“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
“Oooh!” A woman at the store cooed, spotting the tiny baby wrapped close to my chest. “Is he yours?”
What was such a simple question that I took for granted with my daughters is the million dollar question this time around.
Knowing she probably isn’t looking for a novel, I just smile and say, “Yes, we’re taking care of him right now.”
What I want to say is more complicated…
Do you mean am I the one who wakes up at 3am with him when he’s hungry, holding him close my chest and breathing in deeply the smell of his hair? The one who packs the diaper bags when we go out, to make sure he has formula and clean diapers? The one who wonders if he’s napping, as I walk between meetings during the day? The one who lives court date to court date, praying for reunification with his biological parents and pondering the heartache it will bring it in the same breath? If so, then yes, he’s mine.
But maybe you mean the woman who spent nine months growing him, feeling him kick inside her, wondering what the future held for him at each prenatal appointment. The one whose feet swelled and back ached. The one who went home to an empty cribbed that she had expected to lay her baby in. The one who prays for him from a distance and cherishes the few hours a week she gets with him. If so, that’s not me.
Or maybe you mean the caseworker, who’s up at night feeling the weight of the decisions she has to make. The one who only sees him every other week, but has to make a call on his future, based on a few documents, files and observations. The one who has foster children of her own and is thinking “What would I do if he was my baby?” If so, that’s not me.
Perhaps though, Matthew 25 is very clear on this muddy issue. While our tendency is to build walls around what is ours, maybe that defies everything that’s been asked of us to be fully human. Perhaps none of them were ours to begin with… or maybe they all were.
The second night we had our foster placement, I told Nate, “I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to love him.”
Met with a strange look from him, I doubled down saying, “You know… like… do I love him like he’s my son… or…”
Nate in his simplistic wisdom said, “I think you just love him.”
So that’s my stand. When he’s hungry, I feed him. When he’s naked, I give him clothing. When he was a stranger, I left work in the middle of a meeting to rush to the hospital and invite him into my home. And it’s easy to see Christ in his innocence, like in Matthew 25.
But I felt God say so clearly to me two weeks ago, you don’t just foster for the children – you foster for their parents. Because the parents are my beloved children… and so they are yours too.
So yes, he’s mine. And he’s his sweet birth mama’s. And he’s his caseworker’s. And he’s yours, since I know many of you have been praying for him and offering meals and clothes and help.