“Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” Isaiah 58:7
We sat in the dining room of our newly built three-bedroom house, hearts thumping and anxiety high, contemplating these words penned by the prophet Isaiah around 2,700 years ago. Fully aware that this prophetic word was written to a specific people in a specific time for a specific purpose, we could not help but cling to the reality that these words, though ancient, revealed the heart of our ever-present Father as we awaited the knock on the door that would bring the arrival of our first foster child.
We didn’t know much about him, but we did know that we had bread, and he was hungry. We had two bedrooms that stood empty. We were not exceptionally wealthy by most American standards, but we had excess available to buy him clothes and shoes. Who were we to hide ourselves from this child? Another human, a bearer of the image of God, was in need of the provisions we possessed in great abundance and unable to acquire them by his own means. We had gone through the classes, done the paperwork, prepped the house, and now we waited, glancing out the window towards our driveway so often that even our dog wondered what was going on and joined us in watching, waiting. We heard the knock, opened the door, and as a little boy crossed the threshold and into our home, so we crossed a threshold into a new existence as foster parents.
We are now a year and a half beyond that day, and we are humbly grateful to say that this same little boy, and also his younger brother, continue to live with us as we all await together a finalized adoption. Soon, their last names will reflect ours, and the word “foster” will be deleted from our title in relation to them. We will be their parents, and they will be our children. Though the last 18 months have carried what seems to be more than a lifetime’s worth of exposure to the world of orphan care, we also both now work full time for a state-wide children’s ministry! We not only get to experience the joys of caring for children in need in our personal lives, but also professionally work in a ministry that houses children in need of homes in a campus setting, licenses and provides support for foster parents, and provides housing and rehabilitation services for single mothers and their children. If orphan care ministry is the ocean, then we feel as if we have sailed far from land.
But not so far away from land that we have lost cell phone signal.
On Friday, June 24, we, along with many others, opened our social media feeds to the first sparks of news regarding Roe v. Wade. As soon as we were convinced it was actually true, reality crashed upon us: a ruling that stood for half a century that federally protected a woman’s right to an abortion had been suddenly overturned by the Supreme Court. With control of abortion policy turning back over to states, this guarantees a greater number of pregnancies will be carried to term as abortion bans and stricter regulations go into effect in many areas of the country. We, like many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, rejoiced at the news of more babies born, less abortions and more life brought into the world. Yet, even in our rejoicing, there was mingled in the bitterness of what this decision also means: there will be more babies born to mothers who are unable to care for them. There will be more pregnant women who will feel the despair and panic of having no other option but to birth their child. There will be teenagers who feel as though their life is over after a positive pregnancy test. There will be those who, feeling this weight, despair and anguish, may put themselves at great risk of physical and psychological harm in seeking out an unsafe abortion. As tears of joy drip down on our phones and newspapers announcing the overturning of Roe v. Wade, yet more tears of sorrow fill our eyes as we look around at our sin-gripped world and see with stunning clarity that even a monumental ruling by the highest court in the land cannot bring about an end to death and suffering.
Yet still, our friend Isaiah proclaims words that echo through the millennia and into eternity. God will not turn away from the weak, poor, orphaned, widowed and needy, and if his people shall venture to embrace his heart for the world, neither will we. In light of the post Roe v. Wade reality we now live in, do the words of Isaiah 58 not ring out as an invitation? Consider verses 10-12:
“If you pour yourself out for the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness, and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”
And has Christ not called his Church to sacrificial action with promises to help and sustain us? He names us the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), he has given us the keys to his kingdom (Matthew 16:19), we are the recipients of divine power (Acts 1:8), he guards us with the perfect peace of God (Philippians 4:7), and he has given us blood-bought access to his very throne room (Hebrews 4:16).
We, as followers of Jesus, are not all called to be foster or adoptive parents. We are not all called to offer a spare bedroom to a mother in need. But aren’t we all called to a level of hospitality that the world would deem radical, but Jesus would call ordinary? As Rosaria Butterfield puts it in The Gospel Comes with a House Key:
“Those who live out radically ordinary hospitality see their homes not as theirs at all but as God’s gift to use for the furtherance of his kingdom. They open doors; they seek out the underprivileged. They know that the gospel comes with a house key. They take biblical theology seriously, as well as Christian creeds and confessions and traditions.”
Perhaps your own seeking out the underprivileged and opening your doors could look like adding a few more seats to your dining room table and praying for God to fill them. Perhaps it could be cleaning out your spare bedroom and praying that God would fill it. Maybe it could be volunteering or giving to a children’s ministry or crisis pregnancy center. Whatever it is, a genuine movement toward embracing the orphaned, widowed, hungry and powerless is sure to be met with light breaking forth like the dawn (Isaiah 58:8), and in this light, maybe more mothers would see options other than abortion as viable reality, to the degree that abortion becomes the least preferable path among the myriad of others that can be provided by those that follow Jesus.
In selfless humility, Christ has lived, died, risen and ascended so that the gates to the Kingdom of God may be flung wide to any and all who would come. May we also fling wide the doors of our homes and hearts to all who could benefit from the things God has entrusted to us. As the descent of Christ from enthronement in glory to the humiliation of the cross was messy work, so ministry of this sort will also be messy work that will call for the laying down of our lives. Is a servant greater than his master? Following Jesus involves taking up a cross and following him. In this world we will have trouble, and we will surely find more trouble participating in ministry such as this, but take heart, Christian. Christ has overcome the world.
For us as a couple, there has yet to be a sweeter experience of the presence of Christ in our marriage, the empowerment from the Spirit, and the loving arms of the Father than what we have experienced together in the work of caring for those God cares about. Foster parenting has been the hardest thing either of us have ever done, and that’s alright. God did not promise easy, and we are his servants. Now, the stage is set for the number of hurting mothers and children in need to grow, and for the already unimaginable pain of an unwanted pregnancy to deepen for many women in our country. What shall we do as the redeemed people of God? For his glory and the good of his creation, we welcome others as Christ has welcomed us.