Rhythms of Grace- Making Room for Christ and Others
My wife Catherine and I married in August of 2010. We met in the church where I currently serve, and because of this, have had a very public relationship with our church family. This has been a great blessing to us most of the time, but also amplified what I like to call “family chatter” when it came to our relationship. Take the kind of awkward questions you are asked by your family members and multiply them by the number of church family members we had, and you start to get the idea. Weeks after we were dating, people were asking us about when we were getting married. Weeks after announcing that we would indeed be married, people were asking us about when we would start having kids. Thankfully, Catherine is a woman of incredible grace, and handled even the most awkward family chatter with humor and patience.
Yet we were asking similar questions of each other in private, and from very early on in our relationship, we agreed that fostering and adopting kids would be part of our family plan if at all possible. We have stood alongside friends who have wrestled with fertility, so we knew that nothing was guaranteed for us if we chose to have kids of our own.
However, we also knew that there were kids in our own area who needed care, and that nothing would proclaim the good news of the Kingdom at hand like welcoming others into our family. Covenant-making is about making family, and God’s choice to covenant us into the Triune family through Christ should transform every aspect of our household. For us, this meant making room for the parent-less in our own backyard: we will welcome others because God first welcomed us. We didn’t know how this would happen or the impact it would have on us, we just knew that faithfulness for us included this step, and that God would provide all we needed to make that step well.
About a year ago, we started to share this vision with those who asked us about kids. Some were puzzled by our choice, wondering why we would choose kids who were not ours when we could just have our own. We were even called foolish by a few people. Others assumed we had run into fertility issues and said they would pray for us. Still others rejoiced with us, sharing stories and truths with us that have fueled our journey.
All of this eventually led to our first placement in late January. We currently have two boys 3 and under in our house, and, to put it mildly, life in our house has dramatically changed. I mean, we knew things would change, but neither of us properly anticipated the shift in our day-to-day rhythms that would come when we welcomed these two kids into our lives. And we’ve had an interesting start to this experience as well. Our transition from the boys’ previous foster parents made for late nights and broken routines for the boys, Catherine was away for 24 hours our first weekend together for work, I and one of the kids got a stomach bug that Sunday and Monday, all this on top of the influx of energy, poopy diapers, questioning, cartoon shows and sippy cups that come with having kids in your care. There have been moments already where Catherine and I have looked at each other in exhaustion, half smiling, half crying, wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into…
And yet it has reinforced our choice to foster over and over. Making room for others in your life is never easy or cheap, and we knew on the front end the cost and course we were choosing. We believe the Kingdom of God is rooted in the truth that the Father chose to make room for us in his family by adopting us in as sons and daughters in Christ, with great love bearing the great cost of it all. Making room for others is our faith family’s ethic, and we want our house to reflect that in the in-and-out, day-to-day rhythms of life in our house. Doing so will not be a one-time choice, but a daily choosing, in word and deed, to continue to love and make room for each other as God has made room for us.
This could prove exhausting if we lose sight of God’s always welcoming grace. One thing Catherine and I have already noticed is that our daily rhythms like reading, praying, working out, studying, cooking – pretty much every part of our in-house life – have been forced to change. Hospitality and care of others always disrupts normal life, and while anticipating that disruption is one thing, restructuring your life to include the rhythms you most need only happens on purpose. We see that it will not be enough to have good intentions about our spiritual growth; if we are not intentional about building these things into our everyday lives, they will not happen. Christ is always offering us all we need for life and godliness, and not just for our sake, but for the sake of the world around us as well, which for us now includes these two boys. But the habits we need to be godly parents to these kids will not naturally cultivate themselves.
But this idea doesn’t simply apply to foster care, or parenting in general. If sustained, fruitful, incarnational ministry is our goal in any facet of life, we know that it will come at great and even calculated cost. We do not want to be like the builder who does not consider the cost of the tower he is building, or the general who does not first consider his army’s abilities before declaring war (see Luke 14:28-32). Jesus warns us to consider the cost of following him, knowing it requires a daily taking up of the cross.
Yet at the same time, we know that God himself sustains the work of faithfulness by his grace – that all we need for life and godliness we have in Christ Jesus (2 Peter 1:3). We know that God has chosen to fuel the obedience he requires by his Spirit, and that drinking deeply of the means of grace will be the most critical habit we develop for maintaining faithful ministry. If God is supplying our needs, day in and day out, we must build our lives around receiving the grace being freely given to us. We will not endure the cost of obedience without it.
So if there is one verse we are clinging to these days, it is this: Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:16 NRSV). Every time we change wet sheets in the middle of the night or cut up fruit for snack, we recognize that God is graciously offering the grace we need in the moment. These little choices are the moments where the cost of our faithfulness becomes clear, and we know Christ’s welcoming “Yes” to us will sustain our “yes” to him and to those he loves.
For us, that is worth pursuing at all cost.