I saw a t-shirt once that read, “You ride roller coasters. I do foster care.” If you’ve been following along with my journey the past couple days, you’ll know we’ve been tumultuously strapped into the roller coaster. We said goodbye to our foster son, accepted a placement for a newborn, and learned definitively this morning that the baby won’t be staying with us.
The emotional and mental toil has caught up to us. We packed up one kid, unpacked for the next, spent a couple days down in limbo land, only to pack the baby things up again and wait, wait to see what’s next for our journey.
I’ve read statistics that the average amount of time someone will wait in line over the course of their lifetime is between 5 and 10 years. I imagine foster parents spend more time waiting than the average person; maybe we’re closer to that 10 year estimate. For me, I suppose for most of us, waiting is a trial in and of itself. Hurry up and wait. Prepare yourself for either the loss or gain that’s to come and wait between the two. You don’t get to decide when the wait is over or what the outcome will be. You’re not in control.
I hate when God puts me in a holding pattern. It’s then that I realize none of this process is up to me. I don’t get to say, “This is what I want,” and I don’t get to cherry pick my experience. I can ‘t make any of it happen on my own. As frustrating as that is, it’s been good for me to learn how to surrender to God.
I quit full-time teaching a month ago. Despite being at a faith-based school, I was able to teach independently, hoping that the many split second decisions I made throughout my day would be pleasing to God. I knew how to teach. I knew how to connect with the students. I could do all of it with whatever abilities I already possessed. I didn’t have to rely so heavily on God just to get me through the day.
When I quit, I had to lay down the control I had over my life. And it was a big item to let go of because teachers do a lot of multi-tasking. On average, teachers make 4 decisions a minute (1,500 decisions a day). I didn’t pray for guidance for those 1,500 daily decisions; I didn’t have time for that. I tapped into my spiritual foundation and acted. Now that I’m in a different environment, I have far fewer daily decisions to make and the biggest ones are out of my control.
Though many things aren’t up to me, there are still choices I have to make in my response, my thinking, and where my heart is at. I can be swallowed up in bitterness, grief, or frustration. Or maybe not. Maybe there’s another way. I think about some of the scriptures that have helped guide my life:
- “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5-6) As Christians we are told to do things that are contrary to our nature. We are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. We are to rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. We are to seek the kingdom of God first. Basically, we put Him first and decide to honor Him in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in.
- “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Read the scripture so you know what obedience to God requires, and do it. Change your thinking, guard your heart, and work on controlling your actions.
- “ Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:12-13) We weren’t meant to make permanence out of this life on earth. By keeping it in perspective, that this is temporary and forever is to come, we can withstand the affliction gracefully and continue to live generously. I might not have much at the end of all this… That’s okay.
- “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-2) God is with us. He will not abandon us. If we cast our cares onto Him, He will sustain us. He will give us peace.
When troubles come my way, it’s fight or flight. I can run, or I can draw near to God with the promise that He will draw near to me. I can follow James’ advice and “consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
The result that comes from perseverance sounds pretty good. I think I’ll choose that.