As many of you know, we are a foster family. That is to say, Kristi and I are licensed foster parents. We are currently loving our third foster child, whom we will call “Baby G.” (I have written about some of our foster experiences here and here).
We had our first two placements each for five days. That was quite the “introduction by fire” way of getting into foster parenting because five days is just long enough to begin getting attached but not long enough to really understand to whom you are getting attached. After a short break, we received our third placement, a 2-day old baby boy. We have now had Baby G. for six months. That’s quite enough time to understand to whom are getting attached and we have fallen for this little boy. He is truly a joy for our family and everyone who meets him.
I can’t share all of the details, but let’s just say that a relative recently came forward saying that they want to adopt Baby G. Up until last week, we had been assured by several people in the system that we would be able to pursue adopting Baby G. When we began to hear this from several voices, we really let our guard down and welcomed Baby G into our family. Our biological sons adore him. Neighbors ask if he can come visit. Teachers at the school ask about him when we don’t bring him with us to pick-up or drop-off. People in our church family stand in line to hold him. We have endured hospital visits with him. And now he might be leaving. I’m not going to lie: we’ve shed some tears.
It’s in the midst of tears that we’re often the most attentive. This can work itself out in a number of ways. For me, during this current situation, it’s resulted in frustration with Christians. I remember, a very long time ago, I found out that a girlfriend had dumped me and a close friend of mine nonchalantly told me: “God works in mysterious ways.” Of course he was right, but it wasn’t helpful. In fact, it was patronizing and aggravating. And somehow, this seems to be the drawer into which so much well-intentioned “Christian” advice is filed: “theologically correct but not helpful in the moment.”
One of the phrases that I have heard during our current test goes something like: “God probably has something better for you in all of this.” I understand the intent: “sometimes, we want what is not actually best for us.” But, the way it is often communicated, it actually comes across more as something like: “You think Baby G. is a good baby and that you’ve bonded with him and you want to raise him, but wait until you meet the next baby, he/she will be SO much better than you ever could have hoped for!”
Notice that there has been a subtle shift between those two statements. It is indeed true that “sometimes, we want what is not actually best for us.” But I don’t think this necessarily means that God will astound our earthly expectations with something newer, bigger, better and with a superior warranty. When we think of our own misconstrued expectations in this light, it helps explain why wer’e so often disappointed or even angry with God; I expected my life to be materially better and it sure doesn’t seem to be. Could it be that our expectations are misplaced?
God does not promise to make us more comfortable for our time here on earth. Perhaps God sometimes removes the earthly things we treasure, not because He wants us to look for a “better” earthly replacement but so that we would find our deepest satisfaction in Him; that we would love the Giver more than the gifts. Maybe that “something better” that God has planned for us is actually Him? You know the saying: you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone. But what if what we’ve really got is never gone? What if it takes the removal of things that get in the way for us to fully realize what we’ve had all along?
This is not to say that Baby G. has been a hindrance in our lives or that we have any such notion that he “gets in the way.” However, my relationship with him should prompt me to wrestle with the question: what if he does go? If he does, will we withdraw from fostering because we allowed ourselves to get too attached to this precious baby? Will we keep on pursuing the “foster path” and continue to offer the best home we can to the children that God brings us? He is an absolute blessing. But what if my stress over him causes me to question my trust of God: God wouldn’t take him because we’re the best home for him (but who am I really to say that!). In that moment, I love the gift more than the giver. If something God has given me distracts from my love/affection/obedience, to Him, it is no longer a “gift,” it is an idol
I do believe that what we want is not always best for us. Just think about when our children ask for candy for every meal. I also believe that God has better things planned for us than we do. I just worry that our expectation of “better” is not God’s. God is the good, better and best. God will not tempt us, but He will test us. His ways are better. He is the supreme fountain of love, security, identity, satisfaction and joy. He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. When God orchestrates our circumstances to bring us closer to Him, do we really believe that He has given us the best?