We recently found one of our daughters crying in bed. She seemed fine the last we saw her before going upstairs, so this took us a bit off guard. In a home with four daughters there always seems to be something to cry about, but when she calmed enough to share with us what it was this time, we were shocked.
That's right, HITLER was on her mind, and apparently had been for the past several weeks. What?! She told us her class was doing a research project at school and each student could select any topic they wanted to learn more about. She didn't choose butterflies or dolphins or dandelions or the North Pole. She chose, of all things, Hitler, and has been haunted by the things she's learned ever since - justifiably so - and afraid that bad things like that might happen to her - understandably so. "My mind can't stop thinking about it," she said. Having carried this burden alone for so long, she finally broke that night in bed.
Is she going to learn about these horrific events of the past one day? Yes, it will inevitably become a part of her education. Should she? Probably, it's important for her to understand that part of our history. But, not right now. Not yet. No nine-year-old can comprehend these things. No nine-year-old should have to. (We had the topic changed the next day!)
The Mercy of Not Knowing
There's danger in knowing things before it's necessary, appropriate or helpful to know them. It can be too much too soon. This is true in the "big" things of life but also in the daily mundane ones as well. I don't want those gruesome images haunting my nine year old for the same reasons I don't want my four year old to know how to open a child-proof bottle of medicine. They're not quite ready to carry the weight of that information. It would be detrimental, not useful. Harmful, not helpful.
We see God do the same thing in Scripture, most notably when He calls Abraham to leave what was a fairly settled and comfortable life to journey towards a new land he was largely unfamiliar with. In Genesis 12:1-4 God says to him, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you...so Abram went, as the Lord had told him." He left the certainty of his home for the uncertainty of what God had not yet shown him, not because it was the easiest thing to do, but because God called him to do it and promised it would be worth it in the end. Hebrews 11:8 later summarizes it this way: "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." Abraham had no idea how significant the hard things and plentiful the good things would be along the journey. All he knew is that God wanted him to go, so he did. The rest would unfold as it needed to along the way.
God will intentionally, lovingly and mercifully deprive us from certain pieces of information at certain times - not to prevent us from knowing things, but to protect us from the burden of knowing them too soon. A slight distinction with significantly different implications. It's one of His most profound acts of mercy towards us - the mercy of not knowing. He says go, we ask where, He says don't worry about that right now.
A Whole Lot of Hope
There's very few things about the foster care and adoption journey my wife and I knew before stepping into it. We knew there was a huge problem in our city, we knew vulnerable kids needed loving homes and we knew God was leading us to get involved. But that's about it. We knew what we needed to know at the time, and it was enough to allow us to step into something largely unknown. It was scary at times - not knowing what we didn't know - but perhaps knowing more would have been even more frightening.
If you had asked me five years ago to tell you what I thought fostering and adopting would be like, there's no way I would have anticipated what was to come. It has ebbed and flowed and evolved our family through multiple iterations, forms and makeups - driven by what seems like a constant of chaos only punctuated by moments of calm. It's been a collection of experiences and emotions we could never have fully prepared for, some ending in very beautiful ways while others still linger in extremely broken ones. We've found there really is no conclusion to any of this - the good and the bad, the beautiful and the broken - they will never leave us but are a forever on-going part of what we are. In many ways the most impactful things about foster care and adoption today were at one point the most hidden things. We were simply unaware and incapable of comprehending all that was to come. His mercy spared us from the burden of carrying information that would have potentially paralyzed us, and invited us on a journey....one where He said go, we asked where, He said don't worry about that right now, and we said - with a little bit of fear and a whole lot of hope - ok, let's do it.
All The Good and the Hard
Foster care and adoption has turned our family into something it would have never been able to become on its own. The good has far exceeded anything we hoped would come from this - permeating places in our home and our hearts we were largely unaware of before. Five years ago if God had told us how good this whole thing was going to be we likely would not have believed Him. But He didn't. For that, we are grateful.
At the same time, foster care and adoption has required our family to grieve and struggle under the weight of hard things we would normally have gone to great lengths to avoid. It has been far more difficult than we could have ever anticipated - pressing us down into the cracks and crevices of other people's broken stories while exposing the deep and flawed faults in our own. Five years ago if God had told us how hard this whole thing was going to be we likely would not have obeyed Him. But He didn't. For that, we are grateful.
In the end, it's the mercy of God that He doesn't show us everything that will unfold in the foster care and adoption journey the moment we first say "yes" to it. All the hard would be too unbearable and all the good would be too unbelievable.
A Hope That Outpaces
Whether you're just now considering leaving your land of certainty to step foot into the vast unknowns of foster care or adoption, or you're immersed in the journey already and are unsure of how this whole thing is going to play out - let your faith in what you do know drive you, not your fear of what you don't know deter you. I'm convinced God is more pleased by your willingness to be faithful on the journey than He is concerned about your ability to control any of the good or bad that will inevitably come along the way.
So let's let our hope in what's to come outpace all the uncertainties of what it will take to actually get there. It will be far more difficult than you could possibly imagine, and far more beautiful than you could have ever hoped for.