In order remain licensed as foster parents, Kristi and I not only had to go through the intrusive and long application process, we have to do continuing hours of training every year. So, not only do we open up our homes, our lives and our hearts to children in need, we have to continue to jump through hoops to have the privilege of doing so. But I digress.
This past Saturday, we attended a 6-hour training. As might be expected, some parts were more helpful than others. But the thing I most clearly came away with from the day of training wasn’t part of the training at all. Instead, it came from thinking about the fact that, in many ways, foster parents have to beg to open up their lives and how much that is an embodiment of the Gospel. I kept thinking of 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, where Paul commends the Macedonians who begged for the chance to serve:
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,  for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.  For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord,  begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
I had to spend six hours of my Saturday in order to keep a baby we love. The Macedonians begged in order to give more money than they could afford (don’t show these verses to the Financial Planners in your church family)! What compelled them? Paul tells us in verse 9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Grace. Grace compelled the Macedonians to go to great lengths to seek opportunities to give and serve. Yes, Foster Parents have to earn the right to give of ourselves, but why would I complain about jumping through some hoops when grace reminds me that Jesus “for the joy that was set before Him” gave everything. He became poor so that we might become rich. How could the Macedonians not give exuberantly? How could we not joyfully pursue the opportunity to serve?
During one of the sessions, the teacher made a remark to the effect that foster parents don’t have the option of not opening their hearts to these foster children. These are kids who need love, stability and consistency and love. You have to love them knowing that they can’t give anything in return. You may have them long enough that they learn to love you in return. But you may not. Not only can these children not repay you, they may bring troubles and headaches, visitations, appointments, health issues, family issues, legal issues with them. Some of these kids may even resent you for trying to love them and let you know it. But they need love whether or not you want to give it. They need it more than you need to keep it.
What a beautiful picture of the love God has for His children. We take Him for granted. We rely on ourselves when things go smoothly and call out to Him when we need help. We complain when He doesn’t do things the way we think He should. We resent Him when He disciplines us. And yet He relentlessly loves His children. He pursues us when we want to run. He stands by the road, looking over the horizon for our return, running out to meet us when we’ve spit in His face.
Foster parenting is hard. It requires sacrificial love. But it has reminded me of the beauty of a Savior who has led the way of sacrificial love, taking on death so that we may live. How could we also not strive to serve?