically produce a certain set of outcomes tempered by the reality that it's okay that we can't.
The aspiration to live a life of ease and comfort and calm confronted by the conviction that in the end, there's no time for that.
Foster care and adoption is a myriad of tensions only clarified by one resounding beacon of hope - that in the end, God has the capacity to produce unending beauty out of unspeakable brokenness. He has the ability to bring clarity out of confusion and hope-filled things out of hard things. This, I believe, is where the gospel is made most rich and tangible and evident - not with a guarantee that any of the tension will be easy, but in the hope that all of it will be worth it.
I don't know how you do this if the gospel is not true - if God doesn't have the capacity to supersede all the apparent tensions and contradictions of hope and loss and joy and sorrow and clarity and confusion - and somehow, not despite all of that, but through all of that, bring beauty and redemption and restoration. So that one day those hard things will not be the final things. Those confusing things will not be the final things. Those broken things will not be the final things. The tension will dissipate and the contradictions cease. Everything that is wrong will one day be made right. And to even get but a glimpse of that "right" now in the tension and conflict of all that is wrong is worth it. It's worth it. These kids are worth it.
So, foster parents. Thank you for doing what you're doing - immersing yourself in the contradictions and tensions - because you know in the end, that's where hope has ultimately made its home.