(Generally speaking, my posts don’t require a preface. I feel that this one might. This post was basically me trying to make sense of the many thoughts swirling through my head late last night: a therapy session of sorts. You are more than welcome to read along, but if your mind starts to wander around the middle of the post, I’ll understand. )
Today my wife & I had the privilege of sitting through our first Foster Parent Review Board session. As “newbies” in the world of Foster Parenting, we are still getting the hang of the whole process. So when the case worker advised us that we were encouraged to attend the Review Board meeting, we jumped at the chance to learn a little more. Since I had no idea what to expect, I decided I would go into this meeting with ears wide open and mouth wide shut. (I know that “mouth wide shut” isn’t technically possible…but I think you know what I mean) I hoped this approach would allow me to look at the situation objectively and see what’s best for our foster son.
What I experienced in the meeting was nothing like I had anticipated. In a seemingly cold and sterile review of the situation of this little boy’s life, God took the chance to teach me something about myself: something I wasn’t all that excited to learn.
Prior to the meeting itself, we had discussed the review session with our foster son’s Guardian ad litem, and he mentioned that he doubted either of the parents would show up for this review. Right or wrong, the thought that went through my mind was “It figures”. Having spent the last 3 months caring for this little boy, I had managed to convince myself that the sparse details I knew of his family situation were proof enough that he was treated as an afterthought. I used the scripture from Psalm 127:3, “Children are a heritage from the Lord…“, as a stepping stool to get on my proverbial high horse. Firmly in saddle, I rode into the conference room.
The session began with introductions, and I was glad for this. It would be good to know all the people involved in this case. One by one, moving left to right around the table, each person stated their name and their role. Board member. Another board member. Case worker. Guardian ad litem. Father. Case worker. Wait a second! Did that man say “Father”?? Sure enough, I looked across the table and immediately saw the resemblance to my foster son. This was his dad. He had shown up after all: an interesting twist, to be sure. My turn came to state my name, and then my wife did the same.
After stating our role as foster parents, I purposefully avoided eye contact with the father. Having formed a less than flattering opinion of this man I’d never met, I couldn’t bring myself to look at him.
The meeting began by the social worker reviewing the reasons that the baby was removed from the situation to begin with. As I heard these, I thought to myself, “How embarrassing it must be to have a group of strangers sit around and talk about why you were not fit to keep your own child.” They detailed the fact that the father was now out of work. This was one piece of information I was aware of, so it didn’t shock me. What did startle me was that when asked about this situation, the father responded that his plant had closed for an extended holiday break, and he was now working two jobs to do what he could to make ends meet. I found myself looking at him as he gave his account. As he finished talking, he looked my direction and I caught his eyes.
The entire time we have enjoyed the privilege of caring for our foster son, I had drawn a picture of hardened, selfish man who cared more for his own whims and desires than for the basic needs of his children. What I saw in his eyes couldn’t have been farther from the portrait I’d sketched.
I saw a man that was embarrassed to have to admit these things in the company of strangers that held sway over his child’s future. I saw a man that had become overwhelmed by the health challenges of his newborn and simply didn’t know how to stop the snowball from rolling downhill. Here was a man working multiple jobs to provide shelter and food for his family, and somehow I was still looking down on him because of the TYPE of job he was able to secure. This was about the point that God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “The only reason your roles aren’t reversed is because of my sovereign, sustaining grace in your life. I have a plan for you. I have a plan for him. You are currently caring for his son because it’s what I have designed. Don’t you dare think that your path makes you a better person that is any more deserving. It’s my grace that deserves credit…not you.”
I had never considered myself to be an arrogant person. Confident? Sure. Arrogant? Certainly not.
The fact that I prided myself on my lack of arrogance should have told me something.
Before this meeting, my wife and I had talked about how difficult it was to pray over this situation. On one hand, we really wanted to pray for the family of our foster son to be restored…but on the other hand, we knew we loved him and felt we could provide him with a strong family environment. After my Boardroom Revelation (too dramatic?), I no longer found it hard to pray in the right way. God’s will is all that needed to be prayed over this matter. Nothing else.
As the meeting wrapped up, the review board advised us all that they were recommending that, after a few more steps, our foster son be reunited with his family. Five minutes earlier, this news would have caused me to question the wisdom of that decision. But that was back when I thought I was the magic. I now knew better.
As we were all standing to leave, the Father–who had never spoken up in prior sessions unless directly asked for a response–looked at us and said, “Thank you for taking care of my son.” Eight words had never resonated so deeply in me.
Just 15 minutes earlier, I was questioning whether the man across the table was deserving of his own son. In those next 15 minutes God used my own arrogance to remind me that just over 2000 years ago, He probably questioned whether I would be deserving of His.
As I mentioned, I went into this meeting hoping to learn something. Mission accomplished.