Thursday, April 10, 2014

Foster Parenting and Christ-like Love

Learning about the nature of God and trying to be like him are the major tenants of most any Christian religion, even mine.  I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known to some as Mormon.  And as the name clearly states, we are Christians.  The idea that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer and that we can't be saved except for through the selfless act of his death and ensuing resurrection is the premise to what we believe.

But let me tell you a little backstory to what we believe also.  And here is where it may vary a bit from some other religions.  Note:  I'm changing tense to tell you what I believe because if I am inaccurate on any part - blame me, instead of  my church, as I am by no means an official spokesperson or always absolutely accurate.  For those kinds of answers look to their/our website

I believe that before we came to earth we lived with God.  I imagine it was heavenly - figuratively and literally.  I think of my most perfect day multiplied by hundreds.  One day our Heavenly Father explained to us (all of his children, everyone who has ever lived on Earth) that it was important for us to learn right from wrong, good from evil, and to make choices for ourselves.  This ability to choose was an irrefutable law of eternity and God that needed to be maintained.  So he set up a plan and taught us about it.  He told us he would send us to Earth, that we wouldn't be able to remember living with him but that he would give us opportunities to learn about him as well as a gift, the Holy Ghost, to help us know him, recognize him and feel when something was true or not.  With this life here on Earth, we were expected to learn and choose, to decide for ourselves if we wanted to continue this beyond happy existence in the presence of our Heavenly Father that we had already known.

He knew that some people would make mistakes, choose unwisely, not learn as much, as easily, or as early on in life and others.  Pair this with the fact that our spirits(souls) would be housed in these physical bodies that would be imperfect, age and eventually die - he created a solution.  He offered up the idea of a sacrificial son who would help us overcome both physical death and spiritual death (removed from the presence of God).  Someone who would come to the Earth, live perfectly, die without sin, and in the process accept the weight and strain of every physical and spiritual life and sin to ever exist.  That through his perfection, he could assume the responsibility of other's imperfections.  That way when we returned to our Heavenly Father after we died here, we would have someone to advocate on our behalf that despite our mistakes we desired to enter Heaven and his presence again.  These notions are commonly known as sin, repentance, forgiveness, and eternal life etc...

Someone else in this discussion stepped forward with the concern that so many would be lost in this plan.  So many would choose temporary pleasures over eternal happiness.  So many would not return, would unknowingly choose otherwise.  Heavenly Father heard the concerns of this man, reiterated the need for a Savior and asked for a volunteer.  It was at this point that Jesus Christ stepped forward and said, send me.  He knew it would be beyond hard, but trusted that God's plan was necessary and perfect.  The opposition was strong as people worried, and the leader of that opposition - Satan fought for the idea that we should send people but take away choice and instead somehow force all to choose the right. Many agreed with him.

In the end that plan was overturned by God as his chosen method.  But those who wanted that plan could indeed follow Satan, many did - conceivably 1/3 of all the spirits that God had created went with him.  But the remaining 2/3 were sent forth to enact His plan starting with the first two people Adam and Eve.   And here we are...

As a child I had no love for Satan's plan.  As a feisty little girl the word force, however well intentioned, never sat well with me as I learned this story.  Maybe it was the Holy Ghost giving me the gentle nudge of reminder that I had already known but forgotten - that choice was a huge part of living eternally in Heaven.

Well you see sometimes life is the greatest teacher.  I became a parent myself and by no means do I think I am on the same playing field as Jesus Christ or my Heavenly Father, but as a Christian my intrinsic desire to know more about them and learn to be like them leaves them as my comparison of how I should act.  So many aspects of parenthood brought the nuances of this plan home for me.  And after 9 years or so of normal parenting, I decided to become a foster parent.  My ideas of these plans has been enlarged even more.

You see as a parent, I have loved more deeply than ever before, even as I have watched my kids make dumb choices.  It kills me a little each time inside.  And each situation they face, I try to help them by giving them knowledge, by setting things up to their maximum advantage when possible and by giving them advocates/mentors to help them along the way.  And the heartbreaking sadness I felt when they still didn't succeed was wrenching, but I knew that despite the temporary setback that they could still learn from this situation and hopefully come out more victorious with the next situation.  It was as a parent that I learned more about Heavenly Father.

Then as a foster parent, I watched as battered, bruised and tentative children came to me.  Each with a background and story vastly different but intrinsically the same.  Something had happened with their parents that had made others worry about the child's safety.  For that reason they came into my care.  As I tried to love these children, heal them and build the odds in their favor for the future I learned more about Satan.  I saw a little more the long term consequences and long reaching effects of bad choices and how it affects a multitude of people outside of the chooser.  I saw the intrinsic appeal to want to force parents/people to stop being selfish, ignorant (not derogatively but literally) and thoughtless.

I hated seeing the consequences of all this choice.  I found myself thinking that I knew better and if I could just get more people to listen to me, we wouldn't have some of these problems.  I knew it was wrong, however well intentioned.  I knew my feelings closely mirrored those of Satan.  I knew that I had picked God's plan by my mere presence of being here on Earth as proof.  So I did what I have done a thousand times in my life and will probably do a thousand more.  I got down on my knees and prayed - for more knowledge, for more patience but most importantly for more charity - the pure love of Christ.  I prayed that he would show me how to love these children when they sometimes acted unloving.  I prayed that he would show me how and why he loved their parents, I prayed that I would remember each time I saw them that they were his children too and that he wanted their return to Heaven to live with him as strongly as he wanted mine.  I prayed to realize that their value in his eyes was equal to mine. 

And it's amazing because it came.  Not with some life changing moment, but with simple thoughts and increased service on their behalf.   Because as I tried to work with the parents, saw their pure and unselfish desires - small at times but still there-, set things up for their favor, worked to help them succeed and get them a mentor of their own I have come to know how strong God's love is. 

And yesterday, as I released our first child through the County, after a year and a half, return back to his parents' care, I felt a peace I didn't expect to feel.  It's not based on the knowledge that his parents won't ever mess up again or that everything will be okay for this child from here on out, but that Heavenly Father really is over this whole life.  This is his Plan, the Plan of Salvation, that he sees more than me, he knows more than me, and he cares and loves the children and parents more deeply than me.  And if I trust and believe that...the peace comes.  It may not stop the occasional tears of my own loss, but it eases it.  It fills me with hope, pushes me forward and focuses me back on the important things of life - my choices, my family and the little children, both through biology and circumstance, he has entrusted me to care for. 

1 comment:

candice said...

Love it, love you. Sad day, he was a part of your family! Another brother! In reality, he still is. Just finishing his journey elsewhere. Thanks to you and Travis for the courage to share your home and your love. It takes guts. Love your guts.