A Painful Parting:

Donna (my wife) and our daughter-in-law hugged each other tightly as they wept in each other’s arms. I sat holding our foster grandson. Our other grandson looked confused and concerned as he watched this gut-wrenching drama unfold in front of him. He didn’t know yet what we three adults knew: In a few weeks, the little guy who had been his younger brother for 18 months was about to go back to his mom. The little guy had been his brother, and our foster grandson, from the time this little boy entered the world three weeks prematurely. In a few days, he would be gone. The hole his return to his mother would leave in our grandson's life — and our hearts — would be huge!

Our daughter-in-law spoke through her tears:

I’m sorry. We thought through how hard this could be for us as foster parents before we began this journey, but we didn’t think about how hard it would be for my folks and you guys. It’s not fair, and I know it hurts. I’m sorry to be putting you through this.

We now have two "forever grandchildren" and another foster grandson because our kids believe God has called them to be foster parents for children in need of a family. Our experiences as foster-grandparents have mostly been full of joy. However, we’ve said goodbye to more children than have gotten to stay in our immediate family — they will never be removed from our hearts as “our” grandkids. Most of the time, we have wondered if going back to the biological parent or parents was best for the child. Sometimes, however, there are sweet surprises — but you will have to read to the end to uncover one of those surprises.

A Powerful Insight

Down the road from that airport event by half-a-decade, we are possibly looking at having to do the same kind of thing again. The power, blessing, and pain of being a fostering parent or grandparent are never far from our thoughts. So, I guess I wasn’t completely surprised by an analogy our son shared with us when visiting recently. We had been talking about the challenges of living up to the character and compassion God wants to see from us. “You know,” our son said, “all of us who are God’s adopted children are a lot like many foster kids.”

He continued:

We come with bad habits, wounds, and all sorts of unfortunate baggage. It takes awhile for us to unlearn the bad habits. We have a hard time not living out of the wounds we've endured instead of the grace we’ve received. We come into the Father’s house and find it hard not to bring our unnecessary baggage and the weight of our sin and shame. But, the overwhelmingly great extravagance of our adoption price can change these once we realize just how much Jesus overpaid to make us part of his family.

What a blessing to hear something so precious from a son! How insightful his words were for both Donna and me! What made his insight so moving to us was that he knew the truth he shared from his experience.

A Humbling Truth:

The grand old apostle, John, was writing new believers toward the end of the first century when he spoke a similar truth, beautifully:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure (1 John 3:1-3).

The hole he left in our grandson's life — and our hearts — would be huge!

We are adopted children of the Lord God Almighty! Jesus paid the overwhelmingly extravagant adoption price to bring us into his family. Our adoption into God's family is what grace means in the real world. Our gain came at his pain. Our place in the Father’s family came at the expense of his isolation, abandonment, ridicule, and torture. We entered God's family with bad habits, deep wounds, and heavy baggage. Because of Jesus, however, love triumphed over brokenness. In Christ, grace provided family to those exiled in isolation. Through the cross, Jesus rescued us from the curse of being unwanted and life-abused children. Our Father extravagantly overpaid to adopt us. While it may take us awhile to unlearn our bad habits, quit living out of our woundedness, and leave behind our baggage… We will!

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11 — Underline added for emphasis.)

Yes, we do come with bad habits, wounds, and baggage — we were “powerless” and “ungodly” and “sinners” and “enemies” before God. But, God adopted us. Jesus paid the overwhelmingly extravagant price to make our adoption possible. Let me repeat: While it may take us awhile to lose our bad habits, quit living out of our woundedness, and leave all our baggage behind, we will. Why? Because, “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” Love has redirected our hearts and character is being transformed by God's grace, Jesus' love, and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit!

A Precious Reminder of Grace

My wife and I will be the first to admit that not all fostering stories have happy endings. However, we did have a blessed reminder with the little guy I had held at the airport five years earlier. On arriving at a Christian day camp last summer, our oldest grandson was happy to report that he had seen his for-a-time little brother attending the same camp. This little guy’s mom and dad had married. They seemed to be doing better. They had chosen for their son to be in a camp where he could learn, play, exercise, and have fun. He was doing all of this while learning about Jesus. Best of all, he was with kids whom we all hope will one day all be in the same family — each adopted by the same Father because they recognize the overwhelmingly extravagant adoption price paid by Jesus who wants to be their older brother!