Fostering compassion about change
My wife, Rebecca, and I recently became foster parents to two beautiful girls. We could not be more in love with them and they fit well into our family.
The whole process has been a whirlwind experience. We were told about the girls in our foster training, and 12 days later we were ready for them. It was a “hurry up and wait” situation, but they’ve arrived and all the kids are excited, My wife and I were ready for them to be a part of our lives!
What I wasn’t ready for was the all the emotions that go with it. We have have had swings from confused, overwhelmed, ecstatic, and a wave of love — all in one day! Thankfully, we are working with a local Christian agency that can navigate us through all the paperwork and procedures. We’d be lost without their guidance.
As the girls are getting integrated in our family, I find myself looking at them with such godly compassion. I have learned so much about the character of God through this process, and I believe it has made me a better Christian, husband, father, and pastor.
I watch as these girls experience their new life with us with wonder and apprehension. I listen to them ask for permission to do the simplest things. I hold them as they ask questions about their future. I see their utter glee at the opportunity to see their biological parents, and I wipe their tears when they don’t show up. I watch them eat and eat because their brain is trained to hoard food since food was scarce in their past.
Rebecca and I have answered the questions, “Why do you love us?” or “Why did you give us this?” more times than we can count. And it breaks our hearts for a child to even have to ask why they are loved. The girls don’t know how much we love them. My heart breaks because they don’t know why they can’t live with Mom and Dad. My heart breaks because they so desperately want to be loved, accepted, and cared for.
These two girls view the world through the experiences they’ve had. In fact, everyone of us views the world through our own experiences. In our churches we have people who are deeply troubled when things aren’t done the way it has traditionally been done. We have people who are accustomed to a certain type of music, preaching style, or church organizational structure.
Just like I don’t know many details of the girls past, we don’t know the details of why certain aspects of church life are so vital to them. Does it get frustrating to hear people complain about change? Absolutely. But as church leaders we should be willing to listen to their frustrations and concerns. They may be valid or they may be a preference. Those things may be able to be changed or those people may just have wanted to be heard.
As I write this, I’ll admit I need to be better at reaching out to those in my church who are struggling with change. Our leadership conversations shouldn’t be around shunning those who want things the way they used to be, but listening to their hearts.
There is a reason my new daughters react the way they do in certain situations. And while Rebecca and I don’t always know why, we need to be quick to show grace. Pastors and church leadership should have that same grace with church members who react to any sort of change.