Knowing that we ought to do something and actually wanting to do it are usually at odds, until we embrace wholeness as our goal.

When we first consider foster care, it appears to be a unidirectional pursuit with foster parents swooping in to rescue foster children from their placelessness. But the journey to wholeness cannot be summarized as the matching of the resourced to the resourceless, the together to the scattered, or the whole to the broken.

Wholeness is, instead, about each person laying down his or her old life in order to live what is true, good and beautiful. As in many paths of discipleship, it is a call to die to our former selves in the hope of being raised to new life together with God and with one another.

Settling Into the Unsettling

Many people who know we are foster parents say things like, “We could never do what you do, but good on you for doing that!” Embedded in the encouragement is a statement of unwillingness to enter the fray.

They are recognizing how destabilizing it would be to allow that sort of brokenness into their lives, and perhaps on the flipside how wrenching it would be to attach themselves to a child and let them be a part of their family knowing they might not stay. Foster care is certainly an exercise in settling into the unsettling.

We, too, liked our life prior to signing up to foster. We had one son who was born to us just a week prior to our 11th wedding anniversary. We traveled whenever and wherever we wanted, whether across state lines or abroad, and we didn’t have to ask for anyone’s permission to do so. We had all the paperwork we needed.

Because we are bilingual, we raised our oldest son in both languages, and we didn’t have to stop to interpret for one another. We followed our community’s norms for behavior and discipline. Nobody felt nervous around us about dysregulated blowups, running away and the occasional cursing tirade. It was all simple and clear. It was the way we had dreamed it would be. And we, each in his and her own way, were resistant for it to be shattered.

Equipped for the Task

We are not sure at what point our hearts warmed to wanting the “ought-to.” It’s tempting to point to moments of our foster son’s quick compliance and easy self-regulation. (We do really, really want those to be the norm.) It’s probably trite to talk about realizing our own brokenness as the lynchpin.

As performance-oriented souls, we were pretty sure of our own shortcomings without signing up for this gig. More likely, the convergence has been a progression of allowing performance and behavior to reside well underneath personhood, just as our new son may now lay down his fight to survive rejection and loss. 

Christ reminds and resources us for this obedience. We consider the extent he humbled himself and was obedient, and the ways in which he loved strangers like family without assurance of love in return. Scripture teaches we ought to commit to these children without promise of outcome, following his lead to “set the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6).

Instead of a situational outcome, God promises that we will be blessed, be made new, and best of all that he will be with us always. Indeed, while a broken attachment to foster kids is a risk, the prospect of deeper attachment to God is the great promise for prospective foster parents and for all those who keep his commands. “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you,” Jesus declares (John 14:18).

And so, in faith, we have prayerfully opened a new part of our lives to his will in pursuit of wholeness for each of us. It’s not always a want-to, but it is becoming a love-to.  


Transracial Adoption

Although no one can fully anticipate what being a foster care or adoptive parent is like, transracial adoption comes with unique challenges. A first step is hearing — and learning from — the stories of transracial adoptees. In an article published by The Guardian, Nicole Chung shares her experience. Read it here: