We all have an “inner voice” that sometimes whispers to us and sometimes screams at us.
Mine is usually preaching a message of fear and doubt when I sense God leading me in a certain direction. Maybe yours is too. It’s asking, “Who are you to think you can make a difference?” or “What if you don’t have what it takes?” or “What if you fail and look foolish to others?” or “Are you sure you’ve heard correctly from God on this?” Your voice could be asking you a million other things right now. That’s the thing about these voices; they’re as distinct and unique as each individual person. Like a fingerprint on your conscious – whispering, sometimes screaming.
What’s yours saying to you?
If you’re like our family when we were in the very beginning stages of starting our foster care and adoption journey, you’ve got a mash-up of excitement and fear, eagerness and doubt, hope and worry playing in your head. Yet somehow, it’s the fear and doubt and worry that often seem the loudest – and the most paralyzing. They’re also incredibly sneaky – disguising themselves at times as valid, logical reasons why it might not be the right time, why we might not be cut out for this, or why we don’t in fact have what it takes to do this. Fear and doubt and worry want to convince you that no matter what, you shouldn’t do this.
So how do we confront this? What’s our strategy? To truly quiet the voices (notice I did not say silence…I’m not sure if they ever fully go away) I am increasingly convinced that we must correctly identify the root of our concern before we can adequately address the fruit of it. Let me explain…
For example, “I’m afraid of getting too attached” is the fruit; “I fear I don’t have what it takes to grieve like that” is the root. Or, “I’m afraid of the effect it might have on my bio kids” is the root; “I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes to parent through that” is the root. Or, “I’m afraid of my life being controlled by a child welfare system” is the fruit; “I fear I don’t have what it takes to give up control like that” is the root. Or, “I’m afraid of the financial cost we will incur if we adopt” is the root; “I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes to sacrifice like that” is the root.
We could go on, but you get the point.
I’ve shared on the blog about my own journey, and how my wife was ready to start fostering before I was. It’s not that I didn’t want to - it’s just that I struggled with the timing. I was overwhelmed and exhausted with leading our young and busy church plant. I used the age of our three daughters as an excuse – the youngest was barely two at the time. And I searched and searched but failed to find any magical trees in our backyard growing money. Could we even afford more kids in the house right now? My inner voice was working overtime.
Looking back, I see now these were all symptoms of a much deeper, more hidden fear – they were fruits of the fear that I didn’t have what it would take…to lead our church well while doing this, to be the dad my daughters needed through this, and to trust God with the details – even the financial ones – in all of this.
My inner voice sometimes whispered but mostly shouted “NO! You don’t have what it takes.” Maybe yours does too.
The good news is that God doesn’t invite us into this expecting that we will always have “what it takes”, but He does bring us into this promising that when we don’t, He still does. That’s our hope and assurance - that what’s completely out of our capacity and control is absolutely in His.
No matter where you are – whether just now considering getting involved with this or swimming neck deep in the trenches of it already - don’t let the fear of not having “what it takes” deter you from what’s next, but let the confidence of Him having what it does drive you. Be free from the burden to be something for these kids only Jesus intended Himself to be. These kids don’t need you to have all it takes, they just need you to be willing to try, to fail at times and to keep moving forward with them and for them. They need you to be strong enough to be weak, and to trust that in some counterintuitive way that scripture speaks to, that’s ultimately where true strength is found. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Our weakness is no longer an excuse, but is now a platform upon which the power of God can be made most visible. It's no longer a place of "no", but now, in the gospel, becomes the place we can declare with confidence, "I'm not sure how I'm going to handle all of this, but...yes."
In the end, success in foster care and adoption is not dependent upon your capacity to produce a certain set of ideal outcomes, but rather is defined by your willingness to say yes, and to trust Him with the rest. Your “yes” is your success; everything that follows is the mercy of God.
So how do you know if you’re “called”, “ready” or that “it’s time”? When you know just enough to be afraid of it but too much to let fear have the final say about it. This means we don’t wait for fear or worry to subside before we act; we simply choose to fight forward so that fear loses and kids and families win. What if we started to assume the answer was "yes" until we heard a "no", rather than "no" until we heard a "yes"? A lot would change. After all, obedience is less about what we think we can and cannot do, and our natural inclination to avoid hard and inconvenient things, and more about what we know God wants us to do – even if it’s hard and inconvenient.
We can do hard and inconvenient things. We can do scary things. We really can. But we can do those things in small, simple and strategic ways.
So now what? What’s your next best simple step?
It might look like a much-needed conversation with your husband or wife that is less resistant and more receptive to the idea than you have been in the past. It could be registering for the next orientation class - no strings attached - just going to listen, learn and feel. Maybe it's grabbing coffee with another person or couple that has fostered or adopted just to hear and learn from their story. Or perhaps it's finally giving into what you've known has been true for quite some time - you just need to say yes and do it. Stop praying about it (yep, I said that), stop reading about it, stop doing studies about it, stop talking about the "what ifs" or the "maybe one days" - and just do it.
Just take your next best steps.
Don't worry right now about the many, many other steps that will come after that. Don't be so afraid of what's to come along the journey that you never actually end up starting it. Just focus on what's next. That's the best you can do, all anyone (especially yourself) can really expect of you, and honestly, that's all that God is asking of you - to take the next best step...and to trust Him with the rest.
So, what's next?...
I’m excited for you,