When my kindergarten-aged son asked to invite a girl over after school I was intrigued. He typically played with only his older brother and the bunch of boys on our street, not girls! But this girl, he told me, could run faster than any boy, which I guess for him translated into her making a good playmate. Six years later these two are still great buddies. The start of their little friendship was the beginning of something bigger though – it served as my first introduction to a bi-racial family and what opened my eyes to the world of foster care and adoption.
This is because in addition to his friend being a girl, she is also black, rescued out of foster care and adopted into her white family. Her mother, who serves as the founder and executive director of Angels Foster Family Network in Oklahoma, is now one of my dear friends. Through she and her family I was given a face to foster care and adoption.
Although foster care is much more discussed now, before meeting this family I had no real knowledge of the foster care crises. I had no idea how many children were in the system or the statistical odds for those children’s future. Realizing the stark reality for children growing up having never attached to a parental figure or having experienced love awoken me to the necessity and importance of foster families.
I am now well aware of the challenges a foster family faces when accepting a child into their home. It comes at a great expense to their own comfort and ease, but a sacrifice that brings with it the life-altering gift of identity for the child.
God created each of us with the innate desire to be loved, affirmed and accepted. We all want to know we matter and have purpose. Ultimately only God perfectly meets these deepest longings of our heart. But even when we know his love as his adopted children, we turn to countless other things looking to be satisfied in a way only he can fill. So we remain insecure and restless in our unfulfilled desires, struggling to know our infinite value and worth.
If this is the natural condition of our human heart, regardless of a relationship with God, or regardless of having an intact family unit and loving parents, imagine how much greater the struggle for a child who does not know the love and security of anyone.
When children have not had anyone reflect the image of God to them, the insatiable longing to be known and accepted leads them to act according to the only identity they know. An identity declaring them to be neglected, unwanted, unloved, rejected, losers and outcasts. And the more they believe this to be who they are, the more they will live according to those labels.
For those of you who are foster and adoptive parents, you know personally the heartache in seeing a child marred by their former identity and still rejecting the love you so desperately want them to embrace. So day in and day out you work hard to reorient your child’s heart and mind so they will be able to bond with you and accept your love. Through this process you are literally reshaping their identity and instilling purpose and significance into the hole in their soul.
What a beautiful pointer to Christ. The One who left his heavenly home to enter into our fallen, sinful world in order to make all things right again. By accepting us in our brokenness and adopting us as his children he gave us a new identity and views us as his heirs - Sons and Daughters of the King.
It doesn’t matter who we are or where we came from, none of us did anything to deserve such an inheritance from God. But he gave it anyway because of his great love and abundance of mercy. As parents, whether to foster, adopted or biological children, we have the opportunity everyday to mirror the unconditional love of Christ as we sacrificially pour out ourselves for our children. By God’s grace they will rest in the security of our love and find their true identity firmly rooted in the bigger story of Christ.
Kristen Hatton resides in Edmond, Oklahoma with her pastor husband and their three teenagers. Through leading a small group teen Bible study, she discovered her passion for teaching and writing about God’s grace. Her first book Get Your Story Straight, a teen devotional, is being released this month. To learn more visit www.kristenhatton.com