"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
I had been spending some time with this verse prior to knowing anything about GAP Ministries or ever having considered foster-parenting. What had caught my attention was the last part, "keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
I was coming at it from the perspective of someone who wasn't working with "widows and orphans." I appreciated the third "option" for genuine religion. My thought was, "Well, if I'm not working with the "homeless and loveless," as the Message translates it, at least I can make great efforts to keep from being polluted by the world."
But now that I am in the midst of preparing to host children who are temporary orphans, I see the verse in yet another light.
I love that God's word is living and active.
This week Andy and I spent two very, very long days finishing our initial training and testing. We will be required to have on-going training (all house-parents are) over the year, but we have now passed all the hurdles to get us going.
Training was extremely difficult for me.
In part, because I realized that I am, in fact, "working" again. After nearly three years of being at home, I am jumping back into schedules, meetings, paper-work, deadlines, and a myriad of other work-related words that I haven't had to think about for a very long time.
It took me many months to get OUT of work mode, I'm sure it will take a similar amount of time to transition back IN.
But, it is tricky. I don't want to look at the lives in my care as "work." I have decided that for me, I will think about anything on paper as my job. The logs and forms and information that I have to keep daily to report to the state of Arizona about how I am providing care, those things are what I get paid for. The children that come under my roof, the conversations that I have, the discipline that will inevitably be required - those things are a privilege. Each life I encounter is valuable to God, I want to treat it as such.
The other aspect of training that was difficult was the array of horrible, horrible scenarios that we were trained for. At some point during each of our training sessions I had to struggle against tears. And on a couple of occasions, Andy and I both were fighting to remain composed.
I learned everything from how to supervise phone calls between children and their estranged parents, to how to handle children who run away from our care, to how to identify and report signs of sexual, emotional or physical abuse.
Oh, my heart breaks.
So yesterday, when I read, "and keep yourself from being polluted by the world," I had a whole new perspective. If I am not careful, things that now sound unimaginable to me, will become common place: the anger and difficult behavior I encounter will become a nuisance instead of a sign of deep hurt, the paperwork will seem like the priority over people, the wickedness of man will cease to cause sorrow in my heart.
I don't want to be dulled or polluted by this world.
I am about to encounter more of the "world" then I ever have. I have always had a family that loves me, a sense of security, a safety net. My world has been small, because I have had that luxury. But now, by my own choosing, I am opening my home to the world. I am welcoming people in who are covered with the world's pollution, either by their choices, or by misfortune. My options are to try and stay away, so that I don't get dirty in the first place, or to draw close, and let the Holy Spirit daily cleanse me, so that the pollution doesn't stick.
I hope that I live the latter.
When I went to get my physical and drug test (a very bizarre experience) the doctor who was helping me was completely baffled by what Andy and I are doing. She kept saying over and over, "Ten kids! Ten kids?!" She was very friendly and curious, but she just couldn't fathom it. After a little bit of conversation she said, "You should be on reality tv!"
Now, I confess, the though had crossed my mind. There is a certain element of the process that has seemed very detached from reality (making it perfect for "Reality TV") and like prime fodder for mass media.
Yet as I was reading, "and keep yourself from being polluted by the world," I realized that my other point of vulnerability, and entrance-point for pollution, will be my pride.
I know this venture sounds either miserable or marvelous, depending on your own personal risk-aversion. Either way, there is a sense of wonder that accompanies doing something out of the ordinary.
I am a person that loves praise. I love to put on a good show (not on a stage, that would be horrible, but I like to make things look good and easy) and have people notice all the little details I have paid attention to. I know this about myself.
I know about myself that I like to do well. Prepare yourself for a disclosure that reveals my true sin-nature, but whenever I start a new job, I always, always think, "I am going to be the best they have ever hired." There is something in me that just wants to make people love me and need me.
So, I would lie if I said wasn't walking into this venture thinking, "Andy and I are going to be the best!"
And I would lie if I said I didn't think telling people about it makes me sound oh-so-awesome.
Knowing this about myself, I make it my aim to stay in step with the Holy Spirit. If I can genuinely walk with him, and surrender my ambitions to be the very best, to his goals, then I feel in a safe place. Being humble, doesn't mean not being incredible. Jesus was humble on this earth, and we all know how awesome that turned out! I firmly believe that God wants big things for the kids who come into GAP's care, and if I am a part of that, I will be so grateful! The danger comes when I see successes, and claim those victories as my own, rather than evidence of God's goodness and greatness.
So, in addition to the challenge to keep my heart soft, I need to keep my heart humble.
Easier said than done.
But with God, all things are possible.
Oh Lord, please help me as I give you my life!
I had hoped to give you a little more factual information to answer questions, but right now, my heart and head are so full of the process that I can't quite nail down details. Bear with me, we will get there.
Thank you for joining me on this journey!