We Are the Rule

Tonight I’m icing my knee. It’s the end of the day and my body has several smaller injuries – a jammed thumb, a sore shoulder. But the knee is getting the attention first. That’s where our foster child, a seven-year old boy with an amazing amount of strength and anger, kicked me as hard as he could.

It’s really not that bad. I feel blessed, since he was aiming for my groin.

He often has these outbursts. Minor irritations or just not getting his way can quickly spin out of control. This time it was because my 7 year-old daughter Gracie was using a blow dryer he wanted. I tried to defuse the situation by saying neither one could use it, since it was in my bathroom.

That scene quickly escalated to the kicking. My injury was the result of me trying to hold his legs and move him to his bedroom. If he wanted to scream and tell us he hated us, he could at least be sequestered in his room.

But he was having none of that. By the end of the evening, every single object in his bedroom had been thrown out to smash on the hallway wall outside. When his tantrum was through, we could hardly get to his room through a sea of smashed toys and other household objects. When I finally got inside, I found he had defaced our bedroom furniture by carving through the finish with the prongs of an electrical plug.

All this happened at the end of our Sunday, after I had spent the morning preaching and teaching at our church. So how was your Sunday afternoon?

Fostering is something we’ve done off and on for the past ten years. We’ve probably had somewhere around 10 kids of different ages and innumerable problems. The current boy is most likely bipolar, though no one will take the time to fully diagnose or medicate him. That’s because in the foster care system, a child is taken away from a parent incapable of parenting them, often due to drug abuse or psychological issues.

But putting the child in a stable home doesn’t fix the PTSD they’ve probably developed from living with a dysfunctional parent. The minimum amount of therapy possible is given so that the 20-something year old social workers can check off the boxes to indicate they at least tried. Foster parents are left to deal with the resulting carnage, trying to love a child that may be in the process of destroying the peace of their home. It is a horribly ineffective and often negligent system.

So why do we do it? And why have we adopted four children in addition to our own biological child, several of them multi-racial and few looking like us?

Two reasons.

First, because both Dawn and I probably have overactive parenting glands. Seriously, she loves being a mother and I live for being a father. There is nothing in my life other than Jesus Himself that gives me more pleasure.

But second and just as important, because we want to do everything possible to take away any excuse for a mother aborting her baby. And we want to be supportive of mothers who are at-risk yet decided to give birth to their children.

In other words, we want to be the answer to the question, “Do Christians really care about all life, or just babies? Do they leave mothers to fend for themselves after convincing them to give birth?”

Whenever I hear someone saying Christians don’t care about children after they’re born, I just want to paste that picture of my family you see at the top of this post all over their Facebook page or Twitter posts. (By the way, I’ve placed a “heart” over the faces of our foster kids out of respect for their biological families).

I’ve discovered lots of people are asking that question now. Some ask it honestly. But others are using it as a talking point, claiming that Christians only care about the unborn and not those already born. We want to put that accusation to rest with our example and the sacrifices our family has made. Because the sacrifices are real and they are substantial.

However, some people will reply, “Dave, you guys are truly amazing, but you are the exception to the rule. You are helping mothers as they try to raise their children, but you are not the norm.”

That false-praise might make me happy if we were just virtue-signaling do-gooders. But the truth is, we are not the exception when it comes to Christians helping after a child is born.

We are the rule.

Here are the facts:

The number of practicing Christians who adopt is more than TWICE that of non-Christians. The study by Barna Research also found that Christians were more likely to adopt older children, children with special needs, and other “hard to place children”. Christians also make up the vast majority of people who foster at-risk children.

People who attended church last Sunday made up 65% of charitable gifts to the poor, according to the Pew Research Center.

The Almanac of American Philanthropy found that annual charitable donations given by church attenders is four times that of those who do not.

Sure, I wish even more Christians would get involved. We could wipe out so many more problems if we all stopped sitting on our “Blessed Assurance.”  But I am proud of the fact that while others just talk about the poor, Christians are the ones who actually do something.

So thanks for the compliments, but you can save them. I’m not a chubbier Mother Theresa. I’m really just a Christian trying my best to say “yes” every time God shows me a need.

You see, my wife and I have learned this secret: adopting and fostering kids is the most selfish life we could live. A life lived giving yourself away is the happiest life possible!

So don’t pity us, and please don’t put us on a pedestal. We are just living the normal Christian life as best we can.

We are sopping up every last morsel of joy that God has offered us. We’re leaving none of God’s entrees on the table, no crumbs on our plates. But it’s not just us. We are not the exception. We are the rule.

Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash

Dave Gipson
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