My wife’s out-of-breath voice sputtered through the cellphone: “I know this is sudden, but the girls I told you about were moved to respite care, and”—she hesitated—“can we be their foster parents?” My mind raced. When we married not quite two years ago, we agreed to a 5- to 7- year plan for having children. I tried to disguise the apprehension in my voice when I asked, “How long do we have to decide?” Her pause felt uncomfortably long. “Three days.”
Having years of professional experience with children, my wife felt confident. I felt terrified. We sought the counsel of small-group members and pastors, and they all said the same thing: Fostering would be difficult, but we were in a unique position to make it happen. The outpouring of support and provision from friends—who hosted a shower for us and helped us move spare furniture out and donated furniture in—confirmed our decision.
I also found confirmation in John 1:4–5: “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Who doesn’t want to shine the light of Christ? We want to make a difference in His name, whether on the mission field, in our city or in our home.
Saying yes was the easy part. The anticipation of bringing the girls into our family had us daydreaming about game nights and sit-down dinners. And the early days were exciting, fresh and fun. But dreams and excitement fade quickly when a screaming child slams a door in your face. It hurts to hear “I hate you!” when you give a child what she needs instead of what she demands.
Being a foster parent takes more energy than I ever imagined. At times, my glowing vision of changing a child’s life feels distant, as though it belongs to another time and place. There are joyful times when we see the girls becoming more respectful, pursuing their talents and taking on more responsibility; but when we feel stretched and strained, the hard times nearly eclipse the good. It’s easy to forget how much energy it takes to shine when circumstances darken.
And it’s in those moments that John 1:5 resonates in my mind, giving me resilient hope. All my fears, failures and anxieties prove that I am not the light—and this is paramount. Shining the light of Christ in darkness is impossible if I rely on my own energy and ability. But with God as the source, the light I’m sharing will never be extinguished. Better and brighter yet, Christ’s light will continue to shine when mine goes out. Even when the girls no longer live with us, the progress they’ve made and the things we’ve all learned will remain.
I am confident in the vision God gave us. And I’m hopeful that one day the streak of permanent marker on our antique dining table will remind me that the hard work was worth it.
Biblical references are from the New International Version (NIV).