He smiled at me when I woke him up this morning. His eyes were closed but his face conveyed pure contentment. He knew exactly who was picking him up. As I smiled and laughed at him his twin sister looked across the room at me and squealed with delight as she competed for my attention and affection. These moments have only increased in frequency as these two have grown and become more aware of the world around them. My wife and I can’t walk into the room without these two lighting up with joy. They know who we are. Yet, in these moments of joy there is a tinge of sadness, of dread.
It is when we are most connected with these two babies that I feel the most pain because I know that one day, in all likelihood, they will leave us. They will go back to their biological parents. Our time as their foster parents will come to an end and my heart will break. Perhaps what is even more devastating is the knowledge that although their faces will forever be etched in our hearts, they will likely not even remember us when they grow up. Even now as I write these words I am overwhelmed by this dreadful thought. My heart breaks at the idea of walking through their departure with our daughters. These two are part of our family. We have celebrated every milestone and been present for every first. They belong to us, yet they do not.
When people find out that we are foster parents it is to this dreaded pain that they most often refer in one way or another. They look at the potential heartache as unbearable, as being too high of a price to pay. Of course, my wife and I knew and counted this cost before we ever took the first step down this path. However, in recent weeks I have been confronted with the cost again and I have come to this conclusion: it is worth it.
If tomorrow we get the call that these two blessings are to be returned to their biological parents my wife and I will mourn the loss of two children. However, we would rejoice that we have had six months with these gifts from God. I’ve known many people that have lost loved ones and not one of them has ever said that they regretted the time they had with them because the pain was too great. In fact, every one of them would gladly walk through the experience again even if they knew the pain of loss was coming.
So why do we, as a church culture view the pain of this ministry any differently? Why are we largely unwilling to open our hearts to this blessed suffering? To be fair, I don’t believe it is this suffering in particular that we are trying to avoid. There is a larger issue under the surface that drives this culture of avoidance. The church has come to a place where, broadly speaking, it does not want to experience any suffering. The Bride of Christ has largely opted out of that which is uncomfortable. People in today’s church are willing to serve God so long as it is easy and comfortable. It better not cost anything and it must make you feel good. Suffering is no longer part of the discussion.
How many blessings do we miss out on as believers because we are unwilling to suffer so that Christ may be exalted? How many ministry opportunities have we neglected because they might bring pain and heartache? This seems to be a far cry from the pattern of the New Testament where self-denial and suffering characterized the early church. Paul, Peter, and James all affirm the privilege of suffering for the sake of the Gospel. Peter and Paul both indicated that it was in their suffering that they felt most closely connected with Christ. That might explain why so many in the church feel like Christ is so distant from them. Maybe it is because they refuse to identify with the Suffering Servant in his suffering.
We cannot be a people that is drawn to God only for comfort and ease. That is the opposite of the life described in the New Testament for those who are transformed by the gospel. As we take up our cross daily () and offer our bodies as living sacrifices () we will ultimately run headlong into suffering. Admittedly, that is a horrible way to live if you are only considering the seventy or so years we have on this planet. However, it is exactly how you live when you recognize that this world is fleeting and have your eyes on eternity.
One day soon you may see my wife and I with eyes full of tears and sadness in our hearts. It will be difficult for us to even function. Just know that in that moment of suffering, in the midst of our pain we will rejoice in knowing that God was gracious enough to allow us to minister to two little babies in their time of need. In his kindness he even let us love them and be loved by them. As we hurt on that day we will know that we have been called for just such an occasion: to suffer so that Christ may be exalted. That is a privilege we must cling to in this life as we long for the day when our Lord will return and such painful realities will be no more. Until then, as joy and pain collide, let us count our lives as nothing that we may more faithfully and powerfully proclaim the good news of our Savior ().
Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (ESV)
A Living Sacrifice
12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (ESV)
24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (ESV)