One of the biggest injustices we can do for our children is to let them feel too comfortable. Especially if you are a Christ-Follower because Jesus calls us to love our neighbors (and he reminds us that our neighbor is the “Samaritan”) and to help “the least of these.” Our children need to know that there are injustices in this world and people in need all around them. I do not mean your five-year-old should watch the nightly news report (most adults cannot handle watching the world news without experiencing some level of anxiety from it). Instead, we need to help our children develop Jesus Eyes that see human suffering and Jesus Hearts that break for them. I believe Jesus Hearts and Jesus Eyes are not given at birth but need to be cultivated over time. If you, the parent, are too comfortable and intentionally sheltered then your children will not develop these Jesus characteristics. You are the adult in the relationship, it is up to you to guide your children through the muddy waters of poverty, injustice, pain, race. Guide them; don’t hide them.
One of the biggest injustices we can do for our children is to let them feel too comfortable.
Being a foster family automatically opens the door for pain and brokenness to come inside your home. I know this sounds crazy and scary! However, the Bible tells us that God is the “helper to the fatherless” (Psalm 10:14) and he sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). In order to accomplish this, God calls some families to adopt and/or do foster care. By being obedient to the call we willingly make ourselves uncomfortable. Instead of shielding our biological children from the realities of this broken world we teach them to pour healing into the wounded. Just as a medic cannot help the wounded soldier unless he puts himself in the middle of the battle field, so it is with families who do foster care.
A medic cannot help the wounded soldier unless he puts himself in the middle of the battle field.
During my growing-up years, there were three specific times that I was pretty uncomfortable but it impacted my world view for the better. The first was delivering the food and toy drive donations to families as a high school student. I knew our area had poverty but I never grasped the severity of it until I went out on these deliveries. I found families living in shacks deep in the woods; some without running water. These were third-world houses in the dead of the north-cold winter. Kids I went to school with actually lived in these places. My eyes were opened wide. The second time came when I went on a mission trip to Monterrey, Mexico in college. Same shacks, just in the heat of the desert this time. I came home and changed my major to nursing, because I knew after that trip I wanted to literally touch people and make a difference in their lives through my career. The third was when I signed up to tutor in an inner-city school with my sister. I was mostly motivated by this being a good resume builder. Us two country-bumpkin, White girls drove into the inner-city once a week to tutor/mentor. I had nothing in common with the middle-schooler assigned to me other than she went to Laura Ingalls Wilder School and I am related to Laura Ingalls. She mentored me. She gave me a better understanding of what life is like for an inner-city, young, Black girl– it did not look too pretty and it made me feel pretty uncomfortable. But in my discomfort I grew and changed and I expanded my borders. I grew Jesus Eyes and a Jesus Heart.
In my discomfort I grew and changed and I expanded my borders.
It’s one thing to share your money by supporting certain causes (save the orangutans in Borneo!) but it is so much more to Do. Doing transforms your life and the life you are touching. Some of us live closer to suffering and it is easier to expose our children to it. Some of you may live in Suburbiaville where you have to be more purposeful in making your children uncomfortable. Exposure to discomfort needs to be age appropriate. Here are just a few ways my husband and I have tried to expose our children: having the kids volunteer as backpack fillers for the Salvation Army Backpack Program (children are given backpacks filled with food items on Fridays so they have food to eat through the weekend. Some children in our area only get the meals provided by the school and going through the weekend may mean no food). Every year we do Samaritan’s Purse: Operation Christmas Child, you can track your box and find out where it goes. Then have your child look up that country and learn more about the people there and pray for the child that got your box. We have done Angel Tree gifts for children whose parents are incarcerated. This is a national program but the gifts go to children in your backyard. We have anonymously donated clothing to a schoolmate. We have purchased several grocery gift cards, prayed over them with the kids and then had our school pick out families who could be blessed by them. And then, obviously, becoming a foster family has been the most eye-opening and life-stretching for our children.
No one wants to willingly seek out discomfort but if we want to be people who love well, then that is just what we need to do!
“Be strong and do the work.” (I Chronicles 28:10) Leah