Jonathan Cliff is one of the best family ministers in the country. I don’t just say that because he has a cool blog and gets invited to speak in a bunch of places and works at a fantastic church. I say that because as I’ve gotten to know Jonathan, the thing that is most clear is that he is passionate about the gospel and he is passionate about how the gospel is lived out within his own family. And in my opinion, that is a whole lot more important than the other stuff. I’m honored to call him friend.
What I’ve learned in the past year is that the real rock star in the Cliff home is Jonathan’s wife, Starr. Starr blogs at lostinlaundry.com. When I asked Jonathan to share his family’s perspective on why they have served as foster parents, he wisely deferred to his wife’s words.
Love is not self-seeking.1 Corinthians 13:5
When I start to feel that heaviness in my chest, and worry that the heartache of that experience – of “giving him back” – that it will be too great a burden to put on my family, then Father God drops this verse in my heart again. Love is not self-seeking. And I know that this journey that He’s called us to won’t be free of pain….but simultaneously feel such conviction that living to ensure the absence of pain in my life is not the life I want to live. And so we choose love and the likelihood of pain over self-protection.
I know this isn’t the answer He would give everyone with that fear; that question that I’m asked nearly daily, “How will you ever give them back?” But for me, this is the answer that He brings loud and clear: Love is not self-seeking.
There are foster children in this city that need love. No one questions that fact. To be able to provide that love, but then refuse it because “it will hurt me when I have to give him back”, would be choosing to protect my own heart at the expense of withholding love from a child. Choosing “me” over “them.” For me, to continue to say “I can’t foster because I wouldn’t be able to handle giving them back”, meant I was knowingly and willingly seeking my own self-protection over offering love and hope to a child. God changed my paradigm, and every time I tried to utter the words, “it would just be too hard to give them back”, my heart translated those words to “making sure I don’t feel hurt or pain is so very important to me, that I will not love these children.” And that refrain of “it would just hurt me too much” when uttered from my mouth, started to sicken me.
I choose to love without regard for self. I do it badly sometimes, with moments of self-pity and fear and worry. But I forge ahead in my imperfection, and ask God to show me how to love like He does. I ask Him to help me trust that He will be my comforter and friend in those times of pain. I worry, “Is this too much of a burden for my children? Is this unfair? To let them love and care deeply for a foster child, then experience the pain of no longer having them?” But I give those worries to Him and trust that He will use this time to teach my children from a very young age that He is a God of comfort and peace that passes understanding. I pray my children will know that love is always the best choice, even if it hurts.