We don’t just bring foster children into our homes; we bring them into our marriages.
The weight of caring for kids from hard places can either break your marriage or better it. In the end we want to be closer, more connected and experiencing greater depths of intimacy as a result - but these things do not just happen, they must be intentionally pursued, cultivated and fought for.
One of the busiest seasons of our marriage was the early days of beginning our foster care journey. With three young kids already, a full schedule and high demands at work, the responsibilities and obligations that come with bringing another child into our home were overwhelming at times. Not just any child, but a child that comes with court hearings, parent visits, home studies and mounds of paperwork. It could become all to easy to be consumed by the juggling act of getting things done as husband and wife and forget the most important questions – not "What do we need to do?", but "How are we doing? Are we good? Are we connected? Are we as together as we need to be?" The Enemy certainly didn’t want us to be. And he doesn’t want you to be either.
THE ENEMY’S BULLSEYE
Satan has a clear and overt plan for your marriage, yet his tactics are often subtle and unseen. The Bible says he maneuvers like a “prowling lion” (1 Peter 5:8) and disguises himself as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Sneaky, hidden, deceiving. Your obedience to God does not insulate you from the his attacks, it actually exposes you all the more. Foster care is in part the call to purposefully, willingly, sacrificially and joyously position yourself and your marriage in the crosshairs of the enemy's attack. As you stand for these kids, together as husband and wife, you will inevitably get beat, battered and bruised along the way. And yet, in a beautifully upside down kind of way, that is exactly why you're doing what you're doing - willingly taking the blows so these kids no longer have to.
You are living, breathing, crying and walking out the gospel in the lives of vulnerable kids on a daily basis while exposing yourself and your marriage to a spiritual warfare unlike any other. There's no doubt Satan believes if he can crack your marriage under the weight of foster care, then he could crumble the whole thing around you.
JESUS AT THE CENTER
That's why the best thing you can do for your marriage in foster care is not make your marriage all about foster care. In the midst of mounds of paperwork, training hours, court hearings, doctors appointments, parent visits and case worker meetings, it’s easy for the activity of foster care to replace the intimacy of marriage. This is why Jesus in your marriage takes precedence even over Jesus in your mission. The center of our connection with one another is not what we do together in foster care but who we are together in Jesus. Everyone wins when we operate out of this identity – our marriage wins when we love Jesus first, our kids win when they have a mom and dad centered on Him and any child we bring into that environment wins as well, for obvious reasons. If your marriage is off, your mission can only go so far. It’s not selfish to put it first. It’s smart.
Now more than ever, you are a team, fighting for justice, loving the helpless, speaking for the defenseless and banding together against the one who wants to destroy it all. It will take you to hard places together, expose broken places within you and produce intimacy and connection between you that otherwise you may never have had the opportunity to experience together. Satan wants the mission of foster care to break your marriage, but God has the capacity to build your marriage through it, if you will allow Him to.
How do you do this? What does this look like? Let me suggest a few practical things you can do that will go a long way in cultivating the space and time necessary for your marriage to stay rooted in Jesus and each other:
It's impossible to fully explain the importance of this practice. You are fighting a spiritual battle together against powers and principalities that can only be effectively combatted through prayer. Consistent time in prayer together and separately as well as time in the Word of God is by far the most crucial thing you can do to ward off the enemy and keep Jesus center.
Date each other
I know, I know, I know…it's sometimes impossible to find certified babysitters. Let me suggest a few things: If you have some available, use them. If you don't, find a place that does or ask friends and family to take on that role. Also, get creative. Date at home when the kids are asleep, at school or with friends. Maximize the time you have when you have it.
Don't always talk about foster care
We've all seen the couple portrayed on tv that goes on a date and tries to not talk about their kids, but fails miserably. Don't be that couple. It's hard not to talk about foster care, but it's important not to. Be intentional about connecting relationally (How are you doing?) and not just functionally (What do we need to do?)
Live in community
It's incredibly easy to begin to feel isolated in foster care. Most people around you don't understand the unique nuances of what you're involved in. Find people who do. It's essential to be connected to others who can help point you and your marriage to Jesus. People you can laugh with, cry with and take a mental break from foster care with. Your marriage can't do this alone.
Give each other breaks
The health of our marriages is determined by the health of each individual in the marriage. Husbands, make space for your wife to be alone, be refreshed, go out with friends, pamper herself, etc. Take the kids on occasions and let her go. Wives, do the same for your husbands. Support each other's personal health, it will only make the two of you better together.
A NEW VERSION OF OUR MARRIAGE
Over time I began to see a part of my wife I had never seen before as she saw a new side to her husband she had yet to see fully in me. I saw a beauty in her in how she cared for a baby girl that was not her own but loved her as if she were. I saw a woman who felt a deep empathy towards this child's birth mom that only she could truly understand as a mother herself. She saw a shift in me as well - a softening in my capacity to fall in love with a child that may likely leave. It opened my heart and emotions up in new and profound and, honestly, surprising ways.
While the struggles of foster care were real and raw, they revealed a version of each of us to one another that we had yet to fully see in our marriage. Foster care forced us to press Jesus more deeply into the center of our marriage and as a result has allowed us to see Jesus more clearly through it. It has undoubtedly changed our marriage - not just in what we do together but in how we are together and in who we are together. We are better - not without the attacks, the schemes, the busyness or the difficulties - but because of them.
Perhaps today, for you, Jesus in your marriage needs to take precedence even over Jesus in your mission.
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