Headed Up the Hill (Guest Post by blogger Lisa Robertson of “Mess Into a Message”)

Right outside the main gate of Ancient Ephesus, there was a hill that acted as a – for lack of a better word – “baby dump.” It was a pagan society and when an unwanted baby was born, it was dumped up on the hill and left to die. Archeologists have found that often times these babies had deformities – or what our current culture would label, “special needs.” And other times, the child was just unplanned or unwanted. Ephesus also operated with a mindset that required you to live up to a certain standard…to look and act a certain way…beauty = worth. Therefore, if you birthed a baby with special needs, there was a lot of pressure and judgment placed on you.

Sound at all familiar?

With this evil and utterly disgusting practice in Ephesus, ancient writings suggest that early Christians would head up that hill to rescue the babies who were left to die and to adopt them as their own.

Isn’t that a beautiful image amongst a gruesome scene?

Now, I am no Bible scholar and I don’t know much more than that about the background of Ephesus during that time…(a friend and pastor at our local church shared all of that with me) but can you imagine what the culture must have thought? If they witnessed these early Christians trekking up that hill to rescue these “unwanted” children? They must have thought they were crazy. Why would they choose a hard, “against-the-grain” life by seeking after these children and choosing to make them their own?

I often feel that way as a foster parent. Many people don’t “get it.” They don’t get WHY we became foster parents. WHY we choose hard. WHY we would choose to welcome a child that required over 40 medical appointments in his first 8 weeks of life… Or simply why we would choose to sacrifice our time, our resources, our family dynamic for the “mess” of another’s.

Our culture often doesn’t “get” why an expecting family chooses to carry out the pregnancy they’ve been told will result in a still-born baby. WHY the expecting family chooses to bring their baby, diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, into the world when they learned of the diagnosis with plenty of time to terminate. WHY the comfortable family pays $40,000 to head to China to adopt a special needs child. WHY the foster family adopts a sibling group of 5 with trauma backgrounds that will lead them into endless amounts of therapy.

Why?

Because we were once a needy, blemished child on that hill crying out to be rescued. Our Savior heard our cries, and He climbed that hill to come get us.

In Acts, after Pentecost, Peter and John – filled with the Holy Spirit – proclaim the gospel and teach about Jesus’ resurrection. They heal a crippled man proclaiming to have done it in the name of Jesus. The rulers, elders, and scribes were astonished…they recognized they had been with Jesus…but they wanted them gone because they were afraid of losing their power or influence. They talked with each other and said, “What shall we do with these men?” (Acts 4:16)

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They witnessed miracles in the name of Jesus but they didn’t like it. They didn’t want it to be true…it didn’t fit with their culture or nicely into their standard boxes. Peter and John’s boldness threatened their lifestyle. These “Jesus people” were proclaiming to do things in the name of Jesus? With his help and power? What!? Well, that’s just uncomfortable.

Our culture and society today are often uncomfortable with this same boldness. In a world that strives for comfort, the “American dream,” biological children FIRST, adoption as a last resort, “my body, my choice,” and any other comfort inducing mindset…the idea of choosing the hard, choosing to live “against-the-grain” of what is typically acceptable, choosing to love sacrificially like Jesus…is well, uncomfortable and not ideal.

Might we stand against this societal strive for comfort and be people that our society and our culture “doesn’t know what to do with.” Might we proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.

Might we make our local foster care agency not know what to do with us as we step into the muck of foster care and love birth families beyond what makes sense.

Might we make our world around us scratch their heads and not know what to do with us as we literally go to the ends of the earth to willingly adopt the “unwanted.”

Might we make doctors and nurses scratch their heads and not know what do with us as we turn down their offensive offer to terminate and instead lovingly and excitedly choose to carry our special needs child to term and deliver them into this world.

Might we be the people headed up the hill to rescue the blemished children in the name of Jesus and by the power of His Spirit…knowing ourselves what it feels like to be rescued and adopted as sons through Jesus Christ (Acts 1:5).

Might we do none of these things out of charity, but out of love for Jesus.

 

Read more of Lisa’s beautifully honest posts on her blog:  Mess Into A Message Blog

The Cause of Foster Children

I worked a booth for recruiting foster families at a local convention this weekend.  While the time I was there, I can count on one hand the number of folks who actually engaged me in conversation about foster parenting. There was little to no interest in getting behind the cause of foster children and their needs in our little part of the world.

I get it.  Foster parenting is certainly not for the faint of heart. I found myself considering why it is important for Christians to step into the world of abuse and neglect.  “If Christians do not take up the cause of foster children and pray for them, then who will?” coursed through my mind. 

God does not give us a mere suggestion to look after orphans, widows, and the least of these in their times of distress.  He gives us a directive, and does so throughout Scripture.  I do believe that caring for children and families in crisis situations is a way of responding  to this.

I wish I could say that things have gotten better in the arena of child welfare, but that is not the case.  Children continue to be the victims of abuse and neglect around our nation (United States).  There are still far too many children and youth in the system that need adoption. 

Birth parents, who have lost their children due to abuse and neglect, are facing seemingly insurmountable challenges of achieving sobriety. They lack employment, healthy support systems, and their own stability.  They are very much in need of a tremendous amount of support.  Reunification should always be the goal if it is safe for a child to return home. Everyone involved needs to make great effort in this.

Of course, it is not just children who end up in the system that are at risk.  In our communities, families are struggling. Domestic violence continues, and too many children are growing up without the stability they need.  

And, friend, I do not think things will get better.  Still yet, I return the thought, “If Christians do not take up the cause of foster children, and pray for them, then who will?”

For some people, their day-to-day lives never involve one single thought about foster children.  Perhaps, the only time they think about child abuse and neglect is when a situation is plastered across media outlets. 

My hope is that more Christians will be the Church. They will set their hands, feet, hearts, and prayers to following through on the directive of truly caring for children, and families in need.

After all, if Christians do not take up the cause of foster children, and pray for them, then who will?  

the blog post I never had to write

Recently, I read and cried over a blog post by a foster mom who ran into the boys she fostered several years ago.  Time went by, and the boys failed to recognize her, but something instinctual in her knew that the boys she saw in a store were the precious two-year-old twins she once held in the deep hours of the night.

My heart felt heavy for her while reading.  The post quickly brought me back to the first time we stepped into the world of fostering a child who really was not our’s.  Our son, then a newborn, was on borrowed time in our hearts and lives.  He was just an innocent babe, yet caught up in the downfall of poor choices and a legal system.

With every milestone he made, I felt joy, yet strife because I knew the time was drawing near when some very hard decisions were going to be made by the professional team.  I remember thinking that if he did indeed leave our home to go with a family member or reunite with his birth parents, then I would try my best to find out where he lived throughout his life so that I could watch him play in the front yard.  I would forever love and wonder about the little one that captured my heart. 

The thoughts of losing him totally collided with that part of my being that has always rooted for the underdog.

I wanted his birth family to succeed, yet I didn’t.  

Is that even fair?  Is that even right?  Confusion.

I have spoken with many Christian foster parents who struggle with this.  On the one hand, they completely and wholeheartedly desire to raise the child who meandered his or her way into their lives.  On the other, they also want the birth parents to get clean, get their lives together, and live a good life.  Praying for success of birth families, while also recognizing our own selfish desires, is a struggle.

I remember saying to God, “I know You know that I am in love with this child.  I know that You know my heart is forever changed by the gift of loving him.  God, I do not want his birth mother to fail.  I just want things to be abundantly clear, and for You to intervene when necessary.”

The blog post I never had to write is one about grief and loss.  Each child that entered our home stayed.  They stayed.  Somehow, in the miraculous answering of prayer and the desperate tragedy of someone else’s loss, our children became “our’s”.

Forever.

Instead, the blog posts I have written embrace the fact that our experience as foster parents resulted in lifelong parenting.  Our experience ended with glorious days when the Judge’s gavel fell, and the children we stayed up late nights with, held while crying, disciplined, and celebrated milestones with, were declared to be our children.  We are now several years out from our foster parenting journey, and yet, it still kind of feels like it all happened yesterday.

Know this.  Foster parenting changes you.  Long after the meetings are over, the court hearings are no more, the visits cease, and the children either stay or go, being a foster parent leaves an imprint.

It stamps your heart with knowledge that if you grew up in a safe home with loving parents, then you are truly blessed.  

It reveals to you that if somehow, despite your choices, you walked into adulthood without addiction, then you are truly blessed.  

It humbles you to realize that the battles you face are minimal compared to the wars some are battling, and for that, you are truly blessed.

The blog post I never had to write is one that I will carry with me through the years. I never had to let go and wonder what happened to the babes to which I loved.

 For this, I thank God.  For this, I am truly blessed.