What’s the goal? Ever asked yourself that question? What’s the goal or point of this project or job? Or an even deeper question, what’s the point of life? What is it that you hope to achieve when the clock on your life has finally stopped ticking? (Wow! These questions escalated quickly!) As serious as that question might be, it’s an altogether important one to ask yourself, from time to time. It keeps you on the path towards the end. I was reminded of the importance of this question during foster parenting class training.
In our second class, the facilitators asked this very question in relation to foster parenting. What’s the goal of foster parenting? Is it to keep children safe by rescuing them from toxic situations? Or is it reunification with their biological parents? The goal, most agreed upon, was a little of both, to provide a safe, stable environment for children and reunification, if at all possible, with their biological parents. Though having agreed upon this goal, the way in which foster parenting happens the biological parent and the foster parent end up viewing each other as opposed to one another. The biological parent has his or her child taken from them by the state, without much notification, and then placed with strangers. The social worker is then viewed as aligned with the foster parents, though facilitating monthly visits, the social worker seems to be keeping a long list of ways in which the biological parent has failed to meet the standard of parenting. The foster parents, along with their friends and family, on the other hand, can easily come to view the biological parent as a threat to the child’s wellbeing and easily rationalize ways in which to prevent the child from reviving a healthy relationship with the biological parent. The social worker, here again, can be viewed as having sided with the biological parent as the social worker appears to be working towards returning the child to the originating parent. Hostility, anger, bitterness, resentment, and pain have quickly rushed in and made any sort of peace seemingly impossible.
At this moment, it’s good to take a deep breath.
In such a scenario, you’re probably asking yourself, what about the child?! What’s best for the child? Ah, ha! That’s the question. What’s the end goal of this entire process? It’s what’s best for the child. Rather than envisioning the above scenario, with it’s us versus them complexities, envision not a line in the sand separating one from the other but envision a circle of people surrounding the child, working towards providing the best for that child. Ideally, the child should live with her biological parents, because what child wouldn’t want to be with momma or daddy? Foster parents, friends, extended family members, and social workers aim to make this possible. No one should be estranged from their parents. But sometimes children cannot live with their parents because the situation is just too toxic. In these cases, adoption works best. That said, when you picture the goal as reunification, then the way in which you approach foster parenting changes. Foster parents are reconcilers not rescuers.
Our aim as Christians is reconciliation with God and one another. The finality of this world is the great reconciliation, when all things on heaven and on earth shall be fully restored and reconciled. Heaven is shorthand for this vision that Christians journey towards. Our work here and now, as we await Christ’s second coming, is towards reconciliation with one another, creation, and God. Just as children may not return to their orginiting families for some time, perhaps for a lifetime, so we may not be able to fully reconcile with some people now. It may not happen on this side of heaven. In such cases, forgiveness is emailed, texted, snail mailed, to the other until in the end heaven arrives. And here’s the point, God, in Jesus Christ, reconciles us to one another but does not finally rescue us from each other. Let’s learn to live with one another in love and reconciliation, refusing to imagine a world with a line in the sand, but a circle of all people surrounding in worship and adoration, the one who made peace for us through his death on a cross.
Rev. Matt Seaton