As I’ve been thinking about how to share the message of foster care, I started to think about classic passages and stories from the Bible. It’s pretty easy to see that many popular passages can be used to encourage people who are considering or are in the middle of foster care. The fruit of the Spirit is a great example.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)
Love: “That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.” Bob Goff wrote that in his book aptly titled Love Does. It’s impossible to be passive in foster care. Love is an action, and foster care is a very active ministry.
Joy: Children have an inherent joy about how they live their lives. The same is true for kids in foster care. It’s incredible how much joy our kids still possess even after the trauma’s they have experienced. We can learn a lot from them. Worship band Rend Collective says “Seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit, but joy is” (To hear more from them go here or here)
Peace: Peace can feel like a distant memory when you welcome a new child into your home, especially a child who has experienced trauma. John 16:33 says I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. You will undoubtedly face trials in foster care, but with the love and support of a strong foster care community (like Thornwell), you can find peace in the midst of the chaos.
Longsuffering: Most translations say patience, but the NKJV uses the word longsuffering, which I think is much more fitting when it comes to foster care. If you have kids, you know the truth to the saying that ‘patience is a virtue’. It can feel a lot like longsuffering. Kids in foster care need you to be patient with them. They come from some pretty hard places and need time to adjust to their new normal. It’s also important to be patient with yourself. Parenting children from trauma is a different experience, and it can take time to get used to.
Kindness: Being kind to someone who isn’t being kind to you is a challenge. The children who you welcome into your home won’t always be kind. Sorry if I ruined that for anybody. Many times children express their past hurts through harsh words because they don’t know how to handle all of the new emotions they are experiencing. Understanding that those hurtful words are not a personal attack can help you respond with the kindness that those kids need.
Goodness: God is good. We know this, but when we hear about some of the injustices and horrors that kids in foster care have lived through, it’s important to be reminded of His goodness. His goodness is greater than any badness that our kids experience. One of the great things about having the Bible is that we know the end of the story. We know that good defeats evil. We know that love wins every time.
Faithfulness: Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12 NLT) Whenever I’m talking to someone who is frustrated in the licensing process, I encourage them to keep fighting. Foster care truly is the good fight. Fighting for love, safety, and justice for children is always the right thing to do.
Gentleness: Kids in foster care are usually used to living in harsh environments. They’re used to harsh responses and harsh punishments. Providing calm and gentle responses can play a huge role in building trust and attachment with our foster kids. If you don’t believe me, it says so in the Bible: A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. (Proverbs 15:1 NLT)
Self-Control: In the Teaching-Family Model, this is called quality components. The ability to maintain your composure and remain kind and gentle in the face of a tantrum or hateful words from a child who is hurting, when all you want to do is yell back at them. Like many things, it’s a tough but invaluable skill when working with kids from hard places.
It’s easy to say “master these things and you’ll be perfect foster parents.” It’s true, but unattainable. The best we can do is to strive to be better than we were yesterday. As long as you’re trying, you’re headed in the right direction.