Caring as a Contact Sport
The story of how our family collided with transformation…
While waiting for our son’s baseball practice to start, we recently had an unexpected conversation with our oldest son. His younger sister, who we adopted through foster care, was swinging on the playground, while my wife and son ate sandwiches at a table.
“You know she’s changed my life more than anything else,” my son said between bites.
As every parent knows, these types of conversations can’t be forced. They usually come at unexpected times, so you just have to be ready for them.
“How do you think she has changed your life?” My wife asked.
“Well, we moved into a bigger house after she came along, and I moved to a new school, so I never would have met my best friend had that not happened,” he said. “Plus, I never would have gotten to be her big brother.”
“She’s lucky to have you as a big brother,” my wife said. “And, you’re lucky to have her.”
“I know. I love that she came into our life.”
I’d like to tell you those conversations and warm, fuzzy feelings happen all the time in our household. They don’t. Most of the time our kids sound like billy goats butting heads in the other room, arguing over what game to play or what show to watch, or who bumped into who.
Even though it lasted just a couple minutes, the conversation gave us a glimpse into our oldest son’s heart. We take guarding his heart seriously. But building up his heart and his mind in a way that’s Christ-centered is just as important.
We took both of those dynamics into consideration when making the decision to become a foster family a few years ago. Looking back, being a foster family has been one of the most beautiful, messy, transformative experiences of our lives. Yet, for a long time, we had been reluctant to pursue foster care or adoption because we thought we were protecting our sons. My wife had been a social worker, so we knew enough of the potential issues of bringing a child into our home to give us pause. What we didn’t know, until we experienced it first-hand, were the ways it would allow our sons to see God’s transformative work in their lives and in our family.
Much of parenting involves protecting our children from dangers. But we don’t want them to live in a bubble. If Jesus is who we say He is, then there needs to be a response from us. Christianity is a contact sport – God’s kingdom pushing through into a broken, messy world. We want our children to see that saying “Yes” to Jesus as their Savior means saying “Yes” to participating in His kingdom work.
And it means being transformed in the process.
We don’t want them to think of foster care as a concept or a one-time mission trip. We wanted them to experience it as brothers, as a family. Maybe as a result, if they see a friend or classmate hurting in some way, their response won’t be to remove themselves, but rather to walk alongside that hurting friend in a time of need.
When mission and calling transforms your family, it takes some getting used to. It has for all of us. And I think through this experience, I’m beginning to see that some of our greatest challenges can also be our greatest blessings from God.
Graham Garrison is a magazine editor and the author of Hero’s Tribute and Legacy Road. He and his wife, Katie, have three children and were foster parents for 16 months before adopting. They are currently Foster Care Advocates at their church, Mount Pisgah United Methodist, in Johns Creek, Georgia.