I’m really bad at wrapping presents. At Christmastime, it’s pretty obvious which gift is from me. I’m not good at any of it. I’m bad at measuring and cutting the wrapping paper, so I always end up with either too much or not enough. I’m even worse at the taping. I’m pretty sure the whole ‘you should only need 3 pieces of tape to wrap a gift’ thing is just a joke to make people like me feel inferior. They say you should only need 3 pieces of tape, but they don’t say how big they should be or where they should go on the present.
Being a foster parent is a lot like a roll of tape. The only way that tape can be useful is to be broken. The only way that a foster parent can be a part of the healing process for a child is for them to become broken. Broken by their stories, by the circumstances that led to them entering foster care, broken by the generational cycles of poverty and abuse that so often lead to them entering foster care. It’s impossible for foster parents to encounter that brokenness without being broken themselves, and it’s impossible for foster parents to help a child without meeting them in their brokenness.
Over the past few years, we have gotten to experience many of the broken stories of children in foster care. Kids who were locked inside their house while their parents went to work. Kids who lived in a trailer with no doors, windows, or running water, a special needs boy that was in foster care because his sister made an accusation of sexual abuse that turned out to be false. Those are just some of the stories that broke us. But it was being broken by their stories that made us able to help them begin to heal and sparked a passion to help children like them.
The foster care system is based in brokenness. If there was no brokenness, there wouldn’t be a need for children to be temporarily placed with people they don’t know and separated from their siblings. Foster parents choose to embrace the brokenness and work to heal the deep hurts that children in foster care have experienced. It’s important for them to meet them in their brokenness, not try to be above them and pull them out.
This roll of tape analogy does have one major flaw. Once a roll of tape has been used up, it’s gone. This is an easy place for many foster parents to find themselves, being so broken that they feel empty and useless – like they have nothing left to give. Any foster parent will tell you that self-care is way easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important to the sanity of a foster parent. Another analogy that’s commonly used is a cup. Foster parents are constantly being poured out through love and service to the children in their care, and they need to have their cup filled up so that they can continue pouring.
This idea of healing through brokenness is strongly biblical as well. He meets us in our own brokenness and covers us with his blood. Isaiah 53:5 says But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. There are many ways that foster parents can look to Christ as an example of the sacrificial love needed to care for children from hard places. Jesus was literally broken so that our sins could be forgiven. He brings his love to us in our brokenness – He doesn’t expect us to get our act together before we can earn His love. Hear their stories. Be broken for them. Meet them in their brokenness and rise up together. Be moved to do something to positively impact the lives of children in foster care.