December 19, 2023

The Gift of Sanctification

 

From where I sit and from what I have heard, most Christian social workers, case workers, foster parents, and adoptive parents share at least one calling in common: to take up the cause of the fatherless and to look after the orphaned (Isaiah 1:17 and James 1:27). This call, as well as the desire to walk in obedience to Christ, are often the catalysts that start a conversation with a foster or adoptive agency. They can also be the “why” – the motivator – behind a continued “yes” to foster care or adoption when the going inevitably gets tough. 

And the going will, can, and does inevitably get tough. In part, it is tough for all the reasons you have already heard, researched, or lived. That is for another blog post, though. The “tough” I am talking about is that of sanctification in foster care or adoption. Let me explain. 

I have wondered recently if most – if not all – foster and adoptive parents would agree that fostering or adopting can be incredibly sanctifying. In other words, part of the “tough” within fostering or adopting is it is unique ability to highlight anything/everything that one might need to be emptied of – fear, control, religion, unrighteous anger, unforgiveness, marital disunity, a spirit of selfishness, etc. – that might come in-between or impair a set-apart, holy relationship with God. What an incredible, humbling, and challenging gift to receive with open hands. 

And it really is a gift. If one has eyes to see it and hands to hold it. 

Therefore, if anyone allows himself to be cleansed from that which is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for... 

  honorable use,  

set apart as holy,  

useful to the master of the house,  

ready for every good work. - 2 Timothy 2:21. 

My interpretation: If anyone would be willing to welcome the oftentimes painful experience of hiking up Sanctification Mountain emptying himself of the world, of his own selfish desires, of his inability to be teachable, of his need for understanding – only then will he be set apart as holy unto God, useful in the Kingdom of God, and fully able to live in and out every “good work”.  

Including the good work of taking up the cause of the fatherless and defending the orphan. 

As a response to being pruned – to being emptied, though, it is not uncommon for us as humans – including foster and adoptive parents, social workers, case managers, etc. – to quickly fall into one of the following approaches: To forget God, to take the place of God, or to partner with God. 

To forget God: This approach to fostering, adopting, and parenting often starts with running away from the gift of sanctification. It is fueled by a fast-paced, get the job done, “go, go, go” mindset. Whether intentional or not, a day-to-day might look like filling every moment of every day with all things permissible, yet hardly anything beneficial. It often results in the inability to feel or create space for deep emotion in self or others, inattention to detail, or noticeable exhaustion. I liken it to a picture of losing or prioritizing the invitation to Sanctification Mountain. The journey rarely even gets started. 

 

To take the place of God: This approach to fostering, adopting, and parenting often starts with ignoring the gift of sanctification and is fueled by external works of self-righteousness. A day-to-day might look like successfully checking off every possible box related to a child’s medical, developmental, physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual needs in a “do, do, do” kind of way, but often results in a false sense of control, burn out, or compassion fatigue. I liken it to a picture of hiking up Sanctification Mountain upon layers and layers of hot sand with a 50lb backpack in tow and no sunscreen. One might journey to the “top”, but Bitterness and Pride will be constant companions. 

 

To partner with God: This approach to fostering, adopting, and parenting often starts with accepting, even welcoming, the gift of sanctification. It is fueled by intentionally and consistently abiding with the Father and being in the presence of His people – a “be, do, be, do” mindset. A day-to-day might look like a mixture of open hands, laborious work, lots of prayer, and hard conversations. It usually results in a deeper relationship with God and others, an abundance of good fruit, and a heart of deep surrender. I liken it to a picture of walking up Sanctification Mountain on dry ground, equipped with a lamp (God’s word) in one’s right hand, Living Water in the left, Truth in front, and Grace bringing up the rear. The view is beautiful, and the journey is seen to completion. 

 

In my experience, foster parents, adoptive parents, social workers, and case managers in Christian circles very rarely set out to forget God or take the place of Him. In fact, the enemy would love nothing more than to meddle or interfere with the invitation to Sanctification Mountain. In this we have great hope:  

I [Jesus] do not ask that you [God] take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. - John 17:15-17 

If you abide in my [Christ’s] word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. - John 8:31 

 

I [Jesus] am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:5 

 

Including the “good work” of taking up the cause of the fatherless and defending the orphan through foster care and adoption. 

 

My prayer for you and me: To partner with God in the foster care or adoption journey. To step into the call with the One who Called. To not lose sight of the Caller in the midst of the call. To pray about who we are becoming in Christ as we get to where you’re going in this world. To welcome the gift of sanctification.  

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