Every day you and I are counting the costs of things. We do it with clothes, food, cars, homes, extra curricular activities, the way we spend our time and energy, how many times we hit snooze on the alarm clock, the friends we hang out with and even the ones we don’t. We do it intentionally; we also also do it subconsciously.
In the economy of our daily lives, we are perpetually assessing the value of things, relationships and opportunities by determining whether or not the benefit of having those things in our lives will be worth the costs required of us to get them. This constant evaluation of costs, worth and ultimate value are a part of our normal daily rhythms.
As I interact with people all over the country on the topics of foster care and adoption I find these issues of cost, worth and ultimate value to be significant ones – both for those who are already involved and those who are hesitantly considering it. It’s real in my own family as well as we continually learn to embrace it as a central component of who we are and what we do. We count the costs, consider the implications they will bring on our family and ultimately have to answer a very important question – Will it be worth it?
Counting the Costs
Nobody stands in front of a church on their wedding day or sits at a table and signs mortgage papers without having seriously considered the implications of what they’re about to do, but everyone who ends up in those situations has ultimately concluded one thing – it’s worth it.
The same is true for fostering and adopting – it will cost you. Maybe some money, certainly some time, definitely some energy, and absolutely some emotion, convenience, comfort and normalcy. No one ever said, “I want to foster or adopt so that my life will be the same.” No. Nothing will be the same. Everything changes because of it. It's important to be aware of the costs; to not go into this with rose colored lenses on. Yet, at the end of the day, we must accept the costs to us as worth it for the gain a child may receive. This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. He joyfully laid down the infinite value of His own life so that we might know the immeasurable worth of being fully and unconditionally loved in Him. Foster care and adoption are beautiful expressions of that gospel. They demand a selfless, costly and potentially painful love for the sake of a child gaining much as we willingly give all. As we labor to love with the love we ourselves have received from Jesus, we do so in a cloud of uncertainties and unknowns, but with the confidence of one guarantee - it's always worth it. A child is always worth the process and more valuable than the costs. Always.
Let me be as honest and encouraging as I possibly can be: If you keep thinking about it, talking about it and praying about it, that’s probably a sign that you would be great at it and just need to do it. The issue for many isn’t whether or not they are “called” to foster or adopt, but what it will cost them if they actually do it. It’s easy sometimes for Christians to hide their insecurities, concerns and fears under the veil of spiritual language, claiming they’re still “praying about it” and determining whether or not they are “called” to do it, when that matter has already been resolved by God in His word and in their hearts. At the risk of sounding unspiritual let me suggest this: certainly not for all, but definitely for some, perhaps the most spiritual thing you can do is stop praying about whether or not you should do it - and just do it, choosing to believe that the costs you will incur will be worth it for the gain a child may receive. I know this is not where everybody is, but I also know this is where someone is. Perhaps that someone is you.
For the Better
While it’s important to count the costs you may incur if you do foster or adopt; it’s equally as important to consider the costs you may incur if you don’t foster or adopt.
Foster care and adoption has profoundly changed our family - in obvious family-picture type ways but also in subtle, less seen, more perspective-shifting type ways. While it could be said that we’ve changed a little girl’s life, I’m convinced the impact she has had on ours is undoubtedly and exponentially greater. Of the innumerable ways to be measured, here’s two examples – our kids and our marriage – that have been forever changed through our unique foster care and adoption journey:
I used to be concerned about the effect bringing foster children into our family would have on our daughters. Would it take away from the attention they deserve from us? Would it interrupt their routines? Would they resent us for it? Now, after the fact, I'm more concerned about the effect NOT bringing a foster child into our home would have had on our kids. Our daughters have not gone unaffected - they talk about foster care, they pray for “the fosters” often before bedtime and are excited about new kids coming into our home soon. They can never unsee what they’ve seen. I’m grateful it’s in them now and hopeful it expresses itself in beautiful ways as they grow older. It has changed them, for the better, and I'm convinced not opening our home to foster care would have cost them that opportunity.
As it pertains to our marriage, in a certain sense going through the foster care and adoption process has revealed a version of each of us to one another that we had yet to fully see as husband and wife. It has 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. We have to ask different, better questions now about our goals and our priorities. We have to think about our home, our family and our future differently because of it. It has undoubtedly changed our marriage - not just in what we do together but in how we are together. We are better - not without the costs - but because of them. I’m convinced not opening our family to adoption would have cost our marriage some of those hard but good things.
Whatever your particular situation or circumstances may be, it’s possible these kids need your family as much as your family needs these kids. It’s nearly impossible to see it that way until you’re in it, but eventually becomes the place where one of the most beautiful truths about it all is revealed – foster care and adoption are not just the process by which we may change a child’s life but also the means through which God will radically transform ours. Their story changes ours forever - undoubtedly for the better. Perhaps that's all part of God's design in how this whole thing is supposed to work.
We Can't Afford Not To
But when it’s all said and done, let’s spend less time talking about what it will cost us if we do foster or adopt and more time talking about what it will cost these kids if we don’t. Kids in crisis can't afford to wait until it's most convenient for us to care for them. They simply don't have that luxury. And maybe we don't have that luxury either. Perhaps the question we need to be asking ourselves over and over and over again - whether you're in the middle of it already or just now considering the possibilities of it for you and your family - is not "Can we afford to do this?" but rather "Can we really afford not to do this?" A slightly different question with significantly different implications.
At the end of the day our “no” will be much more difficult on them than our “yes” will ever be on us. So let’s resolve to never neglect their perspectives in our own personal considerations about whether or not we should foster or adopt. What we stand to lose pales in comparison to what everyone else, especially these kids, stands to gain.
The good news for all of us is this: the gospel has the unique ability to turn costs into privileges and inconveniences into opportunities. It has the distinct capacity to completely empty us while at the same time abundantly fill us. Perhaps in the end you will find those costs that once concerned you will become the very things that now compel you – to give all so that a child can gain much. Will it be hard? Yes. But will it be worth it? There is absolutely no doubt.